How to fix the Fn keys on your Mac

Whether you use a Windows PC or a Mac, your keyboard has all the standard function keys at the top. These keys are assigned different functions by the operating system on your computer.

Some of the actions these keys perform are things like increase and decrease the brightness level, increase and decrease the volume level, open some functions, etc. On a Mac, these keys trigger some default actions. of macOS, such as opening Mission Control view.

The problem here is that, while some of these keys are used frequently, others remain unused simply because their function is not universal. The best way to use these unused fn keys on Mac is to remap them.

Keys retyping allows you to assign custom functions to the keys. These keys will then perform the actions you assign to them on your Mac.

Disable default softkey behavior

Before you specify any custom actions for your key, the first thing you want to do is disable the default actions of the key. This will also disable the useful keys, but you can always use them by pressing and holding fn on your keyboard. It will then make your keys perform the action printed on them.

Disabling function keys is easy on a Mac. Here’s how you do it:

Click the Apple icon in the upper-left corner of your Mac’s screen and select System Preferences.

System Preferences in the Apple menu

When the system preference pane opens, look for an option that says Keyboard and click on it to open it. It will open your keyboard settings menu.

System Preferences Window

On the following screen, you will find a few options that you can turn on and off. Find the option that says Use the F1, F2, etc keys as standard function keys and turn it on.

Keyboard preferences window with Use F1, F2, etc as standard function keys highlighted

You have successfully disabled the default behavior of your fn keys.

Remap function keys

Now that the default softkey actions are disabled, you can go ahead and assign custom actions to these keys. Doing this is pretty easy and you don’t need a third-party app to do the task.

You will use the same System Preferences pane to complete this task.

Launch System Preferences on your Mac and click Keyboard right to buy.

When the keyboard pane opens, find and click the tab that says Shortcuts at top. It will allow you to customize the keyboard shortcuts on your machine.

The following screen will list all the keyboard shortcuts you have on your Mac. You can access the different shortcuts by clicking on their category names in the menu on the left. Assign one of these shortcuts to your function keys.

Click Screenshots in the left pane and click the designated shortcut next to the first heading that says Save screenshot as file. Press any function key on your keyboard and that key will be assigned to the shortcut.

Screen Shots Shortcut with Save Screenshot as Highlighted F5 File

You don’t need to save any changes because macOS will do it automatically.

From now on, whenever you press the above specified fn key on your keyboard, it will take a screenshot instead of performing the usual action. You can assign any of your function keys to any shortcuts you find in there.

Map function keys to perform specific actions

While the Built-in Keyboard menu has a lot of shortcuts for you to use and assign to the fn keys, it doesn’t have all the shortcuts. There are some keyboard shortcuts that you may want to use by pressing the fn keys but those are not listed here.

One of the ways to list your custom shortcuts is to add them to the list. Here’s how to do it:

Open the app for which you want to create a custom fn key action. For example, I will open Google Chrome to create a shortcut fn to launch an incognito window.

Click on the application menu items at the top and write down the full name of the item you want to assign the fn key to. For me, it would be New incognito window.

File -> New Incognito Window Selected ” class=”wp-image-7592″  /></figure>
<p>Enter <strong>System Preferences > Keyboard > Shortcuts</strong> menu, click <strong>App Shortcuts</strong> in the left pane and click <strong>+</strong> (plus sign) in the right pane.  It will allow you to add a custom keyboard shortcut.</p>
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App Shortcuts menu in Keyboard Options screen with + button highlighted

On the following screen, set the options as follows and press add.

Register – select the application you want to create a shortcut for. If it’s a common shortcut, select All apps.
Menu title – this is the exact name of the item you noted earlier. Enter it here.
Movies off – press the fn key that you want to assign to the action.

Add shortcut screen with new Incognito Window in Menu Title

From now on, when you press the fn key that you used above, it will perform the action you just entered in the Menu Title box. In my case it opens a new incognito window in Google Chrome.

Use a third-party app to remap the Fn keys on MacOS

macOS, by default, gives you many options to customize the behavior of your function keys. However, if you want even more power, you may need to use a third-party application.

Karibiner application window

Karabiner is one of those popular apps that helps you customize how different keyboard shortcuts work on your Mac. It allows you to create multiple profiles so that you can have a set of shortcuts in one profile and another set in a sub profile.

There are some other features in the app that you might want to explore.

New uses for your function keys

If you can’t think of any specific functions for your keys, you can assign some of the following functions to your keys. These are used by most Mac users.

  • New tab browser
  • New incognito tab browser
  • Screenshots
  • Do Not Disturb Mode
  • Close the app
  • Hide and show the Dock

Feel free to use your creativity and imagination to make these keys work the way you want them to.


For most Mac users, the top row of keys remains unused because those aren’t functions you might want to use now and then. With fn key remapping, you can make those keys useful by allowing them to do the actions you want them to.

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