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View Full Version : The origin of Option/Alt and why the alternative names



IWT
05-30-2015, 01:08 PM
This is not going to get anyone's pulse racing; but I am simply curious to know how the Option/Alt key came to be double-named. Those of you who have been using Macs since the year dot, may be able to shed light on the history of this key. As far as I know, it is the only one with two "names".

In my early days with Macs, I got confused when reading instructions like cmd+option does such and such, to be followed by another article mentioning cmd+alt. And, of course, the key itself is stamped "alt". No mention of "option".

I guess there could be newbies out there who have the same problem?

Ian

pigoo3
05-30-2015, 01:53 PM
This is not going to get anyone's pulse racing…

Oh you got my heart racing!!!;) lol


...but I am simply curious to know how the Option/Alt key came to be double-named.

These links may help::)

Option key - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Option_key)
Alt key - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alt_key)


As far as I know, it is the only one with two "names".

While we're at it (discussing "off-beat" keyboard keys). Here's the info on the Apple "command key" and the 'Windows key" on Windows keyboards:;)

Command key - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Command_key)
Windows key - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windows_key)

- Nick

toMACsh
05-30-2015, 02:28 PM
My keyboard (Das) has alt and option on the key. But then, there are several keys with two "options"
1 !
2 @
3 #
etc.
;)

Yeah, not the same thing; need to hit the Shift key.

pm-r
05-30-2015, 03:48 PM
Oh dear, my blood pressure just went up with the mention of "cmd+alt" again!!! ;)

I have no idea why or when it changed, but in most of my 25+ years of Mac use, the particular key name used was always "option" but the "alt" reference seems to have emerged over the last few years, for some reason. And I notice it's often used in UK pages and magazines a lot and seems to be increasing in N.A. A bit strange considering the "option" is in such a larger size than the small "alt".

Maybe it's to accommodate the "switchers" or something, but I don't know why, but I do find it annoying… :Angry-Tongue:


EDIT:
I just came across this which may account for the UK's use of "ALT" so much, if this is really what they get for an Apple keyboard over there these days. Sure not what we get in Canada!! Have a look:
http://www.macworld.co.uk/how-to/mac/what-where-option-key-mac-3462401/

IWT
05-30-2015, 06:00 PM
Thank you, thank you all. Now that your blood pressure has returned to its taciturn, resting state, let me say that this has been most enlightening.

For a start, I didn't realise that some/all US & maybe Canadian keyboards had both the alt and option insignia whereas here in the UK it has been just "alt" for all the meagre time I have owned Macs. And the history and changes are also interesting.

Thank you for taking the time and trouble to respond, as always.

Ian

pm-r
05-30-2015, 08:43 PM
It was an interesting question, and it seems odd that there would be such a difference in how the key is even labeled in various English speaking countries, and by the same mother company. Certainly nothing consistent anyway.

Thanks for the break… and I'm sure we'll never find the correct answer… but it's still the "option" key to me… and my Apple keyboards even say so... ;) :D