Thursday, February 15, 2007

Tip: Controlling OS X features with function keys on MacBook Pro, Disable Caps Lock

When I got my MacBook Pro one of the things I wasn't sure if I liked or not was the hardware features controlled directly by function keys at the expense of some software features. The feature in particular that had me conflicted was Expose. By default, Expose works with the following keyboard mappings:
  • F9 - All windows
  • F10 - Application windows
  • F11 - Desktop
The problem though is that the MacBook Pro's Illuminated Keyboard takes F8-F10 out of the box, overriding Expose. I finally decided the other day to see if I could change it so that keyboard illumination control required pressing the fn key first. Here's what I found out:
See the first checkbox in the middle of the control panel? The second screenshot calls it out. This is not exactly what I want, but I have left it turned on for now and can freely use Expose. What's the problem? To control screen brightness (F1+F2) or the volume (F3+F4+F5), I first have to press the fn key. Sigh. I went looking for a simple utility that just allowed independent control of the function keys, some for hardware, others for software, but I haven't found anything that does just what I am looking for.

But I did make another discovery that was worth the time. At the bottom of the Keyboard & Mouse preferences, there is a Modifier Keys... button. Whatever could this do? That's right, you can disable Caps Lock. Very sweet since I fat finger Caps Lock a number of times a day. Not sure what the purpose of changing the other modifier keys is, other than completeness.