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Chapter 4. Keys & the Keyboard > fn Key on Laptops (Function Key)

fn Key on Laptops (Function Key)

On most Mac laptops, there is a key with the tiny symbol fn on the bottom-left, in a different color. You see other keys with tiny symbols or characters also in that color, such as num lock, clear, home, end, pg up, pg dn (page up or down), as well as numbers. Also check the Fkeys. If you press the fn key, then the keys change their standard function to the symbols or characters in that matching color (the color that matches the fn), as described below.

F5 Num Lock F7 Insert (used in some applications) F8 Forward Delete

This shows the regular keys on your keyboard when you do not press the fn key.

This shows how the regular keys change when you do press the fn key.

Hold down the fn key and tap F8 to forward delete.

The arrow keys on the bottom-right turn into Home, PageUp (pg up), Page-Down (pg dn), and End (see page 41) when you hold down the fn key.

The Control key becomes the Right Control key (rt ctrl), and the Shift keys become Right Shift keys, which are necessary in some games where the rightside keys can have different features from the left-side keys. The Option keys become Alt GR keys, and I haven’t found anyone who knows what these are.

The Option, Command, and Enter keys take on the functions of a PC keyboard when you hold down the fn key. This is useful if you’re running Windows emulation software, such as Insignia SoftWindows or Connectix Virtual PC, that lets your Mac run Windows: The Command key becomes the Windows key that brings up the Windows Start menu. The Enter key becomes the Windows Menu key that accesses the right-button menus (like the Mac’s contextual menus). And the Option key becomes an official Windows Alt key.

This icon represents the Windows key.

This icon represents the Windows Menu key.

Numeric Keypad on Laptops

If you look carefully at your laptop keyboard, you’ll see tiny numbers and mathematical symbols in a different color on the keys under your right hand (u, i, o, p, etc., as shown below).

If you hold down the fn key, this embedded numeric keypad becomes active. Use these numbers as you would in any application on any Mac, such as a spreadsheet or the calculator. You have to keep the fn key down to use the numbers.

Lock in the numbers

As shown above, you have to hold down the fn key as you type numbers. However, you can disable all other keys except for the numeric keypad so you won’t have to hold down the fn key as you type numbers: press fn and the num lock key (F5), then you can let go of fn. To type the alphabetic characters again, press the fn key once more to release it.

Some applications, such as Microsoft Word and Adobe PageMaker, have always utilized the numeric keypad for moving the cursor, and you have to turn on num lock if you want to type numbers. On a laptop, these keys can’t do both (move the cursor and type numbers), so in Word and PageMaker, when the fn key is down and num lock is on, the cursor moves—you don’t get the numeric keypad.

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