Internet, Web, and Other E-Issues

Q. Could you please tell me the difference between “press” and “push” in the context of computers?

A. The keys on a physical keyboard are normally pressed, not pushed, as in “press the Enter key,” or “press Ctrl+Alt+Delete.” The Apple Style Guide (October 2022 ed.) agrees, adding this: “Don’t use click, hit, push, tap, or type” (under “press” as it relates to physical keys and buttons).

However, according to the Microsoft Writing Style Guide, the term to use is “select,” whether for a key or a button, physical or virtual, as in “Select the Modify button” or “Select Shift+Enter.” This style accounts for any input method, from physical keyboard or mouse to touch screen and voice.

Microsoft’s and Apple’s guides both allow for hardware-specific exceptions, like using “click” when describing something done with a mouse or “tap” when referring to a touch screen.

But unless you need a word to help you define press (e.g., “the pushing of a physical button”), it’s probably best to avoid push.