Function key info needed

I use computers a lot and, back in the day, did more than just the normal writing and some spreadsheet stuff I do now. But, as it happens, I eventually just did things the way I first got used to doing them and, even if there may have been better ways, I may never have gotten into them. Which brings me to the function keys on the Mac. What use I did have for them was always limited to the standard stuff on the key caps (change screen brightness, etc). I don’t recall ever using them as standard function keys.

But now with the TB I want to see what I can do with them - and simplify them. By simplify, I mean I may just leave some out and consolidate the rest. From what I’ve read, regular function keys are used with programs like Excel - though even when I was a heavy Excel user, I either didn’t use them or did so rarely. Seems to me that F2 was some sort of “save”.

Anyway, looking at the TB, one issue with function keys is that the standard setup means you need a sticky key approach to hit some of them. I’ve been thinking of bypassing that. Also considering putting them all on one function layer. But to properly sort this out, I need to know more to avoid creating problems. Here is my basic chart, with two situations. If something in parenthesis, it means that is that the standard Apple keyboard is supposed to do but the TB does not. If not in parenthesis, it is the results I get with the TB.

Probably oversimplified as it may be different with different apps - more reason to ask things here! And none of this deals with using modifiers to F keys so I’ll need help there too!

Function keys (in parenthesis is what Apple keyboard does)
F1 (dim screen)
F2 (brighten screen)
F3 (show all open windows - I think)
F4 (show open windows for selected app - I think)
F5 brings up word list only in text edit? [CAN ANYONE EXPLAIN WHAT THIS IS?]
F7 (rewind)
F8 (play/pause)
F9 shows all windows (Fast forward)
F10 shows window for active app and recent app list (Mute)
F11 shows desktop (Volume down)
F12 (Volume up)
F14 dim screen
F15 brighten screen

Some things can’t (I think) be done with function keys on the TB, but can be done with special commands you can apply. Or in some cases using other function keys (like F14 to dim the screen because F1 won’t do it on TB and I can use the TB command for increasing volume instead of F12). At least I can if it doesn’t cause a problem when using modifiers or a problem in specific apps.

To give some idea of what I’m thinking about, supposed it worked out that I NEVER needed F16 through F20 - I could put the 15 that I do use all on the left blade, 5 per row, thus avoiding the need for sticky keys.

I guess that I really need is one big chart that shows all the Apple functions, including ones with modifier keys that are global and then additional information about things that are not global, but specific to certain situations or applications.

BTW, I also have BetterTouchTool which I use with my track pad, but I see it can do keyboard stuff to - so that may give me more options in what I can do.

I’m not sure if this is what you are looking for as it doesn’t cover too many function keys, but I always find it useful when I forget a keyboard shortcut:

This may be a bit dated, but Wikipedia does have a table covering many of the function keys:

Another good list of shortcuts:

This one shows how Excel 2016 for Mac uses the function keys:

F5 (when combined with the fn key) brings up a word completion list. Say I just typed the word rain and then press the key combination. I gat a pop up list of word completions (rain, rainbow, rainy, rains, etc.). There is a also a checkbox in settings that allows you to use the function keys as normal function keys without holding the fn key first (you would just press F5 in that case).


It’s worth noting that there’s a setting in system preferences for keyboards with a fn key - so these may not be the same if you’re just trying it from a non-TextBlade keyboard.

Not a problem with the TextBlade, but something to keep in mind.


F4 opens the Launchpad

The first link I’ve seen before - gives lots of info, but not about the function keys (just some stuff involving the FN key. The other one was more useful, though it is apparently all about function keys with Excel. It still made a few references to to some of the normal uses when they were in conflict. It also gave me an idea of what a major app did with the function keys and it seemed to me that I could get by without using any of those for Excel. I own the app, but mostly just use Numbers now. Even if I used it or if the same things worked with Numbers, I think I access all of those things other ways from habit.

Still lots of work to do, but this is a good start. I may have to create separate custom keyboards for Mac vs iOS though.

Ah, so that’s what that keyboard symbols is! Doesn’t work on the TB anyway.

There are some things I’d like to be able to do which I don’t think TB does with function keys. Show the desktop is one I use a lot. I can do it with some programing I did with my mouse on my mac though. Also volume stuff, though I can put them in with special TB commands. I wish the screen brightness commands were on F1 and F2 instead of the option of F14 and F15. And have Mute.

Ah, I see how F5 works better now. I usually was hitting it on a blank line so it made no sense. I can get it to work with some other apps not but only if it is after typing some letters. TextEdit doesn’t require that I have typed anything.

iirc, you really shouldn’t think of the osx-specific functions on the top row of the keyboard, and f-keys as even remotely related. the FN key essentially works as a layer switch that only does stuff to the top row. it can send the standard f-key keycodes, or it can send some completely different ones. it’s not the same as a normal keypress with a modifier like ctrl+s/alt+s/shift+s etc which sends the same keycode and the modifiers that are being pressed.

it’s been a while since i’ve looked at any of this, but i was hacking about with some of that sort of stuff on my custom firmware for my ergodox, so i think i know what i’m talking about :wink: does the textblade software give you the ability to specify any old random keycode for a button? you could probably find a list of the codes used for the mac’s features online… somewhere.

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Remember, the behavior of the native Mac keyboards can be altered somewhat by the “Use all F1, F2, etc. keys as standard function keys” settings in System Preferences >> Keyboard >> Keyboard tab.

I’m not sure how this would behave with the TextBlade, but it might affect how the key press is interpreted by OS X.

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Does anyone use F16-F20? Near as I can tell, Apple doesn’t have a normal use for those 5 function keys. My Apple wireless keyboard only goes up to F12 which would tend to make me think the others aren’t that useful. I do use F14 and F15 for brightness.

