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The AltGr key is the first key to the right of the space bar. (Some keyboards have a second Alt key here).
The AltGr key is the first key to the right of the space bar. (Some keyboards have a second Alt key here).
A keyboard with additional engravings showing the characters typed when AltGr is held down. (The AltGr key, located immediately to the right of the Space bar, does not appear in this photo.)
A keyboard with additional engravings showing the characters typed when AltGr is held down. (The AltGr key, located immediately to the right of the Space bar, does not appear in this photo.)

AltGr (also Alt Graph) is a modifier key found on many computer keyboards (rather than a second Alt key found on US keyboards). It is primarily used to type characters that are not widely used in the territory where sold, such as foreign currency symbols, typographic marks and accented letters. On a typical Windows-compatible PC keyboard, the AltGr key, when present, takes the place of the right-hand Alt key: if not engraved as such, that key may still be remapped to behave as though it is,[1] (or emulated using a chord such as Ctrl+Alt). In macOS, the Option key has functions similar to the AltGr key.

AltGr is used similarly to the Shift key: it is held down while another key is struck in order to obtain a character other than the one that the latter normally produces. AltGr and Shift can also sometimes be combined to obtain yet another character. For example, on the US-International keyboard layout, the C key can be used to insert four different characters:

Meaning

Sun Microsystems keyboard, which labels the key as Alt Graph.
Sun Microsystems keyboard, which labels the key as Alt Graph.

IBM states that AltGr is an abbreviation for alternate graphic.[2][3]

The AltGr key is used as an additional 'shift' key, to provide a third and a fourth (when Shift is also pressed) grapheme for most keys. Most are accented variants of the letters on the keys, but also additional typographical symbols and punctuation marks. Some languages such as Bengali use this key when the number of letters of their alphabet is too large for a standard keyboard. On early home computers the alternate graphemes were primarily box-drawing characters.[4]

Ctrl+Alt as AltGr surrogate

Windows interprets Ctrl+Alt as AltGr in relevant layouts, to accommodate some compact keyboards like those of netbooks (where the AltGr key may be omitted). Thus, for example, Ctrl+Alt+a has the same effect as AltGr+a. Because of this feature, Microsoft advises that Ctrl+Alt not be used as part of an application-specific keyboard shortcut, to avoid conflicts with any AltGr functions.[5]

Function by default national keyboard

In most of the keyboard diagrams the symbol you get when holding down AltGr is in blue in the lower-right of the corner. If different, the symbol for Shift+AltGr is shown in the upper-right.

Bangladesh

Jatiya Layout (Alt Gr activated characters in blue)
Jatiya Layout (Alt Gr activated characters in blue)

Belgium

Belgian keyboard under Linux (Ubuntu 9.10)
Belgian keyboard under Linux (Ubuntu 9.10)

The Windows version of the Belgian keyboard may only support a subset of these characters. Several of the AltGr combinations are themselves dead keys, which are followed by another letter to produce an accented version of that letter.

Brazil

ABNT complying keyboard layout (Alt Gr activated characters in blue)
ABNT complying keyboard layout (Alt Gr activated characters in blue)


ABNT2 complying keyboard layout (Alt Gr activated characters in blue)
ABNT2 complying keyboard layout (Alt Gr activated characters in blue)

Some notes

France

On AZERTY keyboards, AltGr enables the user to type the following characters:

Germany

On German keyboards, AltGr enables the user to type the following characters, which are indicated on the keyboard:

Windows 8 introduced the ability of pressing AltGr+⇧ Shift+ß to produce (capital ß). Even though this is usually not indicated on the physical keyboard—potentially due to a lack of space, since the ß-key already has three different levels (ß → "ß", ⇧ Shift+ß → "?", and, as shown above, AltGr+ß → "\")—, it can be seen in the Windows On-Screen Keyboard by selecting the necessary keys with the German keyboard layout selected.

(Some newer types of German keyboards offer the fixed assignment Alt+++H.)

Greece

On Greek keyboards, AltGr enables the user to type the following characters:

Some of these key combinations also result in different characters if the polytonic layout is used.

Israel

Hebrew

On Hebrew keyboards, AltGr enables the user to type the following characters:

There are several combinations using AltGr that activate Hebrew vowels.

