Alt may refer to any of the following:

1. Short for alternate, Alt is a modifier key located on both sides of the spacebar key on IBM compatible computer keyboards. The picture shows an example of the Alt key.

Note: The Alt key should not be confused with the Altmode key that is used with some TeleType and ASCII terminals. The Altmode key does not function the same as the Alt key.

Where is the Alt key on the keyboard?

The following image of a keyboard shows the location of the Alt keys, which are highlighted in blue.

Note: Apple computer keyboards use the option key in place of the Alt key.

Alt keyboard shortcuts and what can the Alt key do?

Alt is most often used to in a key combination to perform certain actions. Refer to the example below:


The above combination means to press and hold the Ctrl, Alt, and Del keys all at the same time. This action is used to open the Windows task manager window.

Below are some other commonly used Alt shortcut key combinations on a Windows computer.

  • Alt = Pressing the Alt key alone focuses the computer on the File Menu (if available) or show keyboard shortcuts in Office programs with the Ribbon.
  • Alt+F = Pressing these two keys opens the File Menu in an open program.
  • Alt+F4 = These keys close the open program. To close an open window or tab within a program press Ctrl+F4.
  • Alt+Spacebar = Open the window menu of the program currently open.
  • Alt+Tab = These keys switch between open programs from left-to-right. Pressing Alt+Shift+Tab moves in the opposite direction, from right to left.

Tip: See our shortcut key list to view all of the keyboard shortcuts.

Tip: In Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox, pressing the Alt key shows the menu bar visible near the top of the program window.

Using the Alt key to create special characters (Alt codes)

With Windows computers, the Alt key can also be used with the number keys on the numeric keypad to create special characters (Alt codes) such as accented letters. For example, when using code page 437, pressing Alt+160 creates an "a" with an accent (á) in all programs.

Note: When using Alt codes, your Num Lock must be enabled, and you must be using the numbers on the numeric keypad.

Where is the Alt key on my smartphone or tablet touch screen?

Smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices with touch screens do not have an Alt or other modifier keys.

Note: If you're using an on-screen keyboard on a computer, the Alt key is in the same place as shown in the picture on this page (both sides of the spacebar).

2. Alt may also be used to describe the alternate text used to describe an image in HTML. For example, in the below img tag of the Computer Hope logo seen at the top of every page, the alt attribute is describing that the picture is the Computer Hope logo. If someone was reading the page without being able to see the images (e.g., the visitor is hard of seeing or blind) they could understand what the picture is showing.

<img src="" alt="Computer Hope logo"/>

ASCII, Computer abbreviations, Ctrl, Ctrl+Alt+Del, Keyboard terms, Meta key, Modifier key, Option key