On three separate Macs at different locations in the past few months, this problem continues to crop up in Illustrator CS4.
Modifier keys like Alt, Shift and Space stop working. So no proportional resize, no Hand Tool navigation with Space Bar, no Alt+click duplication, etc. Restarting Illustrator doesn't fix it, and restarting the computer only fixes it temporarily, sometimes only for a few minutes.
Other applications ARE affected; when I tried typing in TextEdit during a recent glitch episode, the Alt key wouldn't work there either. However, the problem always seems to originate for me when working in Illustrator CS4. Obviously it's not unique to one computer or even one user's preferences. But the problem has gotten so bad recently it has really hampered my work.
Any help is IMMENSELY appreciated!
This can be related to a conflict with Quicken, Entourage or Microsoft software needing to be updated or conflicts with other software.
If you do a google seach for this you will probably find this and other issues posted.
Also the system preferences like spotlight and dashboard and exposé keyboard shortcuts can conflict.
Only two of the three Macs I've experienced this on have Microsoft Office installed, so it's unrelated to Entourage, and none of them have Quicken installed, so it's not that either.
This is also not a system preferences thing. I've been designing in Illustrator for years, and this problem only began occuring for me and another designer friend within the last couple of months.
For what it's worth, all three of the affected computers I know of also use three different keyboard models, so it's also not likely a keyboard issue.
Is the same image of Mac OS X being installed on all of the Macs? If it is, re-create the image from something known-good and reinstall, or simply reinstall the OS (via archive and install should work). I saw something similar where someone's computer wouldn't type q, but it would type Q. This persisted in most applications, and restarts eventually stopped solving the problem.
Something to try: do the opposite side shift or alt keys function normally? If they do, this is a hardware/OS issue. If those keys don't....still could be third party software or ~/Library related.
The glitch just happened again, and I tried the keys on the opposite side of the keyboard as suggested, and they're not working either.
Something interesting—during the glitch when I Alt+click and drag to copy an object, the cursor actually changes to the copy tool, and appears as if the object will copy. Only after releasing the mouse is it apparent that the command isn't working.
Also, the keys (Shift, Alt, Space) still work in certain contexts, like when typing inside a text box in Illustrator. Only when I use them as modifier keys in conjunction with mouse clicks do I experience problems.
Do you have any processes running in the background which hold an open port on the internet like a VPN, a scheduler which makes timed calls for data or something similar? The Mac OS will block the use of modifier keys when there is a chance that malware may use them to do system calls silently in the background. Try opening the Activity Monitor app and see what is running. Then try killing apps and retest.
That appears to be the problem. The issue just occurred again, and after looking at Activity Monitor, I closed down Firefox, which was running constantly on all the machines affected, and was one of the only real common factors (besides the OS).
After I closed Firefox, the issue was magically resolved.
Whether or not this is exactly what you were referring to, it appears to have been the problem.
Thanks for the help, I'll call this one answered.
Thanks for the advice on this issue! I have been researching it all over, hard to find an answer. But as soon as I closed Firefox, my modifier keys starting working without restarting the program or the computer. Thank you so much for this answer, it was driving me batty!
In my case as soon as I closed iChat, the modifier keys start working again. I m still using Firefox. However I believe for some systems it can be one of the Firefox extensions as somone mentioned above.
I had the same issue when using Firefox. But the modifier keys would only stop working once I logged into my gmail.....
Once I'd done that I had to quit Firefox to regain the use of the modifier keys in illustrator. Weird.