What Is the Option Key on a Mac Book Pro?

Written by jared paventi
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The first Apple computers had two keys to modify actions--an open apple and a closed apple. With the 1984 debut of the Macintosh, the layout of the computer keyboard changed. The open apple key still appears, but is now called the Command key. This is the primary modifier, acting much like a PC's Control key. The closed apple key gave way to the Option key. It sits in the same place as the PC's Alt key, but works differently. As a product of the Macintosh computer line, the MacBook Pro utilises the option key.

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Trigger for Symbols

Apple markets Macintosh computers as an easier-to-use alternative to Windows-operated computers. The option key promotes this ease of use. The option key acts as a bridge to symbols and ASCII text used in Windows. For example, Windows users have to either use the Character Map system application or the keyboard combination of the ALT key and 0149 to make a bullet appear. On a MacBook Pro, users can press Option and 8 for a bullet. An en dash, or --, can be created by press option and dash. An em dash, or ---, is created by pressing command, option and -. On a PC, one has to use the Character Map or type ALT and 0149 or ALT and 0150, respectively.

Trigger for Accents

Typing foreign accents on the PC requires the use of the Character Map application, which is found by going to the Start Menu, then Programs and System. To accent an e, as in cafe or the name José, a MacBook Pro user would hit Option and the E key twice. To put a tail on a c, as in Ça va?, a user would hold the option key down and press C.

Modifier for Programs

There are a number of standard shortcuts that cross over from application to application. For instance, Command-S is the trigger for saving a document in most, if not all programs. Users who find the need to change the name of a document can either go to the File menu and choose "Save As..." or use the key shortcut Command-Option-S.

Option as a Helper Key

When navigating text in word processing or graphic design programs, users can hold option and use the right and left arrow keys to go from word to word. Option up and down can take the user from paragraph to paragraph. In Adobe products, such as Photoshop or InDesign, holding the option key while clicking the left mouse key can duplicate the object selected.

As a System Controller

When a MacBook Pro goes to empty the trash, the user is asked whether she wants to empty trash -- a built-in safety measure. To skip the prompt, the user can hold down the option key. The option key will also act as a duplicator. When holding down the option key and selecting a file or folder, the user can make a copy of a file by dragging and dropping.

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