Remap Your Mac’s Function Keys to Do Anything You Want
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Is there a function key on your Mac you never use? Here’s how to make it do something else.

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Do you ever use Launchpad? Me neither, so I think dedicating a physical key on the keyboard to it is pointless – but I do check my calendar a lot. I remapped the Launchpad key (which kind of looks like a calendar anyway!) to launch Itsycal, the tiny keyboard friendly calendar. Now I can press that button to quickly check my appointments.

You might want to re-map some other key, for some other purpose. What about the Mission Control key, or the keyboard brightness ones? If there’s a key you never use, here’s how to make it do something else.

Step One: Take Back Your Function Keys


Once upon a time, the top row of keys on every Mac were simply labeled: F1, F2, and so on. Many programs used these for keyboard shortcuts, but in the late 90’s Apple started assigning them to specific functions – things like showing you all of your windows, or changing the volume. Eventually, they added icons to the keys themselves, showing you what function they’re for, and making it harder to assign them to functions yourself. The old-fashioned F-number labels remain, but you can only trigger the old-fashioned F-number keystroke by holding Fn while hitting the respective key.

Confused? All you really need to know is that these keys are locked to serve one function by OS X, but you can unlock them to work more like regular keystrokes. Think of this as “flipping” their default function. There are two main ways to do this:

  1. Using the Keyboard pane in System Preferences. No software is needed, but it’s an all-or-nothing approach.
  2. Using a free app called Karabiner. You’ll need to install another program, but you can toggle some keys to switch while keeping others normal.

Which approach you use is up to you – personally, I use Karabiner. You could also look into FunctionFlip, which in theory is a simple way of flipping your function keys Switch Your Mac Function Keys with FunctionFlip [Mac] Switch Your Mac Function Keys with FunctionFlip [Mac] Read More , but I had trouble getting it to work with El Capitan.

For the first option, simply open System Preferences, then head to the Keyboard section. On the first tab, called Keyboard, you’ll see the option to “Use all F1, F2, etc. keys as standard function keys”.


Press this button and the all of keys will, by default, work as function keys. Go ahead and press them: a lot of them won’t do anything. Some will continue to work as before, but we’ll get to that later.

If you’d prefer to switch up some function keys but not others, download Karabiner (previously called KeyRemap4MacBok). Install it (it’s free) and fire it up. This can feel a little intimidating, but don’t worry: just scroll until you see Change to F1..F19 Key:

karabiner-change-functional key

Expand that option, then expand Functional Keys to F1..F12, as seen above. You can now check any category of keys to make them work, by default, like F-number keys instead of keys with a specific function.

Step Two: Changing The Keyboard Shortcuts

Now that you’ve changed what pressing your key does,

There are two places to do this:

  1. For system-wide keyboard shortcuts, check the Keyboard pane in System Preferences.
  2. For keyboard shortcuts related to a specific application, check the Preferences pane for that application.
  3. If neither of the above approaches work, try installing BetterTouchTool.

Whatever your approach, I think we should first open up System Preferences, then head to Keyboard, before finally hitting the Shortcuts tab:


As you can see, many of the F-number keys may be set to trigger shortcuts regardless of whether you’ve “flipped” them or not. Be sure to disable any shortcuts mapped to an F-number key. Then explore any functions you actually want triggered by your keys.

On to the section option: configuring keys to work with specific programs. Remember when I mentioned bringing up a mini calendar whenever I press what once was the LaunchPad button?


Doing this was straight-forward: I just went to the program’s options page, then set F4 to be the application’s keyboard shortcut.

Finally, if there’s some function of your Mac you can’t find using either of these approaches, I recommend installing BetterTouchTool.


This program lets you set custom keyboard shortcuts to do just about anything, including triggering other keyboard shortcuts, so dive in!

And, if shortcuts are your thing, take a look at these simple shortcuts for Finder 5 Simple Finder Shortcuts to Quickly Access Your Data Anywhere 5 Simple Finder Shortcuts to Quickly Access Your Data Anywhere If you find it difficult to get to your favorite data in Finder, try these great tips for quick access to your most-used files. Read More :

Things You Could Create Keys For

So, what could you use your unused keys for? Here’s a few ideas.


An Emoji Key. OS X comes with an emoji tool, but the keyboard shortcut (control+command+space) is kind of hard to remember. You can use BetterTouchTool to trigger the more complex keyboard shortcut every time you hit one of your F-number keys, for faster emoji enjoyment.

A calendar key, as I explained above. Personally, I use Itsycal, but you could assign this to Fantastical or even Apple’s default Calendar app.

Launch the notification center. The old-school Dashboard had its own key on older Macs, but notifications widgets have replaced the Dashboard These Notification Centre Widgets Make Dashboard Irrelevant These Notification Centre Widgets Make Dashboard Irrelevant The Dashboard is dying. Most users ignore it, and not many developers are building things for it. Replace all of your Mac's Dashboard widgets using the new Today view in Yosemite. Read More . There’s no key to open the Notification Center, though, so why not create one yourself?


