Alt GR

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The key Alt Gr (also Alt Graph , Eng. Alternate graphic - alternative graphic or alternative document) is on PC - keyboard with AT layout normally the right of the space bar and changed while it is held down, the functions of the other keys. The US keyboard is an exception, it lacks this key.

Alt Gr key (front right next to the space bar)
Alt Graph key on a Sun Type 5/6/7 keyboard, next to it the Compose key


Just as the Shift key ( Shift) controls the second assignment of the keys (e.g. Shift+ Afrom "a" to "A"), this key gives the third assignment, such as the key combination Alt Gr + E = , Alt Gr+ 2 = ² (German and Austrian keyboards). With the combination Alt Gr+ Q(German and Austrian keyboards) or Alt Gr+ 2(Swiss keyboards) you get the @ -sign , for example .

With some layouts you can press Alt Gr, Shift and a character key together to achieve their fourth assignment: In the Polish layout, you can create the character Ł with Alt Gr+  ⇧ + L. Up to Windows 10 there was no such fourth assignment for the layouts of the German-speaking area, since Windows 10 there is Alt Gr+  ⇧ + ßthe capital ß ; in Linux , for example, the key combination Alt Gr+  ⇧ + brings ,the character × to the screen.


Originally, PC keyboards did not have an Alt-Gr key in German-speaking countries either. For cost reasons, however, IBM did not want to deliver different sized or electronically different keyboards to different countries, but only wanted to change the more easily replaceable printing on the keycaps. Some characters rarely used in German texts, including the square and curly brackets , the vertical bar , the backslash and the @ symbol, which was also rarely used in the pre-e-mail era in German-speaking countries, were simply missing on such keyboards. Instead, there were among other things the umlauts , in Germany the ß , in Switzerland French characters like the ç . This was not a major problem for word processing and other office applications, but it was for professional programmers, as a number of these characters are commonly used in various programming languages . Local programmers therefore often used American keyboards at that time or changed the assignment using the software and then "blindly" typed the corresponding characters with the umlaut keys. The missing backslash became a problem even for non-programmers when subdirectories were introduced in MS-DOS from 1983 and this character was introduced to separate the directory levels.

One way out of this unsatisfactory situation was when IBM introduced its new MF2 keyboard in 1985 . On this, for the first time, there was a second Alt key in the same place as the AltGr key today , while older keyboards only offered a single Alt key. For non-US American keyboards, this second Alt key has been redesignated as the "AltGr" key in order to be able to enter more characters with the same number of keys. This was made possible by the third assignment of some keys while using the AltGr key. This “redeclaration” also explains the similar names of Alt and AltGr, although the functions of the two keys are very different.

Operating systems

In Windows systems, the combination Strg+ Altwith is Alt Grusually equivalent; Strg+ Alt+ also Egenerates the symbol on German and Swiss keyboards . The same applies to the outdated PC / XT and PC / AT keyboards that do not have an AltGr key. Conversely, however, the Strg+ Alt+ Entf( clamp grip ) required on many systems for logging in and shutting down cannot be replaced by Alt Gr+ Entf. However, it is possible to replace the key combination Strg+ Alt+ Entfwith the equivalent Strg+ Alt Gr+ Entf, whereby the latter can be entered with just one hand.

If the Windows operating system is running on an Apple Mac with an Apple keyboard, the Alt Gr key can be simulated by pressing the Alt key + Ctrl key.

Web links