The function keys on your Mac keyboard are probably the least used of all. In fact, they’re so under-used that by default, when you press a function key it doesn’t act as a function key at all. Instead, it performs its other duty, whether that’s as a media playback control, brightness adjustment or invoking Launchpad or Mission Control. To use a function key as a function key, you must hold down the ‘fn’ button at the bottom right of your Mac keyboard.
Change the behavior of function keys on your Mac
Nevertheless, function keys can be very useful if you customize them to do what you want them to do. Here’s how to create time-saving function key shortcuts for your Mac.
Use function keys without pressing the fn button
- To reverse the default behavior of the media/function keys, go to the Apple Menu and select System Preferences
- Click on the Keyboard pane
- Choose the Keyboard tab
- Check the box next to ‘Use F1, F2, F3 etc as standard function keys
Customize function key shortcuts with preset actions
- In System Preferences, choose the Keyboard pane
- Click on the shortcuts tab
- Choose one of the categories on the left-hand side
- Select a preset from the list
- If the preset already has a shortcut assigned, click on it and tap the function key you want to use
- If it doesn’t have a shortcut assigned already, click Add Shortcut and tap the function key
If the function key you choose is already assigned to something else, you’ll see a yellow warning triangle appear next to it and the original shortcut. You will have to change one of them.
Create function key shortcuts with custom actions
- Launch the app for which you want to add a shortcut
- Go to the menu that hosts the command you want to create a shortcut for and make a note of the precise name of the command
- Go to the Keyboard pane in System Preferences
- Select the Shortcuts tab
- Choose App Shortcuts
- Click the ‘+’ button
- From the All Applications drop-down menu, choose the app for which you want to add the shortcut
- In the Menu Title box, type the name of the command exactly as it appears in the application’s menu
- Type the function key shortcut in the Keyboard Shortcut box
Now, whenever you’re in that app and tap that function key, it will perform that command. For example, if you set up a shortcut to Save a document as a template in Pages and assign it to the F1 key. When you’re using Pages and press F1, the current document will be saved as a template.
If you want to go further than customizing function keys, there are several apps that can help.
Quick Tips: make your own shortcuts to work faster and more efficiently
Type faster with Rocket Typist
If you find yourself typing the same phrases over and over again in email messages or documents, Rocket Typist is a great timesaver. It allows you to store snippets of text and organize them in folders and subfolders in the app. Create your own mail shortcuts and automated saved replies to boost email productivity. Rocket Typist shows how minimal but productive a text expansion app can be.
You can then recall them, and have it type the snippet, either by searching for the text in Rocket Typist or by typing a pre-assigned abbreviation. So, for example, instead of typing “Hello, my name is John Appleseed, I am a developer interested in…”, you could just type “hmn” and Rocket Typist will do the rest.
Rocket Typist supports macros for things like time and date so you can be sure the current time and date will be placed in your document. And you can share snippets using AirDrop or Mail.
Lacona, the fast and powerful keyboard-driven commands for Mac
Lacona is a bit like a keyboard version of Siri, for those of us who don’t like talking to our Mac. Press the keyboard shortcut to invoke its text input bar and type a command, such as “search Amazon for Bluetooth speakers” or “schedule lunch with Carol at 1 pm tomorrow” or even “play Born to Run”. As you type, Lacona will show a list of suggestions beneath the window and you can use the arrow keys to navigate to the one you want and select it.
Lacona can also perform actions like copy, move, and rename on files in the Finder and activate system events like Empty Trash and Shutdown, it can create reminders and make calls, quit, activate and relaunch apps, and so much more, all by typing in its text bar.
It can even hook into third-party services like IFTTT so you can control those just by typing into Lacona.
BetterTouchTool: Get around faster with custom gestures
Apple’s built-in gestures for the Trackpad and Magic Mouse are great, as far as they go. With BetterTouchTool, you can take them further. BTT allows you to create custom gestures for your trackpad or Magic Mouse and assign them to actions. These actions can either be global or application specific.
In addition, BetterTouchTool allows you to create custom keyboard sequences to trigger actions. And it has its own built-in clipboard manager and screenshot tool. So, you could set up a gesture to take a screenshot and then edit it in BetterTouchTool, instead of saving it to the Desktop.
Manage your snippets and clipboard data with Paste
Paste is a clipboard manager that allows you to store multiple items for pasting later. It categorizes each item you copy and places it on its own section of the clipboard. You can change the name of categories whenever you like. Paste also syncs your Mac clipboard in iCloud, meaning you can access its pinboard on multiple devices. To paste an item you’ve copied into a document, just use Paste’s keyboard shortcut to view the pinboard, find the snippet of text, image, URL or whatever else you’ve copied, copy it and then paste it into your document.
Your Mac’s keyboard can be customized in many different ways. By creating shortcuts for function keys, and for combinations of other keys, you can work much more quickly and save time. There are lots of apps on Setapp that can help you create shortcuts and be much more productive, so why not download Setappfor free and try it out?