Yiddish

Using a Hebrew keyboard, one may write in Yiddish as the two languages share many letters. However, Yiddish has some additional digraphs and a symbol not otherwise found in Hebrew which are entered via AltGr.

Italy

On Italian keyboards, AltGr enables the user to type the following characters:

There is an alternate layout, which differ just in disposition of characters accessible through AltGr and includes the tilde and the curly brackets.

Latvia

The following letters can be input in the Latvian keyboard layout using AltGr:

North Macedonia

On Macedonian keyboards, AltGr enables the user to type the following characters:

The Netherlands

The US international keyboard (see below) is a popular alternative in the Netherlands

Nordic countries and Estonia

The keyboard layouts in the Nordic countries Denmark (DK), Faroe Islands (FO), Finland (FI), Norway (NO) and Sweden (SE) as well as in Estonia (EE) are largely similar to each other. Generally the AltGr key can be used to create the following characters:

Other AltGr combinations are peculiar to just some of the countries:

Finnish multilingual

The Finnish multilingual keyboard standard adds many new characters to the traditional layout via the AltGr key, as shown in the image below (the blue characters can be written with the AltGr key; several dead key diacritics, shown in red, are also available as an AltGr combination).[6][7]

Finnish multilingual keyboard layout

Poland

Typewriters in Poland used a QWERTZ layout specifically designed for the Polish language with accented letters in the Polish alphabet obtainable directly. When personal computers became available worldwide in the 1980s, commercial importing into Poland was not supported by its communist government, so most machines in Poland were brought in by private individuals. Most had US keyboards, and various methods were devised to make available the accented Polish letters. An established method was to configure the right Alt key as an AltGr key and to use it in combination with a Latin base letter to obtain the equivalent precomposed character (accented form of the letter).

(Because there are two types of "z with diacritic" (ź and ż), AltGr+X is a special case.)

At the time of the Fall of communism and opening of commercial import channels this practice was so widespread that it was adopted as the de facto standard. Nowadays nearly all PCs in Poland have standard US keyboards and use the AltGr method to enter Polish diacritics. This keyboard mapping is referred to as the Polish programmers' layout (klawiatura polska programisty) or simply Polish layout.

Another layout is still used on typewriters, mostly by professional typists. Computer keyboards with this layout are available, though difficult to find, and supported by a number of operating systems; they are known as Polish typists' layout (klawiatura polska maszynistki). Older Polish versions of Microsoft Windows used this layout, describing it as Polish layout. On current versions it is referred to as Polish (214).

Romania

The keymap with the AltGr key:

 â  ß  €  r  ț  y  u  î  o  §  „  ”
  ă  ș  đ  f  g  h  j  k  ł  ;
    z  x  ©  v  b  n  m  «  »

Russia

Since release 1903, versions of Windows 10 have the binding:

South Slavic Latin and Czech keyboards

On South Slavic Latin (used in Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia) and on Czech keyboards, the following letters and special characters are created using AltGr:

Slovenian/Croatian/Serbian (Latin) keyboard layout

South Slavic cyrillic kryboards use a different layout.

Turkey

In Turkish keyboard variants the AltGr can be used to display the following characters:

United Kingdom and Ireland

For broader coverage of this topic, see QWERTY § United Kingdom, and QWERTY § Irish.

United Kingdom keyboard layout

In UK and Ireland keyboard layouts, only two alternative use symbols are printed on most keyboards, which require the AltGr key to function. These are:

Using the AltGr key on Linux produces many foreign characters and international symbols, e.g. ¹²³€½{[]}@łe¶ŧ←↓→øþæßðđŋħjĸł«»¢“”nµΩŁE®Ŧ¥↑ıØÞƧЪŊĦJ&Ł<>©‘’Nº×÷· (If reconfigured as a compose key, an even larger repertoire is available).

With the UK extended keyboard setting (below), Chrome OS offers a large repertoire of symbols and precomposed characters.

Scotland and Wales

For the diacritics used by Welsh (ŵ and ŷ) and Scots Gaelic (à, è, ì, ò and ù), the UK extended keyboard setting is needed. This makes available AltGr+6 (for circumflex accent) and AltGr+` (for grave accent) as dead keys.

UK extended keyboard layout

The UK-Extended keyboard mapping (available with Microsoft Windows, Linux and ChromeOS) allows many characters with diacritical marks (including those used in other European countries) to be generated by using the AltGr key or dead keys in combination with others.

