I would like to permanently modify my keyboard's button labels to match the non-default keyboard layout that I have set on an Apple computer, so that others who do not touch-type can use the keyboard. How do I do this?

I have the "Apple Keyboard with Numeric Keypad (English)".

Why? I don't use the QWERTY layout on my US-bought Apple computer, and Apple does not sell anything except QWERTY keyboards. This is not a problem for me, as I touch-type, so the labels on the keys are basically unused by me. But other people (mostly children) use my computer, and I would like to allow them to "hunt-and-peck" with the system-wide keyboard layout.

I have tried using stickers to "relabel" the keys, but this is obviously not very durable and looks terrible and makes it difficult to touch-type since it obscures the little nubs on the "home keys". Most of the stickers have been worn off.

I am willing to disassemble the keyboard and reassemble it if the keys are physically separate from each other. But I am not willing to disassemble the keyboard to discover if this is true or not. I have looked at several Mac "tear down" articles, but none of them illustrate the keyboard mechanism. If I could simply re-arrange the existing buttons, I would have to remove the "home key" nubs on the "F" and "J" keys and add something to the "U" and "H" keys, but I think I can handle that.

I am also willing to use paint and/or chemicals to modify the labels, but I know nothing about where to start here. Are the labels painted on? Or are they a different kind of plastic somehow injected into the button plastic? Can I paint over the existing labels and then re-paint new ones? Or would I have to somehow dye the keys to be some single color and then paint on my labels? What would be a type of paint that is durable enough for a keyboard?

I am not willing to buy a third-party keyboard, unless it is nearly exactly equivalent to the Apple keyboard. I suppose I am willing to buy a second third-party keyboard and rotate them if that is simple to do with OS X. But ideally, I want one keyboard with labels that match the default layout, and touch-typers can use whatever layout they want, and hunt-and-peckers can still make do.

Are there any other options?

  • 1
    So you would like to create your own keyboard layout? Commented Nov 26, 2010 at 5:43
  • 2
    No, "I would like to permanently modify my keyboard's button labels to match the non-default keyboard layout that I have set on an Apple computer, so that others who do not touch-type can use the keyboard. How do I do this?" Commented Nov 26, 2010 at 8:48
  • What exactly is this "non-default keyboard layout" that you use? Is it, for instance, Dvorak? Or what?
    – user9290
    Commented Jan 29, 2012 at 4:29

3 Answers 3


If you have a keyboard similar to the one described here, it sounds like you can just pop the keys off and push them back down in the new position.

  • Indeed, they come off with some degree of struggle, but they pop back into place pretty easily. Pulling them off from the lower half seems to have worked best. Not all of them went back on perfectly, but they are all back on. Thanks! Commented Nov 27, 2010 at 6:38

Would one of the printed keyboard covers offered by companies like KBCovers do the job?

Since you have not stated what the actual "non-standard keyboard layout" you are using consists of, it's hard for us to understand what you need.

Furthermore, Apple does indeed sell keyboards in other layouts besides QWERTY. In the United States Apple Store, you can order an Apple keyboard layed out for US English, German, Belgian, Danish, Spanish, French, Italian, Dutch, Swiss, Swedish, Norwegian, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian and Arabic.


I haven’t disassembled an Apple Keyboard (aluminium) myself, but I know it’s possible, albeit with a lot of complications to put it back.

Instead, I suggest to find a “real” keyboard from This Epic Keyboard guide. Some keyboards will allow you to remove the keycaps.

The different keyboard mechanisms are explained there. Apple keyboards use the scissor switch mechanism, which is not 100% friendly to reassemble, but possible.

Additionally, in a direct response to your question, here is a nice review of the Apple keyboard which shows a picture of a key removed and the scissor mechanism so you know what to expect if you still want to pursue the operation.

I guess the best way is to pull…pull…pull… (with caution) until the keys “get lose”. That’s how I did it on a laptop with scissor mechanism that had a few failing keys.

  • 1
    Thanks, but the Apple keyboard is indeed a "real" keyboard. I have spent decades typing on all manner of keyboards, and the current Apple keyboard is the best one available for me right now. I know Apple is renowned for its terrible ergonomics, but their current keyboards and trackpads are, for me, the best ones out there. Commented Nov 28, 2010 at 0:46

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