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When editing texts, left and right arrow keys are frequently used. But it takes quite some time to move your right hand from the letters section to the arrow keys.

I used to use a Sony laptop, on which I could press "fn" with my left hand and then press "u" and "o" with my right hand to achieve the functions of "left arrow key" and "right arrow key", so my right hand seldom moved away from "jkl;". Neat.

Is there a similar resort on Mac?


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Use emacs or vi their arrow keys use ctrl and a letter - and many other editors allow emulation of these – Mark May 15 '14 at 13:23
Oh I meant a universal method, not confined to an app, say the textbox where I'm typing right now :] but thanks! – user78236 May 15 '14 at 13:53
up vote 4 down vote accepted

You can use BetterTouchTool to globally assign keyboard shortcuts. However You can't assign fn key.

enter image description here

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Wow! This app is awesome! I assigned cmd+j and cmd+k for left and right arrow keys, so cursor navigation is now faster! Thanks a lot Mateusz :] – user78236 May 15 '14 at 17:58

You can use this :

  • ctrl+A: beginning of line.

  • ctrl+E: end of line.

  • ctrl+U: delete from cursor to beginning of line.

  • ctrl+K: delete from cursor to end of line.

  • ctrl+W: erase word to the left.

  • ctrl+T: transpose characters around cursor.

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Not all apps support these e.g. Firefox - I agree that any good app written to Apple's interface guide should – Mark May 15 '14 at 13:58
@Mark it works with cocoa applications – Thomas Ayoub May 15 '14 at 13:59
And most shells. – Max Ried May 15 '14 at 15:33
In cocoa Alt-Left, Alt-Right, Apple-Left, Apple-Right also does useful actions. But yes, this all is no about OPs question at all – Max Ried May 15 '14 at 15:35

ctrl+B and ctrl+F are the same as left and right arrow in cocoa apps.

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You can map menu entries to keyboard shortcuts.

So if your favourite editor has something prepared, then you can do this.

Go to System Preferences > Keyboard > Shortcuts, and add go to the entry App Shortcuts.

So i think it depends on your favourite editor. When you can jump there from word to word, its even cooler then to just move the cursor.

I can recommend Sublime Text 2/3 for this.

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Thanks! But what I meant was a universal key combination which can achieve exactly the function of arrow keys, say "fn+u" does what "left arrow" does, and "fn+o", right arrow. That'd be cool:) – user78236 May 15 '14 at 14:05
I know, but so far this is the closest you can get. – gruberb May 15 '14 at 14:12

Many OS X text views support a few Emacs style shortcuts like:

  • control-p moves up
  • control-n moves down
  • control-b moves left
  • control-f moves right

To see a full list of the shortcuts, run plutil -convert xml1 /System/Library/Frameworks/AppKit.framework/Resources/StandardKeyBinding.dict -o -|pl|grep -v noop:|ruby -pe '$_.gsub!(/[^ -~\n]/){"\\U%04x"%$&.ord}'.

You can use KeyRemap4MacBook to make the Emacs style shortcuts work in more places:

