Where are all these things anyway

If you aren’t used to reading the kind of notation typically used for keyboard shortcuts, it can start to look a lot like 9th-grade algebra homework and really, no one wants that.

I’m assuming here that everyone knows where the letters A-Z and numbers 0-9 are located on a keyboard. I’m also assuming that most people can find common punctuation marks. So what follows is a guide to the other stuff that we’ll be using. I’m going to list out keys commonly used for keyboard shortcut combinations, show you their location on the keyboard and show how I’ll be referring to them in future posts.

Key locations

PC Keyboard Layout: By Rumudiez Created in Adobe Illustrator, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=26015253

Mac Magic Keyboard Layout

Control (Ctrl)

  • Location and label:
    • PC Keyboard: The leftmost key on the bottom row of the keyboard. Often a second control key is placed on the far right of the bottom row to allow it to be reached with both hands easily. Most keyboards will label the key with the abbreviation “ctrl
    • Mac keyboard: Second key from the left on the bottom row of the keyboard. The key is labeled with “control

Alt or Option

  • Location and label:
    • PC Keyboard: Located immediately to the left and right of the space bar on the bottom row of the keyboard. The keys are typically labeled with “alt“.
    • Mac Keyboard: The keys are labeled with “option“ and are located on the bottom row of the keyboard one key away from the spacebar on the left and right sides.

Super Key (or Windows key)

  • Location and label: This one is PC keyboards only. For most people this is the key with the Microsoft Windows logo on it. Some keyboards will label this key with “start“. It is located second from the left on the bottom row of keys.

Command ⌘

  • Location and label: Mac only. There are two command keys located immediately to the left and right of the spacebar on the bottom row of keys. They are traditionally labeled with “command“ as well as the looped square (⌘).

Function keys

  • Location and label: These are located along the top row of the keyboard and are labeled F1 through F12. If your keyboard has other symbols on the keys in addition to these, you may need to locate the “fn“ key on your keyboard in order to use these keys as function keys.

Shortcut notation

When writing out a keyboard shortcut in text, it is typically done with a plus sign (+) between keys that are meant to be pressed simultaneously. So, if you wanted to say “press the Control key and the letter C at the same time.” you could shorten that to:

Ctrl + C

Pressing the Alt key and Function 12 would be:

Alt + F12

Very few shortcut combinations require more than three simultaneous keys to be pressed. So the most complex thing you should have to deal with is:

Shift + Ctrl + V

Letters are usually represented as capitalized for this notation, but that does not mean you are attempting to type a capital letter. So in the example above of “Ctrl + C” it is not necessary to first hit Caps Lock or to hold the shift key while pressing the C key.


With all of that out of the way, we’re ready to get started on a journey to keyboard mastery.