Shift

Shift key1. A keyboard key that allows a user to type a single capital letter. For example, pressing and holding the Shift key while pressing the letter a key would generate a capital A. On US keyboards the Shift key is the second largest key located on both the left and right-hand of the keyboard, below the Caps lock key, and Enter or Return key. The picture is a close up picture and example of the Shift key.

Tip: Unlike the other modifier keys the Shift key is also found on Apple computer keyboards and performs the same function as the PC computers. With Apple keyboard shortcuts, the Shift is represented as an up arrow, similar to that shown in our example picture.

Shift key is also used with shortcut keys. For example, holding down the Shift key and pressing your arrow keys will highlight text in the direction of the arrow key you press.

Note: With early TeleType machines the Shift key was used to get the characters on the top row of a key, there was no upper case and lower case characters.

Shift keys locations

Below is an overview of a computer keyboard with the Shift keys highlighted in blue.

Shift keys

Why are there two shift keys?

There are two shift keys on a computer keyboard to help with capitalizing letters on both sides of the keyboard. For example, if you wanted a capital "z" you use your pinky on your right-hand to press and hold down shift and then press the "z" key with your left-hand to make a capital "Z". Trying to make a capital "z" with only the left-hand would require you to move your hand since the pinky cannot press both keys at the same time.

Related pages

2. Shift is a Microsoft command line command that changes the position of replaceable parameters in a batch program. Additional information about this command found on our shift command page.

3. In some programming languages shift is a function that removes the first element of an array. For example, in the Perl code below shift removes "one" from the end of the array to make it "one two".

my @example = ('one', 'two', 'three');
shift @example;

print "@example"; #Prints: two three

Tip: If you want to add to the end of an array use the push function. If you want to remove the first element of the array use the shift function.

Also see: Keyboard, Keyboard terms, Modifier key, Uppercase