What Are the Mac Keyboard Modifiers? A Simple Guide

Tips • August 28, 2023

mac modifier keys

When you’re using your Mac, those special keys on your keyboard known as “modifiers” play a big role. These keys, like Command and Option, are super important because they let you do shortcuts that can make you work faster and better on your computer. Let’s dive in to learn about these Mac keyboard symbols and the common shortcuts they make possible.

What are the Mac keyboard modifiers?

The modifier keys on your Mac keyboard are Command, Option, Control, Shift, and fn. These keys work together with other keys to change how things work or to do shortcuts.

  • Command (⌘): This is a key you’ll use a lot. It’s on both sides of your space bar, often shown as the cloverleaf or butterfly icon (⌘).
  • Shift (⇧): You’ve probably seen this key on Windows computers. It’s not labeled “shift,” but has an up arrow icon (⇧). You’ll find it in two places on your keyboard, one on each top corner.
  • Option (⌥) or Alt: Another important key, it’s on both sides of the keyboard. It might say “Option” or “Alt,” or show an icon that looks a bit abstract (⌥).
  • Control (⌃) or Ctrl: If you’re used to Windows, you know this one. It’s near the Option key. It could be labeled “Control” or “Ctrl,” or look like an arrow pointing up (⌃).
  • Caps Lock (⇪): When this key is on, you can type in all capital letters. It’s above the Shift key and might have an icon that looks like an up arrow with a rectangle (⇪).
  • Function (fn): This key doesn’t have an icon. You’ll find it at the bottom left. It’s to the left of Control and under Shift.

Note: Whether utilizing a MacBook Air/Pro with an integrated keyboard or an iMac with the Apple Magic Keyboard, these modifier keys are strategically situated at the lower-left corner and bottom row.

modifierkey layout

Exploring the power of Command

Out of all these keys, the Command key is a real star. It’s used for lots of things, like copying and pasting, undoing, selecting everything, and opening new windows. But there’s more:

  • Command-Tab: Quickly switch between open app windows.
  • Command-H: Fast way to hide a window.
  • Command-spacebar: Search for files and apps using Spotlight.
  • Command-L: Highlight a website’s address to share.
  • Command-T: Reopen tabs you closed in Safari.
  • Command-N: Start something new in many Apple apps.

Remaping modifier keys in macOS Ventura or Monterey

If you have a new keyboard that’s set up like a Windows one, or if you use your keyboard with both Mac and Windows computers, you can change how these keys work:

remap modifier keys

  1. Open System Settings, scroll to Keyboard, and choose Keyboard Shortcuts.
  2. Click Modifier Keys at the bottom of the left menu pane.
  3. Pick your keyboard from the menu.

You can swap the places of Caps Lock, Control, Option, Command, and Function keys to match what you’re used to.

Mastering your Mac keyboard

Understanding these Mac keyboard symbols and modifiers can change how you work, even though it might take time to remember everything. Just practice, and soon you’ll be using shortcuts like a pro. You can even create your own cheat sheet with the most useful shortcuts for your Mac.

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