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I have an Apple A1048 109-key keyboard that I really like, except it does not have an FN button, which is a bit annoying. Is there any way to remap one of the keys (I'm thinking the 'help' key) to function as an FN key?

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  • What are you hoping the FN button would do?
    – Daniel
    Sep 11, 2011 at 21:41
  • I'm hoping it will do what the FN button always does -- act as a modifier so that FN1-FN12 have different behaviors, for instance, I can hold it down and press F3 to show the desktop instead of sending an F3 key
    – Charles
    Sep 21, 2011 at 17:56
  • That isn't really an accurate statement "What it always does" -- prior to 2007, Apple keyboards didn't have a "fn" key, and while there are modifiers that could change what code the F3 key sends (like option or shift, for instance), fn to date isn't the same sort of modifier. I wish it weren't the case, but adding "fn" isn't the same as adding an option key or a command key.
    – Daniel
    Sep 21, 2011 at 21:32

2 Answers 2

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You will not be able to do this. The controller in the keyboard sends a keycode to the OS whenever a key is pressed. That keycode is unique to every key on the keyboard... except for the Fn key.

The Fn key, modifies other keys on the keyboard, as does Shift, Alt, Ctrl, Option, etc... the only difference is that each of the latter modifiers is recognized by the OS. In other words, the keyboard controller tells the OS that "shift" was pressed, at the same time as the "s" key. The OS then iterprets that to mean the user wants a capital letter "s" or "S".

This is not the case with the Fn key. The fact that it is pressed is captured by the keyboard controller and a separate, unique, keycode is sent when you press the next key. For instance F1 sends a keycode, lets call that keycode "xyz" When Fn and F1 are pressed at the same time, a different keycode is sent to the OS.

What you could do is discover what those keycodes are...the ones that are issued when you press Fn + F1-f13. Then if you wern't using the function keys for their original purpose, you could map those to the new keycodes (the equivalent of pressing Fn+Fx) and go from there to get your volume keys and all the rest of the goodies that Apple hides up there.

Checkout this article form Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fn_key


Alternatively, the Keyboard settings pane of System Preferences will allow you switch whether you wanted a single keypress of any function key to send the keycode equivalent of Fn+Fx or simply Fx. Perhaps you can use that checkbox to get what you want... though I don't think it will work with your keyboard. I think you need a newer keyboard to get this to work.

Use fn....

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Many articles online claim that Fn key is fundamentally different and there is no way to remap another key to Fn. I blindly believed them. It is not true.

At least on Mac, you can install Karabiner-Elements, the powerful keyboard customizer for macOS. You can remap the key you desire, such as help or F16, to Fn.

Note: the help key on A1048 is actually a standard insert key. So choose insert in the From key dropdown menu, do not choose help. See attached picture below. Nonetheless, help is kind of a good name for a Fn modifier.

enter image description hereFor A1048, the top right 4 keys: -vol, +vol, mute, eject, cannot be remapped. It seems Karabiner doesnot recognize these media keys (as in its Karabiner EventViewer).

Enjoy the new key! I believe this also applies to other non-Apple PC keyboards.

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  • You can only do this if the Fn key sends a keycode to the OS. See:apple.stackexchange.com/a/331519/119271 There is no standard for Fn key placement or function so it's different across makes, models, and manufacturers. It's also not global across all Mac products either. If the keyboard doesn't send the code, no app will be able to remap it.
    – Allan
    May 31, 2020 at 19:53
  • @Allan, thanks for your input. And I just reproduced this with another cheap PC keyboard: Lenovo K4803 (SK-2085). Both K4803 and Apple A1048 do not have an Fn key, the are completely different "makes, models and manufacturers", and I am able to "map a key on the A1048 109-key Keyboard to provide an “FN” button", as the OP asked. I am using MBPr15 with macOS 10.15.4.
    – laviex
    May 31, 2020 at 22:26

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