A weather key. There are a lot of great Mac weather apps 6 Wonderful Weather Apps For Mac, Most Of Them Free 6 Wonderful Weather Apps For Mac, Most Of Them Free There are many ways to find the weather forecast on your Mac, but nothing beats a dedicated app. Here are six of the best. Read More out there, including at least one snarky personal weather robot CARROT is Your Snarky Personal Weather Robot for Mac & iPhone CARROT is Your Snarky Personal Weather Robot for Mac & iPhone A sarcastic robot, with little regard for humanity, working as your personal weather forecaster? That's interesting. Read More . If you look at forecasts often, why not re-map one of your keys to open your favorite forecast?

I could go on: you could launch Automator scripts with your F-keys, for example.

Which keys do you feel like replacing, and what will you program them to do?

If you ever have an issue with your MacBook keyboard Why MacBook Keyboards Break So Easily (And How to Fix Jammed Keys) Why MacBook Keyboards Break So Easily (And How to Fix Jammed Keys) Macbook keyboard not working? Here's how to remove dust from your keyboard and other settings to check that can fix your issue. Read More , keep this troubleshooting article handy:

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  1. Daniel
    November 21, 2018 at 11:51 pm


    I know I may not receive a reply but it's worth a shot. Basically the power key doesn't work on my Macbook Air so I am using an official wireless Apple Magic Keyboard... is there anyway for me to reassign the power button to another key (either on my main keyboard or wireless) so I am able to power up my laptop?

    Thank you in advance if anyone chooses to reply! Any help would be greatly appreciated.

  2. Adam
    October 15, 2018 at 8:25 pm

    This OS is the least power user friendly system in existence. A user can navigate all of Windows swiftly with keystrokes alone, opening an exact application with something like the WinKey + number. MacOS offers nothing to compete with these powerful uses. This article adds nothing to bridge the gap.

  3. Nick
    August 1, 2018 at 3:20 pm

    Hi there... I realise this is a little after the horse has bolted, but wanted to see if I could get an answer. I currently have a full size wired keyboard but am moving to a non-fill size wireless one tomorrow. This is fine, apart from the fact that I use the enter button on the number pad A LOT (the one with the up arrow underneath a horizontal line). It is like pressing cmd-Enter, but by just pressing one key. Is there some way of remapping that to a function key or some other key? Any help much appreciated!

    • Akshata Shanbhag
      August 11, 2018 at 6:44 am

      Hi Nick, if you use the BetterTouchTool app mentioned in the article, you can configure a function key (or any key of your choice) to trigger the original key or keyboard shortcut i.e. the number pad Enter key or Cmd-Enter.

  4. Stefan Johansson
    November 7, 2017 at 11:58 am

    I am using a MacBook Pro with an external Apple USB keyboard with standard layout in English. I write a lot of texts in Swedish, where there are three more letters than in English, namely Å, Ä and Ö, (ASCII codes 143, 142 and 153) and å, ä and ö (ASCII codes 134, 132 and 148).

    Instead of switching to the Swedish keyboard layout, I would like to use the English keyboard layout all the times, but remap the numeric keys 1 through 6 on the numeric key pad to those letters. How would I do that?

  5. Steven
    May 18, 2017 at 6:47 pm

    This might be a little late to the party, but I just want f5 to paste my work email and f6 to paste my work address. I want f13 and 14 to do the same for my home address. I am using a Logitech K750 at the moment, but I would switch to make this happen. I've tried setting @@ and @@@ to auto-replace with my emails, but it doesn't seem to work for text fields or when I really need it.

    • Akshata Shanbhag
      August 11, 2018 at 6:46 am

      Steven, you can configure this using BetterTouchTool.

  6. Sylvia
    July 29, 2016 at 11:50 pm

    Hi Justin,

    I'm doing a lot of keyboarding, and would like to add a delete key that isn't "so far away" from the rest of the keyboard

    (also it's that I use the "wrong finger" for this — my right ring finger instead of the right pinkie, and I despair of re-learning it effectively at this point.)

    I would like:

    RETURN key becomes DELETE
    Right-Hand Side SHIFT key becomes RETURN

    What would you do? It didn't seem to be addressed by your article, though granted, I only skimmed. Thank you very, very much, Sylvia

  7. Genevieve
    March 29, 2016 at 9:36 am

    Well, what do you know! I've managed to work it out! Turns out I had been using the Spanish ISO keyboard which somehow got deleted from the input source options. As soon as I started displaying my keyboard in Spanish again, all the keys regained their original function. Good news! Best :)

    • Justin Pot
      March 29, 2016 at 2:21 pm

      Glad it worked out!

  8. Genevieve
    March 29, 2016 at 9:28 am

    Do you think you could help me revert to the original key assignment on my MacBook Air. Suddenly, symbols I used to be able to type using the shift key have changed. For example, I used to type inverted commas which are depicted above the number 2 by holding down shift and 2. Now when I do that, I get the @ symbol which is depicted beside the 2. All the other punctuation marks and symbols have also been changed and I have no way of accessing the most basic symbols such as question mark, inverted comma, forward slash etc. Many thanks. I would be very grateful if you could point me in the right direction. Thanks, Genevieve