The Alt key (pronounced /ˈɔːlt/) on a computer keyboard is used to change (alternate) the function of other pressed keys. Thus, the Alt key is a modifier key, used in a similar fashion to the Shift key. For example, simply pressing "A" will type the letter a, but if you hold down either Alt key while pressing A, the computer will perform an Alt+A function, which varies from program to program. The international standard ISO/IEC 9995-2 calls it Alternate key. The key is located either side of the Space bar, but in non-US PC keyboard layouts, rather than a second Alt key, there is an 'Alt Gr' key to the right of the space bar. Both placements are in accordance with ISO/IEC 9995-2.
The standardized keyboard symbol for the Alt key (which may be used when the usual Latin lettering “Alt” is not preferred for labelling the key) is given in ISO/IEC 9995-7 as symbol 25, and in ISO 7000 “Graphical symbols for use on equipment” as symbol ISO-7000-2105. This symbol is encoded in Unicode as U+2387 alternative key symbol (⎇).
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“With one days reading a man may have the key in his hands.”
—Ezra Pound (18851972)