The Mac Observer

Skip navigational links

You're viewing an article in TMO's historic archive vault. Here, we've preserved the comments and how the site looked along with the article. Use this link to view the article on our current site:
Remap Your Modifier Keys

TMO Quick Tip - Remap Your Modifier Keys

by , 7:30 AM EST, March 13th, 2006

Your Mac's keyboard includes several keys called modifiers, or the Caps Lock, Control, Option and Command keys. Each one is necessary, otherwise you wouldn't be able to take advantage of keyboard short cuts like Command-S to save a file, or Command-Option-Escape to force quit applications that stop responding. If Apple's default modifier key locations just don't work for you, it's time to rearrange them to meet your needs.

If you are using Tiger, or Mac OS X 10.4, Apple makes the task easy. Here's how:

  • Launch System Preferences by choosing Apple Menu > System Preferences.
  • Click Keyboard & Mouse.
  • Click the Keyboard tab.
  • Click the Modifier Keys button.
  • Use the pop-up menus to change each modifier key. For example, you can swap the Command and Control keys by choosing Command from the Control Key pop-up menu, and Control from the Command Key pop-up menu.

Use the pop-up menus in Tiger's Keyboard & Mouse Preference Pane to remap your modifier keys.

The iBook and PowerBook Enter Key
If you are like me, the Enter key to the right of the Space Bar never gets used. If you are left handed and use a single-button mouse, that Enter key sure would be more useful as a Control or Option key. Here's how to remap the extra Enter key:

uControl is a Panther-only utility that lets you remap the Enter key, along with the other modifier keys. It gives you amazing control over your keyboard, and even adds trackpad scrolling to older iBooks and PowerBooks. uControl is free, but it hasn't been maintained or updated since Tiger was released.

Since uControl doesn't work in Tiger, take a look at fKeys. fKeys 0.0.5 changes your Caps Lock into a Control key, the Enter key on your 'Book becomes an option key, and the right Control key on an external keyboard works like a Command key. If you only want to change the Enter key to Option, use fKeys 0.0.6 instead. fKeys is free, but it is in the early stages of development, so it may not always perform as advertised.

If you want to convert your 'Book's Enter key to something other than Option, it's time to get a little more daring and modify one of your system's plist files. Okay... this is a lot more daring.

Here's the disclaimer: This is a system hack. It may render your Mac unusable, requiring you to reinstall the operating system. Also, it works only if your 'Book uses ADB internally for the keyboard connection. That means that if your Mac supports trackpad scrolling, the hack probably won't work. If you aren't sure if your Mac uses ADB for the keyboard interface, don't try this hack.

For the intrepid soles ready to dig deeper into their operating system, The Hunting of the Snark Web site lists the steps required for the hack. Be sure to read the instructions in full before attempting the hack.

Whether your Mac is a tool to accomplish your job, a communication portal, or an artistic platform, it's still an extension of who you are. Take control over how your Mac functions and make it work for you.

Recent TMO Headlines - Updated March 17th

Fri, 6:22 PM
Causes of Mac Decay, Apple Store (aka DMV), Jony Hates Forstall Jazz? - Pop.0 Ep.33
Fri, 6:18 PM
Face ID on the iPhone is Cool. What About When the Police Use it?
Fri, 3:46 PM
Apple Will Be Hosting a Developer Workshop in Paris
Fri, 2:29 PM
iOS: How to Send Links in iMessage Without the Rich Preview
Fri, 2:10 PM
Make Any Headphones Wireless with the Atech Micro Bluetooth Receiver
Fri, 1:57 PM
Apple's 'Field Trip' Media Event, Waiting for the Mac Pro - TMO Daily Observations 2018-03-16
Fri, 1:53 PM
Steve Jobs's 1973 Job Application Sells for $174,757
Fri, 1:12 PM
Apple Releases iOS 11.3 Developer Beta 6 for iPhone, iPad
Fri, 11:59 AM
Here's How to Disable Face ID for Specific Apps
Fri, 10:30 AM
Apple Hosting 'Let's take a field trip' Media Event March 27th
Fri, 10:10 AM
Marvel Gives Us Another Avengers: Infinity War Trailer Before the April 27 Premiere
Thu, 7:21 PM
Here Are Apple's Best Recent Product Releases
  • __________
  • Buy Stuff, Support TMO!
  • Podcast: Mac Geek Gab
  • Podcast: Apple Weekly Report
  • TMO on Twitter!