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Mac Modifier Keys: What Are They and How to Use Them?

Updated on Tuesday, February 20, 2024

iBoysoft author Amanda Wong

Written by

Amanda Wong
Professional tech editor

Approved by

Jessica Shee

English

Get to Know the Mac Modifier Keys on your Keyboard

Summary: This article introduces Mac keyboard modifier keys, tells where they are on a Mac keyboard, and how to customize the functionality of Mac modifier keys on macOS Ventura and earlier versions.

mac modifier keys

Table of Contents:

What are Mac modifier keys

You may have noticed there are some keyboard shortcut symbols when accessing the Apple Menu or various app menus, such as ⌃⌘Q for "Lock Screen", ⌘R for "Reload This Page", etc. Mac modifiers keys such as Control/Ctrl(⌃) and Command/Cmd(⌘) are used in combination with other letter or digit keys to perform such functions. 

apple menu modifier keys

Whether you are using a MacBook Air/Pro with a built-in keyboard or an iMac with Apple Magic Keyboard, you can find these modifier keys on the keyboard, mainly located at the bottom-left corner and bottom row. The ones you'll find most frequently on a Mac keyboard are mentioned below. You need to press these modifier keys while holding down other keys to change the function or use a keyboard shortcut.

Basic Mac modifier keys

There are some basic modifier keys on the Mac keyboard you need to know. After getting the hang of these Mac modifier keys, you can easily utilize them to perform some functions and boost your productivity.

macbook keyboard

Command/Cmd(⌘). This command key is one of the most common modifier keys on Mac keyboards, it is needed by a number of keyboard shortcuts. The command key or the key with the ⌘ icon is usually on the left and right side of the space bar. Common Command-R shortcut helps to boot the Mac into recovery mode.

Option/Alt(⌥). This Option, or the Alt key on Mac is also frequently used for many different actions and shortcuts. You can find it on the left or right side of the Command key on both sides of the Mac keyboard.

Control/Ctrl(⌃). The control key is also a popular modifier key, located between the fn key and the option key on the left corner of the Mac keyboard. Ctrl-C and Ctrl-V are widely used to copy and paste on Mac.

Function(fn). One of the modifiers that lacks its own icon is the function key. The fn key is located in the bottom-left and ought to be beneath the Shift key and to the left of your Control key.

Shift(⇧). If you switch from Windows to macOS, you could be familiar with the Shift key, it is not displayed with the word Shift on the keyboard, it can be found with the ⇧ icon, instead.

Caps Lock (⇪). The Caps Lock key is rather self-explanatory; while the light is on, you may write in all caps. It is located above the Shift key on the left side of your keyboard. You may find it with the icon on the key instead of the work caps lock.

Change the behavior of Mac modifier keys

For some Mac keyboard modifiers, you can change the action for certain modifier keys to perform when you press them. Besides, when you find the Mac modifier keys not working, you can also check the modifier keys settings in System Settings/Preferences. For example, if you accidentally change the action of the Caps Lock key to No Action, when you press the Caps Lock key, the letters entered are also lowercase.

Change Mac modifier keys' actions on macOS Ventura:

  1. Click the Apple logo and choose System Settings on the pop-up menu.
  2. Scroll down the left sidebar and choose Keyboard.
  3. Tap the Keyboard Shortcuts button on the right pane.
  4. Choose Modifier Keys on the new window.
  5. Click the expanded menu behind each modifier key to choose an action for it.

change modifier keys action ventura

Change Mac modifier keys' actions on macOS Monterey and earlier:

  1. Head to the Apple menu and click System Preferences.
  2. Choose Keyboard on the pane, and click Keyboard.
  3. Select Modifier Keys to display the list.
  4. Click the pop-up menu next to each modifier whose default action you want to change, then select the desired action from the list or select No Action.

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