Saturday, November 19, 2005

'Enter' and 'Return'

OK, I'll bite: what's the difference between the 'Enter' key and the 'Return' key on a Mac keyboard?

I didn't even know I had both 'Enter' and 'Return' keys until I was reading a post at Daring Fireball a few days ago. (That post, by the way, is a review of the new 15" PowerBook G4. It sounds like the range has a few nice improvements, but nothing that would make current PowerBook G4 owners want to upgrade.)


  1. An offset in the ASCII code table?

    I imagine there are application-specific differences, or it is some legacy of ye-olde terminals.

    Maybe it is a a form of lock-in; get people used to using it so they cannot switch. ;)

  2. Maybe the 'Enter' key is for newbies, and the 'Return' key for the experienced!? :P

  3. Well, I'm glad to see no one else knows either. Someone pointed out to me that PC-style keyboards often have an 'Enter' key over on the numeric keypad. Sure, but if there's a (functional) difference between that key and the PC-style 'Return' key, I don't know what that difference is either. It's just that the Daring Fireball article seemed to suggest there is a functional difference, and that Mac cognoscenti ought to know what it is.

  4. According to the Apple's Human Interface Guideline, they are DIFFERENT. The Enter key sends the keyboard buffer to the application (think of the command-line interface). The Return send the keyboard buffer to the application but also insert a new line character (CR, ASCII #10 on Mac). Using Enter in in text editor has no effect.

    But I don't think anybody will ever notice the difference. I have been Macophile for 5 years and frankly didn't know about this.