Alt Gr: A Backgrounder

We know it by numerous names: Alt Graph, Alt Car, Alt Char, or Alt Grill. However or whatever you call it, it’s purpose remains the same; it serves as a modifying key on various keyboards and are principally used to type characters and symbols that are not easily accessed via the keyboard. Although the appearance of the Alt Gr key on modern keyboards has grown out of fashion, many of its metal detectors functions are still available on regular computer keyboards’ Alt or Option keys. Back in the day—think 1970s and the days of the ‘mainframe’—Alt Gr performed an important role; because visual representation or display of the multiple tasks a computer was executing, many functions had to be left to the keyboard. Often, a single key represented more than two symbols. Accessing the multiple symbols on each key became possible through using a combination of snoring mouthpiece keystrokes. By pressing one or a combination of modifier keys such as Ctrl, Alt, Shift, and Alt Gr a multitude of characters and symbols became available. The Alt Gr key originally stood for Alt Graphic, meaning that keeping it pressed down while striking another key will produce the ‘alternate’ symbol that key represents. With the ongoing change in gas tankless water heater computing technology, some think that the Alt Gr key is practically obsolete; but it remains on some keyboards to accommodate some older applications. The Alt Gr key has not totally outlived its usefulness. Until now, it is still used to type some special characters. In many European keyboards, the Alt Gr lives to accommodate more characters. With the various languages in the continent, it provides flexibility and customization. Keyboards in British English (UK and Ireland), Croatian, Slovene, Bosnian, Serbian, German, French, Italian, Scandinavian and many others, the Alt Gr key helps access language and region specific microdermabrasion machine characters. The Alt Gr key in language specific keyboards opens up access to new or multilingual characters. Characters and symbols in use, for example, in the Spanish or French languages are not always easily accessible in a standard keyboard. A specific set of accents, currency symbols, and other specialized characters are of course available in man, if not all, the applications in common use but having easier access to them via the keyboard is another matter altogether.
There are many examples of the usefulness of the Alt Gr key in specialized keyboards. In Polish language keyboards, their standard QWERTZ layout also feature accented charters that are easily obtainable—the QUERTZ format is a keyboard or typewriter layout commonly used in Central and Eastern Europe, and differs from the QWERTY in the following ways: First, in the placement of the “Z” and “Y” keys; these two are switched. The letter “Z” appears much more in the German language than “Y” and therefore is placed in a more accessible location. Also, the letters “T” and “Z” commonly appear next to each other in German orthography, and placing the two keys next to each other minimizes the effort in typing two sequential characters. Second, part of the keyboard is adapted to include umlauted vowels. Third, the placement of some special symbols and command keys are changed; some special key inscriptions are also changed from their abbreviated form to a graphic symbol or to the native language equivalent. Fourth, like many other non-English keyboards, QWERTZ keyboards usually change the Alt key into an Alt Gr key to access a third level of key assignments. This is particularly important because the umlauts and other special characters leave no room to have all the symbols of ASCII needed by programmers among others, available on the first or second (using the shift key) levels without increasing the keyboard size. So, even though some might think that the Alt Gr key has outlived it’s usefulness due to the advancements in various applications and computing technology, in a mouse-less world or a keystroke heavy usage environment, it still cannot be discarded.

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