<?xml version="1.0"?>
    <autogen>__KeyToKey__ KeyCode::P, VK_CONTROL | ModifierFlag::NONE, KeyCode::CURSOR_UP</autogen>
    <autogen>__KeyToKey__ KeyCode::N, VK_CONTROL | ModifierFlag::NONE, KeyCode::CURSOR_DOWN</autogen>
    <autogen>__KeyToKey__ KeyCode::B, VK_CONTROL | ModifierFlag::NONE, KeyCode::CURSOR_LEFT</autogen>
    <autogen>__KeyToKey__ KeyCode::F, VK_CONTROL | ModifierFlag::NONE, KeyCode::CURSOR_RIGHT</autogen>
    <autogen>__KeyToKey__ KeyCode::P, VK_CONTROL | VK_SHIFT | ModifierFlag::NONE, KeyCode::CURSOR_UP, VK_SHIFT</autogen>
    <autogen>__KeyToKey__ KeyCode::N, VK_CONTROL | VK_SHIFT | ModifierFlag::NONE, KeyCode::CURSOR_DOWN, VK_SHIFT</autogen>
    <autogen>__KeyToKey__ KeyCode::B, VK_CONTROL | VK_SHIFT | ModifierFlag::NONE, KeyCode::CURSOR_LEFT, VK_SHIFT</autogen>
    <autogen>__KeyToKey__ KeyCode::F, VK_CONTROL | VK_SHIFT | ModifierFlag::NONE, KeyCode::CURSOR_RIGHT, VK_SHIFT</autogen>
    <autogen>__KeyToKey__ KeyCode::B, VK_OPTION | ModifierFlag::NONE, KeyCode::CURSOR_LEFT, VK_OPTION</autogen>
    <autogen>__KeyToKey__ KeyCode::F, VK_OPTION | ModifierFlag::NONE, KeyCode::CURSOR_RIGHT, VK_OPTION</autogen>
    <autogen>__KeyToKey__ KeyCode::B, VK_OPTION | VK_SHIFT | ModifierFlag::NONE, KeyCode::CURSOR_LEFT, VK_OPTION | VK_SHIFT</autogen>
    <autogen>__KeyToKey__ KeyCode::F, VK_OPTION | VK_SHIFT | ModifierFlag::NONE, KeyCode::CURSOR_RIGHT, VK_OPTION | VK_SHIFT</autogen>
    <autogen>__KeyToKey__ KeyCode::I, VK_CONTROL | ModifierFlag::NONE, KeyCode::TAB</autogen>
    <autogen>__KeyToKey__ KeyCode::D, VK_OPTION | ModifierFlag::NONE, KeyCode::FORWARD_DELETE, VK_OPTION</autogen>

This would map fn-U to the left arrow key:

<autogen>__KeyToKey__ KeyCode::U, ModifierFlag::FN, KeyCode::CURSOR_LEFT</autogen>

See or for more information.

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I use KeyRemap4MacBook on my unibody mid-2010 MacBook, which I think was the first series built after they stopped including the numpad mode. The site says the software works for all Macs, so you could probably use it to create a mapping that works for you.

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Didn't try this, but thanks! I'm using BetterTouchTool recommended by @mateusz, which is very good :] – user78236 May 15 '14 at 18:01

You could use a text editor that supports vi mode.

vi is a unix text editor that is controlled without a mouse and therefore has very capable keyboard shortcuts, not just to move around whithin a text, but also to quickly edit text.

Many modern text editors that are geared towards programmers have implemented a "vi mode," which means you can turn on all those powerful shortcuts. I learned how to use vi mode when programming, but I have come to absolutely love it in any kind of text editing. It takes quite a while to really be comfortable with all of the shortcuts, but once you are, your productivity skyrockets!

Here are just a few of the powerful keyboard shortcuts that vi mode provides:

  • jump to the end/beginning of a word
  • jump to the en/beginning of a line
  • jump to a certain character
  • delete the current word
  • go to the beginning/end of the document

My favorite editor that has vi mode is Sublime Text 3. You can evaluate the full version for as long as you like. To enable vi mode follow this link: enabling vi mode

Here are a couple of interactive tutorials that teach you vi shortcuts:

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I use AutoHotKey to remap the keys.

I use the Capslock key which in other cases is a totally lost of space on a keyboard except for people who still write everything in upper case.

Now, Capslock is just at a couple of millimiters of my left pinkie with the combination of a couple of other keys to do some useful functions like remapping the arrow keys with j,i,k and l.

The only downside for me of this method is that each time that you press the Capslock key to do some shortcuts, the led of the keyboard goes on and off. If I find a solution to deactivate this led, I will let you know. Since last week, I have the Cooler Master NovaTouch TKL and there is not led at all. Therefore, I will postpone this visual problem. :)

Here is the part of the script to do this replacement:

Capslock & j::Send {Left}
Capslock & i::Send {Up}
Capslock & k::Send {Down}
Capslock & l::Send {Right}
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