I’m just thinking of dropping the last 5. Then I could customize the Function layer so that instead of taking 10 across the top row, then 10 more on the same row by holding down the function chord plus space, I can just but them in 3 rows of 5 on the left. I know some have put F11-F12 on the second row to avoid needing the space bar, but I want to avoid also avoid the problem that 2 out of each 10 require the “sticky” approach - which can really be a hassle if you need to repeatedly hit one of those particular function keys!

Then the function chord with space would be completely empty for anything else I might want to customize. I’d still have 9 keys on the main function level for other things without resorting to the “sticky”. I already use 6 - I especially like the ease of changing volume with one hand.

So, who uses F16-F20 with Apple stuff?

I think having so many function keys is a vestige of older software design, similar to the staggered key placement on other keyboards being a vestige of really older hardware design.

Back when the only way to interact with a computer was through a keyboard. Before touch interfaces and even graphical interfaces employing a mouse, a way to provide fast access to software functions was needed. That is when “function” keys were born. I think the most advanced chording that was available at that time was a shift key. Next, a few modifier keys appeared, giving rise to some of the cryptic keyboard shortcuts we have become use to (Ctrl-c, Ctrl-x, Ctrl-v) as well as making possible the infamous three finger salute of Windows fame (Ctrl-Alt-Del).

Needless to say, as user interfaces matured, the need for dedicated function keys diminished and transformed into the software menus and gestures we have become accustomed to today.

For the most part, Apple started with the graphical interface, so they really never had a need for too many function keys. Their use of the ones they do use I think is more for familiarity for users transitioning from other systems and convenience.

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Makes sense. I’ve been in computers a long time, though started with non-PCs. So it looks like I’ll be customizing the main function layer to having all left hand functions 1-5, 6-10, and 11-15 for now. I have a feeling I really won’t need all those since on my Mac I only use the other use of those keys (brightness, volume, etc). I don’t even use the media control stuff - I’m typically always having my mouse on the arm of my chair and control things that way. But with the TB I may be more likely to use the keyboard.

I’ll certainly want “show desktop” which F11 does. F14 and F15 cover brightness. WT special customization options give media control keys and volume so I may simply end up using a small number of things actually label as an F key by the time I settle in.

I can tell you that when I am in one of my Mainframe sessions, I use all 24 PF keys. Yes, PF 16 - 24 to a lesser degree but they are all used.

I’m currently on vacation and just got the TextBlade working with the Win7 laptop, so I don’t have any work experience with it yet. But I suspect I may need to break down and create a keymap for Mainframe use once I’m back to work.

You might need to raise a request to Waytools to get support for F21-F24 to be added to the keys available for mapping as so far only F1-F20 seem to be there. I expect it will be a relatively trivial thing to do.

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That is an excellent point! I will be making the request very shortly.

PF 13 - 24 are the shifted versions of PF 1 - 12. But since PF 11and 12 are already “shifted” into the green layer, that could pose a challenge.

[quote=“imarc, post:15, topic:3837, full:true”]
That is an excellent point! I will be making the request very shortly.

PF 13 - 24 are the shifted versions of PF 1 - 12. But since PF 11and 12 are already “shifted” into the green layer, that could pose a challenge.
[/quote]i do not think that is relevant as the Fnn codes are preset codes. A question is whether they should be part of the standard mapping of the function layer (and if so where) or only available via customised mapping.

I’ll give you that. While I’m sure I’m not the only person who’ll use the TextBlade this way, I’m certainly not the majority. My only issue is that PF 21 - 24 are not (yet) included in the keymap editor.

I was messing around with customizing and, for test purposes, put a shift-F1 and a shift-F11 on a green level function layer. Then I notice that if I press the regular F11, it does the expected “show desktop” on my iMac. But if I activate the customized one to get shift-F11, it does the same thing, but in slow motion! I noticed something similar when actually hitting shift and F keys with one that has the Mac show open windows, but sometimes I couldn’t get it to do anything.

I’ve moved the first 15 function keys to the main function layer on the left blade. On the right side, I put in some convenience features on the main function layer. On Y, U, and P I have keys to increase text size, decrease text size, and close tab.

I’ve long had similar things set up on my mouse - VERY handy as I often work with a mouse and not a keyboard. Now I’ll see how it works with the keyboard.

On H, J, and ’ I put in volume up, volume down, and mute.

On N, M, and / I have increase brightness, decrease brightness, and play/pause.

I may reverse the orientation - matching things vertically instead of horizontally.

My setup has one problem - I have F14 and F15 on both blades - the left side just to complete the pattern of 5 F keys per row. On the right, they are there again so I can control brightness with one hand. I have to decide what the best approach is but until I actually need another item, I’ll leave it as is.

I’m thinking about a different approach with the function keys. My problem has been my tendency to worry about maybe needing something, even if I have no previous need for it. Like with the Function keys. My use of them since using a Mac has only been to use the special uses for those keys rather than as normal function keys. So I change screen brightness and volume. I haven’t normally used the special things for play/pause, rewind and fast forward.

So, since we have two default function layers (one for F1 - F10 and one for F11 - F20), I’m thinking of taking my prior change where I put the first 15 all on one layer on the left blade and instead put them on the other layer, which requires the spacebar be held too. So I’d have more than my Apple keyboard has (15 vs 12), but on a layer I’m probably not likely to normally even use. Meanwhile, on the easier accessed function layer, put in the same things as are on my Apple keyboard.

There is the issue that I don’t think TB will let me do two things the Apple keyboard does - show windows and something else which I forgot at the moment (F4).