Hi this is Gary with MacMost.com. Today I
want to talk about a problem that trips up a lot of new Mac users. It’s how to switch
between the two modes of the top row of your Mac keyboard.
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There you can read more about it, join us, and get exclusive content. So there are two different problems involving
the top row of keys that Mac users face. One is that they want to use keyboard shortcuts
in an app that show F1, F2, F3, etc., as the shortcut. But when they press those keys on
the keyboard they don’t work for that app. In fact they do completely different things.
Another problem people have is sometimes they want to use the special functions at the top
of the keyboard, like pausing music, changing screen brightness and such, and when they
try to use those keys they just don’t do anything. What’s going on here? Well basically the top row of keys has two
different modes. Kind of like with the regular letter keys there’s lower case and upper case
letters. You hold the Shift key down to go from lower case to upper case. Just like that
the top row has two different things that it does. It can do function keys like F1 or
it can do Special Features like screen brightness. You switch between the two of them using a
key, not the shift key, but the fn key which is usually at the bottom left corner of the
keyboard, though not always. However it can be confusing because the keys can work in
the opposite way for different people. So with the Shift key not holding it down
will always give you lower case letters. Holding it down will give you upper case letters.
If that were true for the top row of keys the not holding down the fn key will always
give you F1 and holding down the fn key would give you lower screen brightness. Now it can
work that way but it can also work the opposite way. It’s all due to a setting in System Preferences. You go to System Preferences, then Keyboard,
and then click on the Keyboard tab at the top. Now you’ll see a checkbox here. Now if
this is checked by default all of these keys are used as the F keys. If you want to access
something like screen brightness or the music playback controls, they’re the special features,
you hold the fn key and press one of these keys. However, if you uncheck this setting
then it works the opposite way. Then by default if you’re not holding down the fn key these
will work to change brightness, volume, etc. Hold down the fn key to use them as F1, F2,
F3. So which way you have it set is your preference.
If you use a lot of apps that use these F keys then you may want to have it set with
the checkbox on so you can use the F keys without having to press the fn key. For instance
a lot of PhotoShop users may want to use these F keys all the time. However, if you rarely
ever use apps that use the F keys then you may want to have that checkbox unchecked so
that the Special Features keys, like screen brightness and volume controls, are always
the default. If you ever need to use them as an F key you can hold the fn key down and
press the key to do that. Pages, Numbers, and Keynote also use these
function keys a lot especially for custom styles. If you like to set your own keyboard
shortcuts the function keys are very handy for that as most standard apps will use things
like Command and then a letter for their standard shortcuts. So using the function key is a
great way to set your own keyboard shortcuts without having too much of a chance of a conflict
with an existing keyboard shortcut. Now, of course, if you have a MacBook Pro
with a Touch Bar then this problem kind of goes away. Because with a Touch Bar you always
see what it is you’re about to press. So you can hold the fn key and you can see the Touch
Bar change so you know exactly what key you’re triggering. You should also note that in a
lot of tutorials and online documentation you’ll see things like press the F1 key or
press the F7 key. Now you know that those mean the function keys and you need to have
your System Preferences set appropriately to use those or hold the fn key down to use them.