Using the Option key is an essential part of the Apple keyboard experience for issuing many keystrokes, accessing various hidden features, and a myriad of other functions on both Mac OS X and iOS. All Mac and Apple keyboards have the Option key, it’s just not always labeled as such, which is what offers confusion from time to time. It turns out that certain Apple keyboard layouts have the option key labeled as either a symbol, or as the alt key. This often differs per region and per keyboard, and sometimes even on the age of the hardware itself, but regardless of how they look, every Apple and Mac keyboard includes the option and alt key, including any MacBook, Apple external keyboard, Smart Keyboard for iPad, or other hardware keyboards from Apple.
The Mac ALT key is the Mac OPTION key
Below is where you can find the OPTION / ALT key on the major Apple keyboards you are likely to encounter. And yes, in case it wasn’t evident; the OPTION key is the ALT key, which is also represented by the funny looking symbol ⌥ on Apple and Mac keyboards.
The Option / ALT Key on European and UK keyboards actually looks pretty similar to Japanese keyboard layouts and many others:
Option / ALT Key on US & North American keyboards
Option / ALT key on iPad Smart Keyboards:
The Option / ALT Key Symbol is “⌥”
This is what the option and alt key symbol looks like, it’s kind of like a backslash with a flag coming off of it. It’s admittedly not very obvious, which is perhaps why Apple has been spelling out alt / option on modern keyboards for many markets.
Remember: the Option / ALT key is always between the control key and the command key on Apple & Mac Keyboards
That means on new Mac keyboards you’ll have “Control ^” followed by “ALT / option ⌥” followed by “Command ⌘ ”
The lack of a clearly (and consistently) labeled ‘option’ key puzzled a friend of mine recently who bought a MacBook Pro with a European keyboard layout, and that had a Japanese external Mac keyboard included. Of course those keyboards work with other languages too, but the keys can be labeled differently. In those situations, the Option key is labeled as ALT and the strange looking symbol, it is not clearly labeled as ‘option’ as it is on modern Mac keyboards from the US and many other countries. This isn’t totally unusual however, as long time Mac and Apple users will undoubtedly recall that earlier versions of the Apple Keyboard also didn’t label the alt or option key, and simply used the symbol instead, and on some Mac keyboards symbols were used exclusively.
This should be particularly helpful information to international users and IT staff who encounter machines from other regions, and to newcomers to the Mac and Apple platforms as well. ⎇