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Understanding Mac keyboard symbols: What do they mean?

It has been more than six years since I shifted to a Mac. The first few weeks were dedicated to understanding multi-touch gestures. For some reason, I didn’t put effort into learning Mac keyboard symbols and associated shortcuts until recently. However, the understanding of the Mac keyboard symbol helps master the shortcuts.

So, with these, you can finally make sense of shortcuts in the menu bar. The article will also explain how to use specific symbols like copyright. Let us check out how to use them.

Complete list of Mac keyboard symbols

Modifier keys are important, especially when used in conjunction with other keys. Thankfully, it is adequate if you learn the main modifier keys. Below is a list of the main modifier key for Mac.

  1. ⌘ – Command
  2. ⌃ – Control
  3. ⇧ – Shift
  4. ⌥ – Option

Other important Mac keyboard symbols

  1. ↵ – Return (or Enter)
  2. ⎋ – Escape
  3. ↑, ↓, ←, → – Up, Down, Left and Right arrow
  4. ⇥ – Right Tab
  5. ⇤ – Left Tab
  6. ⌫ – Delete (Backspace on Windows)
  7. ⌦ – Forward delete
  8. ⇞ – Page Up
  9. ⇟ – Page Down
  10. ⇪ – Caps Lock
  11. ⏏ – Eject
  12. ↖︎ – Home
  13. ↘︎ – End

Understanding symbols on Function keys

Function keys meaning on Mac

How to type special characters on Mac

Unlike Windows, Mac doesn’t employ alt-codes to type special symbols. All the special symbols/Unicodes can be typed directly from the keyboard. However, it is not practical to memorize all keyboard combinations. Fortunately, Mac users can also utilize the function keys to access additional features and shortcuts, enhancing the overall user experience.

macOS offers an interactive keyboard option. The keyboard view changes in real-time depending on which modifier key is used. Read along:

I. Use math symbols on Mac

Not able to find the degree symbol on your Mac? Don’t worry; we have it sorted for you. Follow the steps below:

  1. Go to System PreferencesKeyboard.
  2. Navigate to the Input Sources tab → mark Show input menu in menu bar.
  3. Now, click the keyboard icon at the top right of the main menu.
  4. Hit Show Emoji & Symbols.
  5. Select Maths Symbol from the menu.
  6. Now, click any symbol and choose font variation.

    Use degree and other math symbols on Mac

The copyright symbol is not printed on the keyboard. It is typically used on rare occasions. So, you will have to choose the symbol from keyboard preference or copy-paste from the internet. Follow the below steps to access it on Mac.

  1. Open Show Emoji & Symbols as you did above.
  2. Click the keyboard icon at the top right and select Letterlike Symbols.
  3. Click the Copyright symbol.
  4. Optional: If you use it often, select Add to Favourites.
    • The copyright symbol will now appear under Favourites.

      Use copyright symbol on the Mac keyboard

We have other guides on how you can type certain symbols on Mac. You can check out our explainer on the same:

Want to use other special characters on Mac? Check out our detailed guide on how to type special characters on Mac.

Mac keyboard shortcuts with symbol

Mac offers a generic set of keyboard shortcuts available for all apps. Besides, you also have keyboard shortcuts for specific apps. Cheatsheet lets you access all keyboard shortcuts at the click of a button. The best part is that Cheatsheet shows app-specific shortcuts. Check out our guide to learn more about Cheatsheet.

Hopefully, you are now familiar with the quirks and features of the Mac keyboard. There is no turning back once you get used to symbols and shortcuts. That said, it would require deliberate efforts from your end.

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  • Mahit

    Mahit is an engineer by Education with a corporate stint to his name. He ditched the corporate boardroom wars in favor of the technology battleground. For the better part of a decade, he has worked for popular publishing outlets, including Dennis Publishing, BGR India, AppStorm, MakeUseOf, and iPhonehacks.

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