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I am in a bit of a pickle. I am using a Dell keyboard with Mac OS X, and I would like access to my function keys while I'm using Terminal. A friend of mine has a new Mac keyboard which has a Fn key right on it, but when I press the same location on my keyboard my cursor simply turns into a question mark, apparently this is treated as the 'help' key from older model mac keyboards.

I know that I can change my function keys to work properly using an option from the Keyboard preference pane, but I don't want to do that because the ONLY time I need my function keys is when I'm in terminal, other times I am fine with things like volume adjustment etc. so I'd rather have a Fn key. I have also looked in "Modifier Keys . . .", and it allows you to redefine the caps lock, ctrl, alt and shift keys, but not assign anything to Fn (which is a shame, I use Caps Lock as my Ctrl and the 'real' Ctrl would be a perfect Fn key)

So...is there any way to 'press Fn' on older mac keyboards or on third party keyboards?

EDIT: To clarify, my dell keyboard does NOT have a Fn key on it. The place on my friends Mac keyboard that functions as an Fn key is an Insert key on mine.

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5 Answers 5

up vote 2 down vote accepted

You can use an application like ControllerMate to assign custom actions/scripts to keys and controllers.

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This seems to be the closest thing to correct I've seen. Thanks. –  AlexMax Nov 6 '09 at 19:31

The Fn key on mac keyboards is a hardware driven feature.

What are you trying to accomplish?

I have a Microsoft Wireless keyboard attached to my MacBook Pro and can do much of what the function keys do from this -- once I installed the drivers.

enter image description here

For example, I can:

  • hit the volume, mute keys and play/pause to control audio
  • hit the "mail" key to go back to mail
  • I have F keys for Exposé features (e.g. F9 for all windows display, F10 for application windows

(Note that in Keyboard Preferences, I have "Use all F1, F2, etc. keys as standard function keys" checked)

I think the only feature that Fn provides that I cannot duplicate on the Microsoft keyboard is brightness control

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As for The Fn key on mac keyboards is a hardware driven feature -- I was tempted to state that as well, but: the keyboard viewer in fact knows when this key is pressed. That made me think it's not that different from, say, the Shift key... –  Arjan Nov 6 '09 at 20:18
    
brightness control is ScrLk and Pause Break –  Uriel Frankel Feb 19 at 10:49

I found this post helpful:

http://david.rothlis.net/keyboards/microsoft_natural_osx/

The Function keys (F1, etc) behave as such (as opposed to brightness, volume, etc), regardless of what you set in the Keyboard preference pane. If you press “F Lock” the F keys simply do nothing. Luckily the F Lock remembers its setting across reboots.

There is no Fn modifier key as on the Mac keyboards.

KeyRemap4MacBook allows you to map the F keys to the usual brightness, volume, etc. but then you’d lose the normal F keys.

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I landed here with the same problem. I have a Microsoft natural keyboard. I had tried everything and then I went into keyboard settings and checked Use all F1 F2 ETC as standard function keys.

I then went back to my keyboard and systematically went through combining one key with one FE that I knew worked with Exposé. I hit pay dirt when I hit the F lock key.

So I think the answer is - enable standard F key in Mac, find F-LOCK key on keyboard and enable it the same way you would enable CAP Locks.

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Just tested over here with a Dell keyboard, and I was not able to turn off the F-keys from being the "function" key (eg. Expose, etc). That option seems only to be available with Apple branded keyboards....

So, without patching with a software driver, or hacking a plist... I don't see any way to do this...

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