Getting your Control to Function, and putting your Function in Control

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2008/01/11 10:16 -05:00, original URI:

From the recently pre-recorded blogs collection...

The other day, Rob asked me via the Contact link:

I'm trying to find a way to fix the function key on the Mac Book Pro I got to run Vista on. Yes, seems a bit silly to run Vista on a computer tuned for Mac, but it's a fast laptop.

One of the issues which has me stuck is that I want to swap the Control and Function Keys (apple made them backwards for people who are familiar with windows). I'd just get used to it, but I have more than one computer and my brain isn't as flexible as it used to be.

So the question is, all of the keyboard mapping programs I've looked at don't recognize it when I press the function key on this keyboard. It seems like almost every other key is recognized.

Your name popped up on a few webs about containing programs like these, so I though I might email you and see if you understood the innerworkings of keyboards enough to shed some light on the situation.

Thanks much,

The good old Function or Fn key has been around laptops for a while, with a true purpose of doing all manner of "special" operations. One on my Dell Latitude D800:

and on my MacBook Pro:

show the difference that Rob is talking about, and wanting to switch them makes a whole bunch of sense, in either direction -- because if the main goal is consistency, then as long as you can just choose one or the other, you can all it a day.

Let's see what this key gives us for our programs in terms of scan code, say using that bit of code from Handling [Unicode] input in the console.

If you test with this key, it gives you nothing back at all on either machine, unless you combine it with one of the assigned combinations. The key simply does not exist to the operating system and appears to be entirely hardware mediated. Which means that in order to switch it you would need some kind of assistance/tool from the OEM to switch them.

There seem to be helpful hints for some remappings like this one, but the same technique does not appear to help with the Fn key.

However there is a thread over on the apple site here that in answer to this very question pointed to a tool called DoubleCommand that seems to solve this problem nicely via a kernel extension. The same tool is apparently used to make other swap so that their Mac keyboard can be more Windows-ey....


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