How to Remap a Keyboard on a Mac

Customize your Mac to fit your needs

What to Know

  • Go to System Preferences > Keyboard > Shortcuts.
  • Choose an item from the left pane, and then select the current key shortcut. Type the new command you want to use.
  • You can't completely remap the keyboard.

You may not be able to make something different happen when you press the "F" key on your Mac, but you can set up custom shortcuts to make it easier to get around macOS. This article explains how to do it.

How Do You Reassign Keys on a Mac Keyboard?

Your Mac's System Preferences app contains various ways to add shortcuts and other features to your keyboard.

Screenshots in this article apply to a MacBook Pro; you may see some different menu options on a desktop Mac, but the process will be the same.

  1. Select the Apple menu on your Mac, and then click System Preferences.

    System Preferences in macOS
  2. Select Keyboard.

    Keyboard in macOS System Preferences
  3. If you're using a MacBook with a Touch Bar, you'll see an important option on the first screen: Press Fn key to:. You can use the Function key to do other things using this menu – Expand Control Strip, Show Quick Actions, and Show Spaces – but you should leave it at Show F1, F2, etc. Keys to make the next step work better.

    The "Press Fn key to" menu
  4. Click Shortcuts to see more options.

    The Shortcuts tab in Keyboard preferences
  5. In the left column, you'll see the different categories of shortcuts you can set. Browse them to create and change shortcuts for screenshots, accessibility, and the Function keys.

    Shortcuts categories in macOS
  6. When you find a shortcut you want to change, click the existing key combination on the right.

    A keyboard shortcut in macOS
  7. With the key command highlighted, press the new combination you want to use.

    Add one or more modifiers like Fn, Shift, Control, Option, and Command to create a unique shortcut.

  8. The new shortcut will replace the old one, and you can start using it immediately.

  9. Repeat these steps for all of the shortcuts you want to create or change. A command with no active shortcut will say none on the right side.

    The "none" label for a keyboard shortcut
  10. To disable a shortcut without deleting it, click the checkbox next to its name.

    The toggle checkbox for a macOS keyboard shortcut

What Kinds of Shortcuts Can I Create?

The Shortcuts tab includes several categories of commands you can set. Here's a quick rundown of each of their contents.

  • Launchpad & Dock: Call up the Mac Dock and Launchpad app.
  • Mission Control: Perform tasks like opening macOS' Notification Center, toggle Do Not Disturb, and show the Desktop.
  • Screenshots: Set shortcuts to take, save, copy, and paste all or part of your screen.
  • Services: Quickly send emails, post on Twitter, do internet searches, and more.
  • Spotlight: Open Spotlight Search to search both the web and your computer.
  • Accessibility: Turn on the Zoom feature, activate VoiceOver, and adjust display settings to make documents and applications easier to see.
  • Function Keys: Add applications to this window to show the F1, F2, etc., keys on a MacBook's Touch Bar instead of having to press the Fn key to reveal them.

Can I Reassign Keyboard Keys?

While you can use keyboard keys like letters and numbers in your shortcuts, you can't completely reassign them (for example, type in a different language). Instead, you can go to the Input Sources tab in Keyboard Preferences and use the plus button to add a different layout.

The plus sign in the Input Sources section of macOS Keyboard Preferences
FAQ
  • How do I temporarily lock my MacBook keyboard?

    Use the keyboard shortcut Control+Shift+Power to lock your MacBook or Command+Option+Power to put your MacBook to sleep. For extra security, disable automatic login so that authentication is required to unlock your computer.

  • How do I change the keyboard language on Mac?

    Go to Apple menu > System Preferences > Keyboard > Input sources and check the box next to Show Input menu in the menu bar. Select the Plus (+) in the lower-left corner and choose a language to add. To switch between installed language keyboards on macOS, select the Input menu in the menu bar and choose the language you want to use.

  • How do I enable the on-screen keyboard for Mac?

    Go to Apple menu > System Preferences > Accessibility > Keyboard > Accessibility Keyboard > Enable Accessibility Keyboard. You can also turn on the Accessibility Keyboard from the Input menu by selecting Show Keyboard Viewer.

  • How do I use the emoji keyboard on Mac?

    Press Control+Command+Spacebar to bring up emojis, then select the expand icon in the upper-right corner to open the Character Viewer. Alternatively, select Character Viewer from the Input menu. For some emojis, you can click and hold to see other variations.

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