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Some Apple keyboards have a key with § and ± symbols on it. Can somebody tell me what these keys are for, and where I should use them?

Dutch keyboard

I am aware the symbols have mathematical uses, but I assume they must do something important as well to be on the core keyboard. Or are they just the 'Scroll Lock' of the Apple world?

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Someone mind posting a picture? I have a very new iMac (27") with the wireless keyboard and I didn't notice these keys. Perhaps this is a problem with touch typists is they don't notice the keys? – Josh K May 16 '10 at 18:36
@Josh, it's simply not on all keyboard layouts. In fact, I actually hate seeing it on mine, while at the same time Apple could find space for a decent Return key. But well, one gets used to it. – Arjan May 16 '10 at 19:33
@Josh, yes, some years ago I could order many different versions, but not the normal US layout. Maybe things meanwhile changed, but I still don't see the US layout in the Apple Store... :-( (And I just noticed I forgot "not" in "Apple could NOT find space for a decent Return key".) – Arjan May 16 '10 at 20:58
It's a moustache symbol :-§ D – Dan Temple Sep 8 '14 at 13:22
up vote 9 down vote accepted

The § is the Section Symbol:

The section sign (§, Unicode U+00A7, HTML entity §), also called the "double S", "sectional symbol" or signum sectionis, is a typographical character used mainly to refer to a particular section of a document, such as a legal code.

The ± is the "plus-minus" sign and you'd use it in text when you're giving a margin of error:

The voltage is 220V ± 5V

As to why they're on the core keyboard, they do have a role in typography and publishing and as a lot of Mac users are in these businesses it probably makes sense to include them.

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I'll give this answer 0.8 ± 0.2 votes. – squircle May 16 '10 at 17:42
Or: the price is ± €5.00, about 5 euro. – Arjan May 16 '10 at 21:01
OK, that's good. Now I don't feel like I'm missing out on some cool Mac feature when I rebind them. – Pat Wallace May 24 '10 at 21:02

You say they have to do something important on the core keyboard, but I don't think this is true. Afterall the average user is barely ever going to be using \ or | or [] or {} but these are on the main keyboard. I think it just depends on the use, and it's handier than having to do alt+shift+= for ± Some people will get the use out of them, some will not. It's probably just them symbols as they are the most common to be used out of the alt+[key] symbols (not in my case but could be what Apple are thinking), and they had a key spare.

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I was assuming it was important as it beat keys like "Delete", "Home", "End", "PgUp" and "PgDown" for example. All of which are available using other key combinations, but which are important for all typists. – Pat Wallace May 16 '10 at 20:37
That's a common complaint, especially on the bluetooth keyboard that doesn't have a delete key. Apple just like to do what they want really. I must admit I don't like having a column on the right though with Delete, PgUp/down etc. – lavamunky May 16 '10 at 23:41
No, almost all users will interact with slashes to enter addresses, square brackets for [sic] and [1] references. Pipes and braces might be used less often but they are still frequently found in smilies, even for the average user. The plus-minus and section symbols are rarely seen and hardly ever actually typed. You would agree the average user will want to type #hash-tag and €euro more often than these... – Robino Feb 23 at 10:06

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