If you have a “full” computer keyboard, which averages 100 keys, you’ve probably wondered if you really need it all. And I want to ask you this question: have you used them all? Or do you frequently use all the keys?
Your answer is likely to be “no” — and that’s okay, because no one uses that many keys while playing games or typing. However, today I want to comment on a button that may be little known among users, but which turns out to be handy when typing symbols and special characters. This is the “AltGr” key.
What is the AltGr key?
AltGr, also known as “Alt Graph” (alternate graphic, or alternate graphic), is a modifier key found on many computer keyboards, most of them non-US standard. In these accessories, the function gains a dedicated button, usually on the user’s right side, and does not replace the Alt key, which is still present on the left side.
Want to catch up on the best tech news of the day? Access and subscribe to our new youtube channel, Kenyannews News. Everyday a summary of the main news from the tech world for you!
A modifier key is nothing more than a combination of two or more that would be used for a specific command. In the case of AltGr, it is the Ctrl + Alt key combination.
AltGr was originally created as an alternative to entering drawing characters in text-only user interfaces. However, these characters have been losing relevance and are no longer available on current keyboards.
What is the AltGr key for?
AltGr arrived precisely as a replacement for the keys dedicated to special characters present in older keyboard models. Therefore, AltGr is mainly used to type characters that are not widely used by most people. These include foreign currency symbols, typographic marks and accented letters.
Therefore, the AltGr button is currently used as a kind of additional “Shift”, providing up to two additional ranges of options for symbols and characters that are not available for immediate use on the keyboard.
You can notice: many keys have up to four designs engraved on each of them, the first two of which are for functions that can only be typed by pressing the button once. The other two ranges are for additional features that can be activated by AltGr.
It’s worth mentioning that you can also use the AltGr + Shift keys together to type special characters. On American (United States) keyboard, for example, when using AltGr + Shift + C, you get “¢”, symbol equivalent to US cents.
Alt and AltGr
As mentioned earlier, the AltGr key is not a replacement for the traditional Alt key. The name “Alt” is an abbreviation for “alternate” and refers to the fact that it is an alternative. In other words, it is another modifier key created to access complementary functions of a program or window running on the computer.
Using the Alt key alone has no effect. Therefore, it is used in conjunction with others. Want to close the current window in Windows? Just press Alt+F4. Need to switch between applications open on PC? Type Alt + ESC. Alt + Shift + Tab switches to the last used window. And so on.
It’s also possible to use the Alt key to enter characters that aren’t written to the keyboard, but this path is more cumbersome because it requires specific combinations of numbers — and that’s why AltGr was born. Typing Alt + 169 gives you the symbol “®”; Alt + 168 is for “¿” (inverted interrogation).
Do you have AltGr on macOS?
Yes! The Apple keyboards you find on Macs and MacBooks don’t have a dedicated AltGr key to their right, as do those used on PCs running Windows, Linux, and other operating systems. However, the “Option” button has similar functions.
Can I disable the AltGr key?
On Windows, the AltGr key is on by default, but you can disable its function at any time. Just press Shift + Control keys at the same time. If you want to activate the key again, press the same combination of buttons. You can do this at any time.
Tip on how to use the AltGr key
AltGr varies depending on the keyboard model used. Therefore, it would be inconsistent to pass a list of basic commands to use with the key, as your keyboard may be different from other readers of the Kenyannews.
My suggestion is to pay attention to the keyboard keys and see what special characters are at the bottom right of each button. That way, when you press AltGr plus that key, you’ll know exactly which symbol will be typed.