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The Microsoft Manual of Style: The User Interface

Key names

In general, spell key names as they appear in the following list, whether the name appears in text or in a procedure. Capitalize as indicated.

Microsoft style

Alt

arrow keys (not direction keys, directional keys, or movement keys)

Backspace

Break

Caps Lock

Clear

Command (the Mac keyboard only. Use the bitmap to show this key whenever possible, because the key is not named on the keyboard.)

Control (the Mac keyboard only. Does not always map to the Ctrl key on the PC keyboard. Use correctly.)

Ctrl

Del (the Mac keyboard only. Use to refer to the forward delete key.)

Delete (Use to refer to the back delete key on the Mac keyboard.)

Down Arrow (Use the definite article the and key with the arrow keys except in key combinations or key sequences. Always spell out. Do not use graphical arrows.)

End

Enter (On the Mac, use only when functionality requires it.)

Esc (Always use Esc, not Escape, especially on the Mac.)

F1 - F12

Help (the Mac keyboard only. Always use “the HELP key” to avoid confusion with the Help button.)

Home

Insert

Left Arrow (Use the definite article the and key with the arrow keys except in key combinations or key sequences.)

Num Lock

Option (the Mac keyboard only)

Page Down

Page Up

Pause

Print Screen

Reset

Return (the Mac keyboard only)

Right Arrow (Use the definite article the and key with the arrow keys except in key combinations or key sequences.)

Scroll Lock

Select

Shift

Spacebar (Precede with the definite article the except in procedures, key combinations, or key sequences.)

Tab (Use the definite article the and key except in key combinations or key sequences.)

Up Arrow (Use the definite article the and key with the arrow keys except in key combinations or key sequences.)

Windows logo key

Spell key names that do not appear in this list as they appear on the keyboard. Use title capitalization.

When telling a user to press a letter key, capitalize the letter. When telling a user to type a letter key, use lowercase for the letter and use bold formatting, unless an uppercase letter is required.

Microsoft style

Press Y.

Type y.

On first mention, you can use the definite article the and key with the key name if necessary for clarity. For example, use “the F1 key.” On subsequent mention, refer to the key only by its name. For example, use “press F1.”

For the arrow keys and the Tab key, list only the key name in key combinations without the definite article the and key.

Microsoft style

To move the insertion point, use the Left Arrow key.

To extend the selection, press Shift+Arrow.

Special character names

Because special character names could be confused with an action (such as +) or be difficult to see, always spell out the following special character names: Plus Sign, Minus Sign, Hyphen, Period, and Comma.

Microsoft style

Shift+Plus Sign

Press Alt, Hyphen, C

Press Comma

Press Command+Period

Type an em dash

Press the Plus Sign (+)

Not Microsoft style

Shift+ +

Shift+ -

Press +.

It is all right to add the symbol in parentheses after the special character to avoid confusion, as in Plus Sign (+). This is probably not necessary for commonly used symbols such as Period (.).

Names of keyboard “quick access” keys

Terms in current or recent use are listed in the following table. See the specific topics for more details.

Keyboard “quick access” keys

Name

Alternative name

Definition

Audience

Accelerator key

Now obsolete in all uses.

Do not use.

Access key

Keyboard shortcut

Keyboard sequence corresponding to underlined letter on a menu name or command.

Use with a technical audience only. If a term is necessary in documentation for a general audience, use keyboard shortcut.

Application key

Key that opens a shortcut menu containing commands related to a selection in a program. Equivalent to right-clicking the selection.

All

Back key

Key that performs the same action as the Back button in a browser.

All

Forward key

Key that performs the same action as the Forward button in a browser.

All

Hot key

Key that activates a TSR (memory-resident program).

Obsolete. Use keyboard shortcut.

Quick key

Do not use.

Shortcut key

Keyboard shortcut

Key that corresponds to a command name on a menu, such as Ctrl+Z.

Use with a technical audience only. If a term is necessary in documentation for a general audience, use keyboard shortcut.

Speed key

Do not use.

Start key

Key that opens the Windows Start menu.

All.

Keyboard shortcuts

In most situations, it should be sufficient to refer to a key combination or key sequence by the keys that make it up. To specify a key combination, use the plus sign between the keys to be pressed. To specify a key sequence, use commas and spaces to indicate the sequence in which the keys must be pressed.

Microsoft style

To undo the last action, press Ctrl+Z.

To open a file, press Alt, F, O.

To show a key combination that includes punctuation that requires use of the Shift key, such as the question mark, add Shift to the combination and give the name or symbol of the shifted key. Using the name of the unshifted key, such as 4 rather than $, could be confusing to users or even wrong. For example, the ? and / characters are not always shifted keys on every keyboard. However, do spell out the names of the plus and minus signs, hyphen, period, and comma.

Microsoft style

Ctrl+Shift+?

Ctrl+Shift+*

Ctrl+Shift+Comma

Not Microsoft style

Ctrl+Shift+/

Ctrl+?

Ctrl+Shift+8

Ctrl+*

If you must use a term to describe a keyboard shortcut, use keyboard shortcut. In content for software developers or in content that pertains to customizing the user interface, a more specific term such as key combination or key sequence may be needed.