Command key

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Command key with "white" (not filled) Apple logo and loop square

In the macOS operating system, the command key is a so-called special key on keyboards and the primary key for triggering commands using key combinations . The command key corresponds to the operating system key (' Operating System Key ') as it is standardized in the international series of standards ISO / IEC 9995 -7: 2009 and to which the loop square (⌘) is assigned as a symbol (see section History ).

On Windows, the key is the Windows key interpreted and used. The other way round, the Windows key on standard PC keyboards is interpreted and used as a command key under macOS. In Linux it can be used as a super key or meta key, among other things.

The key designation was changed again and again over the years: command, cmd, , Apple logo hollow.svgand combinations thereof.

Due to its traditional lettering with the contour of the Apple logo, it is also known colloquially as the apple button . Due to its labeling with the loop square, it is also colloquially referred to as the cauliflower button , clover leaf button or propeller button.

Command key on keyboards

Depending on the model, a so-called Apple keyboard (keyboard from Apple or a third-party manufacturer explicitly for use with the Mac operating system) has one or two command keys, each directly next to the space bar . There is an option button on the outside next to it . In conventional PC keyboards, the two keys with the scan codes of the command key (Windows key) and the option key (Alt key) are swapped.


Apple's earliest computer models, the Apple I in 1976, the Apple II from 1977 and the Apple II + 1979 there is no such button. It first appeared on the Apple III , which appeared in 1980, and the Apple IIe and Apple IIc, which appeared in 1983 and 1984, respectively . These calculators have two such keys called the open and closed apple. They are represented on the keys by an apple drawn only in outline and a fully filled apple. The keys were internally wired in exactly the same way as the two keys on the joystick (this is because the Apple keyboard does not work with scan codes , but directly with ASCII codes, and no ASCII code can be assigned to the joystick keys). The Apple Lisa only had one such button, with the "closed" apple symbol. The closed apple later became the Option key on the Macintosh .

Swedish road sign H22: sight

In 1984, with the Apple Macintosh, the ribbon square (⌘) still used today appeared on the key for the first time , initially without the company logo, the apple. First, the clear assignment of keyboard commands and menu items should be achieved by using a special symbol that is not used on the screen for any other purpose. Apple co-founder Steve Jobs didn't like using the company logo to identify keyboard shortcuts on the screen because it was used too often; he feared a devaluation of the logo through inflationary use. As a result, the designer Susan Kare , who works at Apple, found the Swedish symbol for sights in an international symbol dictionary. This sign is since 2012 (Amendment 1 of the standard ISO / IEC 9995 -7: 2009) standardized internationally as a keyboard icon "operating system key" for a button with the function that used operating system is optional.

In 1986 Apple introduced the Apple IIgs , which for the first time had the new Apple Desktop Bus for keyboard and mouse connections. From this point on, the new Macintosh models also had the same bus. Apple's keyboards were thereby interchangeable between the Apple II series and the Macintosh series. The seldom used closed apple key was renamed to “Option” on the IIgs as before on the Macintosh, but the open apple key had to be retained, as many Apple II programs used and named it; otherwise, user confusion would have been predetermined. Therefore, the new keyboards received both symbols on their command key, the "open apple" of the II series and also the "clover leaf" of the Mac series. This combination was retained when the Apple II range was discontinued in 1993.


On macOS, the Command key is used for keyboard shortcuts to trigger commands. In menus etc. the "Zeichen" character is used to indicate that the command key should be pressed as part of a key combination.

In the early 1980s, Apple defined the Human Interface Guideline as a specification for the consistent design of user interfaces, which are still used in the current macOS. For example, the most famous key combination + Qis still up-to-date and led to the termination of the current program on the first Macintosh as early as 1984.


In texts, the command key can be used for fast navigation with the cursor:

  • + / : The cursor jumps forward / back one paragraph.
  • + / : The cursor jumps to the beginning / end of the text.

In the Finder , the command key is used for quick navigation in the ( hierarchical ) folder structure. For directories ("folders"):

  • + / : From the selected object you get higher / deeper into the folder structure.

When applying to files :

  • + : The selected file is opened.

Mouse actions

  • If you perform drag and drop with the Command and Option keys pressed, the object is not moved, but an alias of the object is created at the target. In the classic Mac OS , this function is integrated in Mac OS 8.0.
  • A program window in the background can be moved while holding down the Command key without the associated program being fetched from the background (i.e. activated).
  • Finder: If you click the name of a Finder window while holding down the command key, a menu opens showing the current directory path. If you hold down the Command key and click on an object in the sidebar of a Finder window, the object is opened in a new window (or, since OS X Mavericks, in a new tab); the previous one remains open.
  • Dock : If you click on a dock symbol while holding down the command key, the folder containing the object is opened in the Finder.
  • Safari: If you click on a link while holding down the command key , it will open in a new tab.


The new design of the command key in the MacBook Pro Unibody

In the course of the model launch of a new iMac on August 7, 2007, a new keyboard, simply called Apple Keyboard, was presented, which no longer offered this old symbol combination. After more than 21 years of use by Mac users, the name-giving company logo that is so typical for this key has been abandoned and replaced on German keyboards by "cmd", within the USA by the written word "Command". Other models followed this change with their respective hardware updates. The removal of the Apple logo caused a stir and a wave of online protest from die-hard fans of Apple products, who saw it as an unnecessary removal of a cherished design element.

The NeXT keyboards also had the command key and, in some cases, keyboard shortcuts similar to those on the Mac. Command was also written out here.

Apple characters in character encodings

The symbols from the old keyboards, the apple as an outline and the filled in apple, were assigned by the Linux Assigned Names and Numbers Authority to the code points U + F812 and U + F813 in the zone for private use of the Unicode table. Apple itself, on the other hand, has placed its completed logo in its own font on the last position in this zone, U + F8FF .

See also

Individual evidence

  1. ^ The Original Macintosh - Swedish Campground., accessed on February 24, 2013 .
  2. ^ Susan Kare on Working on the Macintosh. In: Making the Macintosh: Technology and Culture in Silicon Valley. Stanford University, February 20, 2001, accessed February 6, 2016 .
  3. ^ H. Peter Anvin: Linux Zone Unicode Assignments. In: Linux Assigned Names And Numbers Authority (LANANA). January 17, 2005, accessed April 17, 2017 .
  4. Tom Fine: The Apple Logo in Unicode. October 2010, accessed April 17, 2017 .