Shift key

Updated: 07/06/2021 by Computer Hope
Shift key

The Shift key is a keyboard modifier key that allows a user to type a single capital letter and change the top number keys to a symbol. For example, pressing and holding the Shift while pressing A generates a capital "A" and pressing the Shift and the number 1 creates an exclamation mark on US keyboards.

On U.S. keyboards, or QWERTY keyboards, the Shift key is the second largest key. It is on both the left and right side of the keyboard, below the Caps lock key, and Enter or Return key. There is often an upward-pointing arrow (symbol) on the Shift key. The picture is a close up view and example of the Shift key.


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


With some TeleType machines, the Shift key was used to get the characters on the top row of a key. There was no uppercase and lowercase characters.

Shift key locations

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

Shift keys

How to use the Shift key

To use the Shift key to capitalize letters, press and hold the Shift key, and push the letter you want to capitalize. On U.S. keyboards, hold Shift and press the numbers on the top of the keyboard to type the alternate symbols (e.g., !, @, #, and $) of those keys.


On most computers (except those running macOS), if the Caps Lock key is enabled and you press the Shift key and a letter, the letter is lowercase.

The Shift key is also used with shortcut keys. For example, holding down the Shift and pressing the arrow keys highlights text in the direction of the arrow key you press. Below are other examples of shortcuts that use the Shift key.

Shift key shortcuts

Also, the Shift key can is be used with shortcuts in the Microsoft Windows operating system.

Ctrl+Shift+Esc Open the Task Manager.
Shift+Arrow Key Holding down the Shift key while pressing an arrow key highlights text one character at a time in the direction of pressing the arrow key. If you also hold down Ctrl, it highlights one word at a time.
Hold down Shift In some versions of Windows, when a disc is inserted into the computer, software on the computer automatically run. This feature is called autorun. If you hold the Shift key, you disable this feature, and the software must be manually started.

Pressing and holding down the Shift key while pressing the Delete key or deleting a file deletes the file without sending it to the Recycle Bin.
Shift+Tab Moves back to the previous object. For example, pressing a tab while in a browser moves between each of the links on the web page. Pressing Shift+Tab moves between each of the links in the opposite direction.
Press Shift five times Open Sticky Keys. Once activated, you can press both Shift keys at the same time to deactivate Sticky Keys.
Hold down the Left Shift for eight seconds Open Filter Keys.
Left Alt+Shift+Num Lock Open Mouse Keys.
Left Alt+Shift+Print Screen Open High Contrast.

How many Shift keys are on a keyboard?

On all computer keyboards today including PCs, Apple, and Chromebooks (desktops and laptops) there are two Shift keys.


Some keyboards may not have the word "Shift" on them but are still considered a Shift key. For example, there are some laptop keyboards with smaller Shift keys that only have an up arrow.

Why are there two Shift keys on the keyboard?

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

History of the Shift key

The first keyboard to have a Shift key was found on the Remington No. 2 typewriter introduced in 1878. It had one Shift key on the left side of the keyboard.


Early punch card machines that entered data into a computer using a punch card did not use a Shift key.

Where is the Shift key on the iPhone and iPad?

On an iPhone or iPad, the Shift key is located at the bottom-left section of the on-screen keyboard. When the Shift key is gray, it is not enabled and letters are typed as lowercase. When the Shift key is white, and the up arrow is solid black, letters are typed as uppercase. When you tap the Shift key, the letters change from lowercase to uppercase on the on-screen keyboard. The reason for this is to let the user know the letters will be typed in uppercase.

Shift key on iOS devices

Keyboard, Keyboard terms, Modifier key, Shift, Uppercase