Cam McVey: Web, Electronics, Music, Stuff

My plot of online goodness.

On Mac keyboards and frustration

[Caveat: the following is an opinionated piece that you may or may not agree with. Also, my context is as a web developer: some of the following offenders are, of course, useful in other professions.]

Credit: berrytokyo

Credit: berrytokyo

I got a MacBook Pro recently, primarily because all the cool kids are creating the latest, greatest web tools on Mac systems and, frankly, the Windows guys are lagging behind. I found myself increasingly finding awesome tips/tricks/tools that came with the mac-only caveat which finishes with “I don’t know how you do this on a Windows machine, sorry.” I also got it because they’re so brilliantly designed to be both beautiful and powerful, and I dig that.

However, nobody mentioned the gaping hole of productivity that the non-standard (?) weird (UK) keyboard mapping! Argh!

  • The @ and ” symbols are swapped. Ever write an email? Yeah, me too. So I’ve had to re-learn where the @ symbols is. Annoying!
  • Page Up and Page Down are missing. This is really important to me as I use those keys A LOT to move around documents I’m editing.
  • The # symbol is completely missing! Any time you want to add colo(u)r to a webpage, you need that bad boy. Now it’s gone. This the worst change because, as an added annoyance, it’s been replaced with the never-ever-used-in-my-entire-life § (Section) symbol. What? Not to mention the equally useless ± as its shift+ partner.

Suffice to say, my first few weeks of Mac-ownership were filled with never-ending Google searches starting, “mac os x keyboard shortcut for …”. Now, I do know that all of these things can be overcome with judicious use of modifiers (e.g., Page Up is ?+? [cmd + up-arrow]), but even so, it’s a pain.

Then I stumbled on a superb bit of software called KeyRemap4MacBook. It is free and it is brilliant. I have now re-mapped several keys on this laptop to be more useful to me and I am very grateful to the genius Takayama Fumihiko for it. Though I haven’t gone as far a re-mapping the @ and ” symbols, I’ve made the this machine work better for me, and that’s pretty cool.

Right now, here’s how I have it set up:

  • When I hit the ‘§’, I get a lovely ‘#’.
  • Along with PCKeyboardHack, I’ve remapped the Caps Lock key to be “forward delete”
  • The Eject key now shows the desktop
  • The right-hand ? key is now Home (“Go to start of line”)
  • The right-hand ? key is now End (“Go to end of line”)
  • Also really handy: “Press ?+Q twice to Quit Application”

So, I’ve tamed the beast, somewhat. And I’ve forced myself to use the @ key in the wrong place. And I’m now pretty much up-to-speed with my Mac, and am enjoying playing with all the clever toys the cool kids are creating.


  1. Having been a Mac user at work for about 3.5 years now, I can relate, although I didn’t remap. (I do already have PgUp/PgDown/Home/End keys on my keyboard, though).

    Only thing that consistently annoys me still is the ridiculous handling of Home/End – sometimes End is end-of-line, sometimes its end-of-document. Most. Annoying. Thing. Ever.

  2. Cam

    March 1, 2013 at 11:10 am

    That’s really weird. I’ve never seen that. If I hit cmd+rightarrow, I always get end-of-line; for end-of-doc, I use cmd+downarrow. I’ll keep an eye out for that, thanks!

  3. Did you get your penknife out and re-etch the keys too?

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