I'd like to create my own shortcut combinations, and it looks to me that the fn key is actually only used for a few shortcuts on OS X. For example, fn-delete is forward delete. In applications like Photoshop it's not used.

Are you aware of any applications that uses fn shortcuts? I don't want to create potential conflicts. If feels strange to think that no software is using such a simple key, and they go for the more complex option-command-shift combinations instead.

Just to be clear, I'm referring to the use of the fn key (eg. the one usually on the lower left side of a MacBook Air's keyboard), not to the function keys (F1 to F19) found at the top of the keyboard.

  • How do you intend to assign these shortcuts? System Preferences/Keyboard doesn't seem to accept them, neither does Keyboard Maestro. – nohillside Nov 10 '15 at 12:40
  • Using Karabiner – Patrick Nov 10 '15 at 12:47
  • 1
    You can assign shortcuts to FN if FN is associated to a function button F1...F12 in System Preferences > Keyboard. – mgiordi Nov 10 '15 at 12:51
  • @mgiordi It looks you're right...I wonder why apple wouldn't want customers to take advantage of that FN key, it would be great for additional shortcuts? – Patrick Nov 10 '15 at 13:34
  • @patrick did you manage to get this working with Karabiner, and did you ever encounter problems? – dunxd Jan 12 '18 at 11:15

You cannot create shortcuts using the fn key in the preferences pane (but you can assign Function keys f1, f2 etc.)

The shortcuts interface will allow you to press fn + X for Cut etc, but only X is displayed as the shortcut, and pressing fn + X results in typing X not cutting.

Very annoying for people that switch between Windows and Mac keyboards, since the CTRL key on a Windows keyboard is where the fn key is on a Mac keyboads.


For the most part, function keys are only used by OSX and not third-party programs, but some programs use the F1 key for accessing the help menu. Also if you are into games, some games like Just Cause 2 might have some conflicts with it, as (I believe) the F1 and F2 keys are used for opening in-game map etc.

Also forgot to mention, if you have dictation enabled you might want to disable the "FN double-tap" activation shortcut... Goes without saying. Too many times have I accidentally hit the FN key twice, and creating custom shorcuts with it will make you more prone to accidentally activating dictation.

  • 2
    The user is referring to the fn key, not the F1-F19 keys. – At0mic Nov 10 '15 at 14:09
  • @IronCraftMan Right, sorry! Will edit :) – user90118 Nov 11 '15 at 14:30

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