A Keyboard Stroke of Annoyance
April 1, 2020 4:29 PM   Subscribe

In the past few days, my keyboard has started thinking that I want to type a math symbol. I don't. When I type a combination of [Shift] and [command], sometimes I hit them just right, and the computer outputs this symbol: ±

It seems to happen most when I hold shift down then Command (as I'm going to highlight a word with a cursor arrow, for example). But it doesn't happen everytime. And oddly, after it types the character, if I hit just shift after that, it will sometimes type that ± character again. So if I'm trying to capitalize a letter, it creates that character.

It's very intermittent, which makes it more annoying. In InDesign, for example, I can place my cursor in text, hold Shift, then press Command. It creates the character. I repeat the action, and nothing. It seems to only be doing this with my left-hand shift and command keys, but I use those much more frequently. But I haven't been able to replicate it on the right-hand keys.

This behavior is across the computer from InDesign to Word to Firefox. I've looked at my keyboard preferences and I looked at StickyKeys, and I can't find anything that would cause this. Just to clarify, I don't use this symbol, nor have I used this symbol anytime recently. No idea how it would have been added to a shortcut on my computer.

Computer: Mac Mini running Mojave, with a wired Matias Keyboard. I've restarted the computer to no avail.

Any thoughts, or most preferably, solutions? I have no canned air, and I'm not quite sure how to clean this keyboard.
posted by hydra77 to Technology (5 answers total)
I had that exact character popping up intermittently a few weeks ago and had forgotten about it! Mac Mini, Matias keyboard, High Sierra. I gave the keyboard a couple of shakes, unplugged it and replugged it, probably rebooted, I don't know exactly what I did, but it stopped.

Sorry not to be more definite.
posted by zadcat at 4:52 PM on April 1, 2020

Did you accidentally change your keyboard?
If you somehow changed it from "English (US)" to something else you'll get weirdness
posted by dustpuppy at 5:21 PM on April 1, 2020

It appears that you can type the plus-or-minus symbol using [Option] + [Shift] + [=]. If your [=] key was being flaky, that would at least make some sense. I don't know why it's only happening with the left side shift/option keys, though.

I don't know how to go about cleaning that keyboard either, but I'd suggest you take a look at the [=] key and see if you can see/feel anything different. Sometimes just pressing the key several times in a row can clear up a glitchy key, at least for a while.
posted by yuwtze at 6:14 PM on April 1, 2020 [1 favorite]

Another guess: if I am making a ü on my keyboard I hit the diacritic and nothing happens, but if my next keystroke is a valid one för thät diacritic then it gets it. Is it possible the plus or the minus are working this way here to modify each other? So if you were a bit shaken or pressed twice out of frustration that it didn’t work the first press primes the diacritic giving no output nd the second press outputs the + but with the - diacritic?
posted by J.R. Hartley at 9:20 PM on April 1, 2020

Aw, I have always been more or less fond of ±.
posted by Cranberry at 1:27 AM on April 2, 2020 [6 favorites]

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