If you’re the type of Mac user who likes to customize every feature or program on your computer for increased productivity, or just because it’s a geeky thing to do, you might want to check out the system preferences application, KeyRemap4MacBook. This keyboard remapping program is not just for MacBooks. It works with nearly all models of Mac computers, and it essentially enables you to re-map any key on your keyboard for different types of purposes.
KeyRemap4MacBook has been around for a while, but I recommend this program for intermediate and advanced Mac users who are comfortable with customizing their computer. Although a keyboard is mainly used for typing, there are modifiers and other special keys that you use for other purposes. Some keys you may rarely use, such as the right-Option, Backslash (\), and Backquote (`) keys, which are good candidates for remapping for other purposes.
How It Works
After you download and install KeyRemap4MacBook, the utility can be found in the System Preferences of your Mac alongside other 3rd party applications.
When you launch KeyRemap4MacBook, it presents you with over three dozen categories of pre-mapped settings for changing the original purpose of selected keys. There are also instructions on how to create your own custom settings. But let’s see how the presets work – for example, the Backslash (\) key, on the right side of your Mac keyboard. If you rarely use it, you might consider changing it to one of six other purposes.
For example, you might want to use it as a Forward Delete key. After you check the box for that behavior, when you type that key it will delete a letter to the right instead of the left of your cursor. Or better yet, you might select the “Backslash(\) to Forward Delete (if no other modifiers pressed)” so the Backslash key can be used for more than one purpose.
The Backquote may be another rarely used key. It could be remapped as a left Delete key or as another way to activate the F8 key, which typically starts and stops your iTunes player.
The same goes for the CapsLock, Fn, and Eject keys, which may be also underused and thus re-assigned for other purposes. KeyRemap4MacBook provides you with a couple of hundred presets. So basically you will want to experiment with various re-configurations and see how they fit into your workflow.
Thankfully, KeyRemap4MacBook also includes a “show enabled only” button so you can quickly see what keys you have changed. If you find the changes are not working for you, all you need do is deselect a setting.
For Mac users who want to extend the power of the multi-touch trackpad, KeyRemap4MacBook also enables you to, for example, activate two- or three-finger gesturing for copying and pasting text or other items.
If you enable this feature, you simply press the “C” key (instead of Command+C) to copy text while you have two fingers resting on your trackpad. Likewise, you type “V” to paste the copied text – with two finger on the trackpad.
KeyRemap4MacBook includes other features, some of which are a little too advanced for the scope of this article. KeyRemap4MacBook includes Growl support which posts a notification each time you activate a re-mapped key. I found that a little annoying, so I disabled it in Growl preferences (which can also be found in System Preferences).
If you want to speed up the repeat behaviors of your keyboard or change the threshold time when a modifier key is doubled pressed, KeyRemap4MacBook enables you do that. But you might not want to toy with these changes unless you like using your keyboard more than your mouse or trackpad to boss your computer around.
If you find KeyRemap4MacBook is not your cup of tea, the developers have included a way for you to easily uninstall it, in the preferences settings of the program.
I’ve mainly covered the most basic features of KeyRemap4MacBook. There are several others that you can experiment with to your geeky delight.
KeyRemap4MacBook is donationware, so if you like it, consider supporting the developer for his work.
For other MUO articles about keyboard remapping and keyboard hacks, start with these posts:
- Remap Keyboard Keys with These 3 Free Apps [Windows]
- ShortcutWorld: Keyboard Shortcut List For Essential Apps
- MouseFIGHTER: Control The Mouse Pointer With Keyboard Keys
Let us know what you think of this remapping program and how you’re using it in your own workflow.