The Enter key can mean several things depending on the context. It can produce a line feed and carriage return, or it can submit a form or text field. With Shift + Enter, you can often toggle between those two modes with ease. Here’s why and how to use it.
Line feed vs. Send
If a web form or application defaults to submitting a text field when you press Enter, then pressing Shift + Enter will usually allow you to create a line feed (move the cursor to a new line) without submitting. That way you can create multi-line messages.
For example, on the Twitter website, you can use Shift + Enter to make a multi-line tweet. When you’re done, press Enter for yourself and your tweet will be sent.
The same works for apps like Discord, Slack, and Teams. You can impress your friends by composing multi-line masterpieces, huge multi-paragraph rants, or whatever strikes your fancy with Shift + Enter. Then when you’re ready to send, just hit Enter.
Interestingly, the opposite is usually true. If the default behavior for an application or website is to create a line feed when you press Enter, then pressing Shift + Enter will usually submit the text field or form, similar to clicking the “Submit” button (Ctrl + Enter often does this as well). That way, you can quickly submit a form without having to take your hand away from the keyboard to click the “Submit” button with your mouse.
The reason this behavior exists is due to a historical quirk: the Enter and Return keys originated in two different environments (sending data on computers vs. creating a carriage return on electric typewriters), but are often used regardless depending on the software. Early on, IBM developed a way to combine both functions into a single key (labeled “Enter”) that could be toggled with the Shift key. The standard stuck around and has been adopted by many operating systems and applications since then.
Also useful in Microsoft Word
In Microsoft Word, pressing Shift + Enter allows you to enter a simple line feed instead of a paragraph break, which can be useful if you’re special formatting a document. We wouldn’t be surprised if Shift + Enter also unlocks hidden functionality in other apps. Tell us if you find out!
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