Using Alt to Switch Language Keyboards

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated April 25, 2020)
This tip applies to Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Microsoft 365


Shosh is using Word on a Windows 10 system. He has two languages installed, with one keyboard for each. He configured the language bar settings so that he could toggle between keyboards by using Left Shift+Alt. This works great everywhere except in Word where, instead of switching keyboards, Shosh sees the shortcut keys on the ribbon. He wonders how he can make keyboard switching work the way he expects it to work in Word.

The ribbon shortcut keys are hard-wired into Word to respond to the pressing of the Alt key. There is no way to change this behavior in Word, and this shortcut key is relied upon by many Word users—particularly those who cannot or prefer not to use the mouse—to access ribbon commands. You should also note that the Alt key is used for this same purpose in other Office applications, as well.

There are two general approaches you can use. First, if you are dead set on using the Left Shift+Alt combination, you should change the order in which you press the keys. In other words, press Alt+Left Shift instead. When you press the Alt key first, just before pressing Left Shift, then it works just fine in Word for keyboard switching. (You'll see the ribbon shortcut keys displayed, but you can still switch keyboards by following up the Alt with the Left Shift.)

The other approach involves rethinking the toggle shortcut you use. Many WordTips subscribers report having great success (and absolutely no conflicts) by configuring the toggle key to be something different, such as Windows+Spacebar or Left Shift+Ctrl. The idea would be to find a comfortable keyboard combination that doesn't involve the use of the Alt key.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (9145) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Microsoft 365.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...


Adding Text to an Envelope

Need to customize the way that Word prints envelopes? There are a couple of approaches you can use, as discussed in this tip.

Discover More

Formatting Currency

If you need to format a number so that it appears as currency, it is not as easy to do in Word as it is in Excel. You can ...

Discover More

Hyperlinks No Longer Work in a Workbook

Hyperlinks can be a great timesaver and very convenient. Unless, of course, if they don't work as you expect. This tip ...

Discover More

The First and Last Word on Word! Bestselling For Dummies author Dan Gookin puts his usual fun and friendly candor back to work to show you how to navigate Word 2013. Spend more time working and less time trying to figure it all out! Check out Word 2013 For Dummies today!

More WordTips (ribbon)

Displaying the File Tab of the Ribbon by Default

When you first start Word, it displays the Home tab of the ribbon. If you want to display a different ribbon tab by ...

Discover More

Turning Off the Automatic Help that Word Offers

Word has a lot of tools that are invoked automatically based on what you are doing in the program. If these tools ...

Discover More

Changing Measurement Units

When working in Word's dialog boxes, most people understand that you should enter measurements using inches. If you don't ...

Discover More

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in WordTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

View most recent newsletter.


If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] (all 7 characters, in the sequence shown) in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 6Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is 9 + 3?

2021-03-23 05:46:12


Thanks a lot!!! It drived me crazy! :)

This Site

Got a version of Word that uses the ribbon interface (Word 2007 or later)? This site is for you! If you use an earlier version of Word, visit our WordTips site focusing on the menu interface.


FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in WordTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.