UK extended layout under Chrome OS
¬
¦
! ¡
1 ¹
" ½
2
£
3 ³
$ ¼
4
%
5 ½
^
6
&
7 {
*
8 [
( ±
9 ]
) °
0 }
_ ¿
- \
+
=
tab Q Ω
q @
W
w
E É
e é
R ®
r
T Ŧ
t ŧ
Y Ý
y ý
U Ú
u ú
I Í
i í
O Ó
o ó
P Þ
p þ
{
[
}
]
🔍 A Á
a á
S §
s ß
D Ð
d ð
F ª
f đ
G Ŋ
g ŋ
H Ħ
h ħ
J
j
K &
k ĸ
L Ł
l ł
:
;
@
'
~
#
shift | ¦
\ |
Z <
z «
X >
x »
C Ç
c ç
V
v
B
b
N N
n n
M º
m µ
< ×
,
> ÷
. ·
?
/

Notes: Dotted circle (◌) is used here to indicate a dead key. The ` (grave accent) key is the only one that acts as a free-standing dead key and thus does not respond as shown on the key-cap. All others are invoked by AltGr.
AltGr+⇧ Shift+0 (°) is a degree sign; AltGr+⇧ Shift+M (º) is a masculine ordinal indicator. For a complete list of the characters available using dead keys, see QWERTY#Chrome OS.

United States

Most keyboards sold in the US do not have an (engraved) AltGr key. However if there is an right-hand Alt key it will act as AltGr if a layout using it is installed (conversely a foreign keyboard AltGr will act like the right-hand Alt if the standard US keyboard layout is installed).

US-International

For broader coverage of this topic, see QWERTY § US-International.

Microsoft provides a US-International keyboard layout that uses AltGr (or right-hand Alt or Ctrl+Alt) key to produce more characters:

US-International keyboard layout

Red characters are dead keys; for example ä can be entered with "a.

Other operating systems such as Linux and Chrome OS follow this layout but increase the repertoire of glyphs provided.

X Window System

In the X Window System (Linux, BSD, Unix), AltGr can often be used to produce additional characters with almost every key on the keyboard. Furthermore, with some keys, AltGr will produce a dead key; for example on a UK keyboard, semicolon can be used to add an acute accent to a base letter, and left square bracket can be used to add a trema:

This use of dead keys enables one to type a wide variety of precomposed characters that combine various diacritics with either uppercase or lowercase letters, achieving a similar effect to the Compose key.

Keyboard maps

Below are some diagrams and examples of country-specific key maps. For the diagrams, the grey symbols are the standard characters, yellow is with ⇧ Shift, red is with AltGr, and blue is with ⇧ Shift+AltGr.

Danish keyboard

The Danish keymap features the following key combinations:

Italian keyboard

The Italian keymap includes, among other combinations, the following:

Norwegian keyboard

The complete Norwegian X Window key map with its AltGr combinations
The complete Norwegian X Window key map with its AltGr combinations


Swedish keyboard

The complete Swedish X Window key map with its AltGr combinations
The complete Swedish X Window key map with its AltGr combinations

See also

References

  1. ^ Microsoft Support. "How to use the United States-International keyboard layout in Windows 7, in Windows Vista, and in Windows XP". Microsoft. Retrieved 30 May 2020.
  2. ^ "Keyboard Technical Reference". ibm.com. Archived from the original on 14 January 2006. Retrieved 4 June 2005.
  3. ^ "IBM Globalization – Alternate graphic". ibm.com.
  4. ^ Kaplan, Michael S.: "To start press the ALTGR key." Hmm... where's the ALTGR key?. 28 December 2004.
  5. ^ Raymond Chen (29 March 2004). "Why Ctrl+Alt shouldn't be used as a shortcut modifier". Microsoft.
  6. ^ SFS 5966 Keyboard layout. Finnish-Swedish multilingual keyboard setting. Finnish Standards Association SFS. 3 November 2008.
  7. ^ Kotoistus: Uusi näppäinasettelu = Status of the new Keyboard Layout Archived 27 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine. A bi-lingual (Finnish + English) presentation page collecting drafts of the Finnish Multilingual Keyboard. CSC – IT Center for Science Ltd. Page updated 28 December 2006.