How To Remap Fn Keys On Your Mac.
Whether you’re using a Windows PC or Mac, your keyboard has all the standard function keys at the top. These keys are assigned various functions by your computer’s operating system.
These keys perform actions such as increasing and decreasing brightness levels, increasing and decreasing volume levels, opening certain functions, and more. On a Mac, these keys launch some of the default macOS actions, such as opening Mission Control.
The problem here is that while some of these keys are used frequently, others remain unused simply because their functions are not as common. The best way to use these unused fn keys on Mac is to remap them.
Key remapping lets you assign custom functions to keys. These keys will then perform the actions assigned to them on your Mac.
Disable the default function keys behavior
Before you assign any custom actions to your keys, the first thing you need to do is disable the default key actions. This will also disable the useful keys, but you can always use them by pressing and holding the fn key on your keyboard. It will then force your keys to perform the action indicated on them.
Disabling function keys on a Mac is easy. Here’s how to do it:
Click the Apple logo in the upper left corner of your Mac screen and choose System Preferences.
When the System Preferences pane opens, find the option labeled Keyboard and click it to open it. The keyboard settings menu will open.
On the next screen, you will find several options that you can turn on and off. Find the Use F1, F2, etc. Keys As Standard Function Keys option and enable it.
You have successfully disabled the default fn key behavior.
Remap Function Keys
Now that the function key actions are disabled by default, you can go ahead and assign custom actions to these keys. This is quite simple to do and does not require a third party application.
You are going to use the same system preferences panel to complete this task.
Launch System Preferences on your Mac and click Keyboard.
When the keyboard panel opens, find and click the tab labeled “Shortcuts” at the top. This will allow you to customize the shortcuts on your computer.
The next screen will list all the keyboard shortcuts on your Mac. You can access various shortcuts by clicking on their category names in the left menu. Let’s assign one of these keyboard shortcuts to your function keys.
Click Screenshots in the left pane and click the already assigned shortcut next to the first heading that says “Save Screenshot as File”. Press any of the function keys on your keyboard and it will be assigned to the keyboard shortcut.
You don’t need to save any changes as macOS will do it automatically.
From now on, whenever you press the above fn key on your keyboard, it will take a screenshot and not perform normal actions. You can assign any of your function keys to any of the shortcuts found there.
Assign function keys to perform specific actions
The built-in Keyboard menu has many keyboard shortcuts that you can use and assign to the fn keys, but not all keyboard shortcuts. There are certain keyboard shortcuts that you can use by pressing the fn keys, but they aren’t here.
One way to include your own shortcuts in the list is to add them to the list. Here’s how it’s done:
Open the application for which you want to create a custom fn key action. As an example, I’ll open Google Chrome to create an fn keyboard shortcut to launch an incognito window.
Click the application menu items at the top and note the full name of the item you want to assign the fn key to. For me this will be a new incognito window.
Go to System Preferences Keyboard Shortcuts, click Application Shortcuts in the left pane, and click the + (plus) sign in the right pane. This will allow you to add your own shortcut.
On the next screen, set the following options and click Add.
Application – select the application for which you want to create a shortcut. If it’s a generic shortcut, select All Apps.
The menu title is the exact name of the item that you wrote down earlier. Enter it here.
Keyboard shortcut – Press the fn key you want to assign to the action.
From now on, when you press the fn key that you used above, it performs the action you just entered in the menu title field. In my case, this will open a new incognito window in Google Chrome.
Use a third-party app to reassign Fn keys on macOS
macOS provides many options by default to customize the behavior of your function keys. However, if you need even more power, you might need a third party app.
Karabiner is one of the popular applications that helps you customize how various keyboard shortcuts work on your Mac. It allows you to create multiple profiles, so you can use one set of keyboard shortcuts in one profile and another in a secondary profile.
There are a number of other features in the app that you might want to explore.
New uses for function keys
If you cannot think of a specific function for your keys, you can assign some of the following functions to your keys. They are used by most Mac users.
- New browser tab
- New browser tab in incognito mode
- Do not disturb mode
- Close Application
- Hide and Show Dock
Feel free to use your own creativity and imagination to make these keys work the way you want them to.
For most Mac users, the top row of keys remains unused as these are not really functions that you might want to use from time to time. By remapping the fn keys, you can make these keys useful, allowing them to do the tasks you really need to do.