Is there a keyboard shortcut for toggling between Function and classic F keys?


7 Answers 7


Depending on what you're trying to do, you may be able to cut out the keyboard shortcuts altogether and completely automate this. KeyRemap4MacBook allows you to set key re-mappings based on what application you're currently using.

I am using a setting that switches F1 through F12 to standard Function keys whenever I'm using RDC (Windows Remote Desktop). Any other time they operate like their icons (brightness, volume, play, etc).

  • 1
    This was just want I was looking for.
    – GreenKiwi
    Commented Sep 7, 2011 at 16:29
  • how can you make these settings application depending? I can enable it only global.
    – Pfitz
    Commented Dec 5, 2012 at 10:45
  • Doesn't work on Sierra
    – David
    Commented Jan 8, 2017 at 18:41
  • 1
    Note, KeyRemap4MacBook is called Karabiner for Maverics (MacOS X 10.9) and the following, and Karabiner Elements from El Captain (macOS 10.11) on. All of them can be downloaded from the Karabiner Download page. Commented Jul 12, 2018 at 9:49

There is now an app for this: https://github.com/Pyroh/Fluor

It lets you specify the fn key behaviour depending on a rules engine, and also switches between one behaviour and the other when you press the fn key.

  • This is perfect 👍
    – spjpgrd
    Commented Jan 30, 2019 at 18:27

You can create application specific shortcuts by creating a custom setting in your private.xml file. Check out the reference documentation for details, or my example below where I'm rebinding the Consumer keys back to Function keys when in PhpStorm (to use the debugger).

<?xml version="1.0"?>
    <!-- PhpStorm & EAP Version -->
    <!-- ============================================================ -->
        <name>Switch to normal function keys when in PhpStorm</name>
        <appendix>Change consumer keys to function keys in PhpStorm</appendix>
        <autogen>__KeyToKey__ KeyCode::BRIGHTNESS_DOWN, KeyCode::F1</autogen>
        <autogen>__KeyToKey__ KeyCode::BRIGHTNESS_UP, KeyCode::F2</autogen>
        <autogen>__KeyToKey__ KeyCode::EXPOSE_ALL, KeyCode::F3</autogen>
        <autogen>__KeyToKey__ KeyCode::LAUNCHPAD, KeyCode::F4</autogen>
        <autogen>__KeyToKey__ KeyCode::VK_CONSUMERKEY_KEYBOARDLIGHT_LOW, KeyCode::F5</autogen>
        <autogen>__KeyToKey__ KeyCode::VK_CONSUMERKEY_KEYBOARDLIGHT_HIGH, KeyCode::F6</autogen>
        <autogen>__KeyToKey__ ConsumerKeyCode::MUSIC_PREV, KeyCode::F7</autogen>
        <autogen>__KeyToKey__ ConsumerKeyCode::MUSIC_PLAY, KeyCode::F8</autogen>
        <autogen>__KeyToKey__ ConsumerKeyCode::MUSIC_NEXT, KeyCode::F9</autogen>
    <!-- I want to use these while in PhpStorm
        <autogen>__KeyToKey__ ConsumerKeyCode::VOLUME_MUTE, KeyCode::F10</autogen>
        <autogen>__KeyToKey__ ConsumerKeyCode::VOLUME_DOWN, KeyCode::F11</autogen>
        <autogen>__KeyToKey__ ConsumerKeyCode::VOLUME_UP, KeyCode::F12</autogen>
  • Super awesome, very helpful, thanks! I did have to make a few changes on my system: F1 is ConsumerKeyCode::BRIGHTNESS_DOWN, F2 is ConsumerKeyCode::BRIGHTNESS_UP, F5 is ConsumerKeyCode::KEYBOARDLIGHT_LOW, and F6 is ConsumerKeyCode::KEYBOARDLIGHT_HIGH. All discovered using Karabiner's event viewer.
    – jbyler
    Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 10:04
  • This is just great!
    – roNn23
    Commented Nov 3, 2016 at 9:57

There might be an easier way, but the following comes to mind:

  • Turn on Universal Access.
  • Create an AppleScript or Automator App that toggles this via the UI.
  • Bind that app to a key combo.

I‘d suggest you try FNable. FNable will switch the behavior for the active application, when you tell it to. The next time you activate this application, FNable will automatically switch your function keys.

That way you can use brightness/volume controls in most of the apps you are using and you can use the function keys in those apps where you need to.

No configuration needed, switching behavior is just a matter of a single click.

If you want to use a global hotkey to toggle the function keys, FNable supports that, too.


This can be done natively with no 3rd party software needed by opening System Preferences -> Keyboard, and then check/uncheck the box that says "Use F1, F2, etc. keys as standard function keys". If checked, the keys act as F keys, if unchecked, they act as the system control keys, such as screen brightness, volume controls, etc. (I can't think of a better way to describe them).

Source: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT204436

  • The OP is looking for a keyboard shortcut to toggle the state of the fn key, not change it manually in System Preferences! Commented Jan 17, 2021 at 18:11

i know this is an old question, but what helped me that i didnt find here is using fn + esc. this toggles between using F keys and the media keys.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .