Monday, January 5, 2009 [Tweets] [Favorites]

KeyRemap4MacBook

Apple’s newer notebooks have a second Option key on the right instead of the more useful Enter key that was present all the way back to the original PowerBooks. KeyRemap4MacBook is a kernel extension for remapping this key (and others) to do what you want (via Ken Case).

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Not universally, in that case. My sister's PowerBook G3 (Wallstreet/266) has an option key, which I missed terribly when I switched back a few years ago, until I realized that OmniWeb (yes, by Ken Case) could take advantage of the enter key to jump immediately to any "Next" link on the current page.

My mistake. It looks like the PowerBook G3s and the first round of iBooks and PowerBook G4s had Option instead of Enter.

Given Apple’s history of flip-flopping on what that key is (it’s Enter on my PowerBook G4 and MacBook Pro, but I long for the Option of my PowerBook G3), it boggles my mind that Apple hasn’t added the Enter/Option pair to the keys Mac OS X supports remapping. Surely there are enough denizens of 1 Infinite Loop suffering from the same key dilemma who would prefer not to use kernel extension hacks.

I suffered through uControl on 10.2 and 10.3 but gave up on the kernel extension hack dance after that.

I'm a computer technician specializing in Apple laptops, and I should note that I've seen at least one case where a unibody macbook with keyremap4macbook installed was experiencing intermittent kernel panics. That's only the flimsiest evidence of anything, of course, but given that people have reported kernel panics in the past with various iterations of this software, and that it has not been updated since May (ie, long before the new portables), I would advise anybody interested in this solution to exercise a good bit of caution.

DoubleCommand does certain things better than KeyRemap4MacBook...

FWIW, I think my first generation Titanium PowerBook G4 already had the enter key. And I'm fairly sure the same is true for my mum's 'Pismo' G3 Powerbook.

I'll second Chucky's recommendation of DoubleCommand. It's not exactly pretty but does the job. (I probably chose it because it's web site doesn't look like ass and it doesn't use the word emacs in its description.)

OK, I think I have this right now. The Macs that I mentioned above have Option and Enter keys. The newer notebooks have Command and Enter keys. The new unibody notebooks have Command and Option. So I think I was right to begin with about Enter being available, but I was temporarily confused by what Jesper wrote.

I wouldn’t install a kernel extension for this feature, and I agree with Smokey Ardisson that it should be a built-in option in System Preferences.

"I wouldn’t install a kernel extension for this feature, and I agree with Smokey Ardisson that it should be a built-in option in System Preferences."

Indeed, but it almost definitely never will be supported via System Preferences. That doesn't seem within Apple's mindset.

I'm also allergic to kernel extensions, but I've been using DoubleCommand for quite a while now without any problems whatsoever.

(The killer feature of DoubleCommand for me is being able to let the fn key work as a ctrl key. On a notebook, I want to get to contextual menus with an easy to hit key - ala Fitts Law on the keyboard. The other DoubleCommand remapping features also work well.)

Chucky: Can’t you just use a two finger tap to get the contextual menus? Or is your notebook too old?

Let me confuse you even more, then. My original MacBook (first, white version) has the enter key, and somewhere along the way, they changed it, because the MacBook Pro I'm typing this on has the option key.

Jesper: I agree about the MacBook; that’s consistent with what I wrote. Are you saying that you have a non-unibody MacBook Pro without an Enter key?

Yep. I bought my MBP last spring. Sometime between July 2006 and April 2008, they changed from Enter to second option.

Now that I think about it, it seems like it could have been when they remade the keyboards to be consistent with the thin aluminium USB keyboard anyway, when the Exposé, Dashboard, Play/Pause, Rewind and Fast Forward keys were put in. That narrows it down to from August 2007, when the USB keyboard came out, to April 2008. Probably the MacBook update that happened just before Christmas 2007.

Jesper: That sounds right. My MacBook Pro is from Late 2006, and it has Enter.

Chucky: In the Keyboard & Mouse preference pane, Apple already includes the ability to set what function Caps Lock, Control, Option, and Command perform. Just not Enter, perhaps because it is not a "modifier key" ;-)

Jesper: My MacBook Pro still has Enter, and it dates from late August/early September 2007, so your Christmas 2007 date sounds like a good candidate.

Mike:

Just tumbled on your blog from google, great stuff you got going on here. I am a raved advocate of the MacBook circa September 2008 when i got mine! Thanks for all the great tips and tools!

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