Why should I use function keys?

I’ve never used functions keys, if I misclick one I usually freak out because I don’t know what it did.

So I have a question for you, what do you love about function keys that you can’t live without?

Do you mean the F-keys (like F1-F12) or an actual “Function” key like on a Poker?

If you meant F-keys, well, F1 is usually “Help” on Windows and Linux and sometimes macOS, F5 is reload in most browsers, Alt+F4 is close window… But I think that most people don’t really use these keys much, hence the popularity of layouts like 68% and smaller. I think part of the problem is that there’s not really widespread agreement on what is or isn’t off-limits for the F-keys - some of them are taken by the OS (well, the window manager), some of them are application-specific, and most people have no idea what they’ll do, so they just don’t use them.

I use Karabiner on Mac to remap the function keys on my KBD75 to the Mac specific keys e.g Launchpad, media controls etc.

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I use the function row for media functions such as lower volume, mute, etc. together with the Fn key. Whenever I play RTS games like Starcraft 2 or Company of Heroes 2, F10 brings up the menu not Esc key. I just can’t live without the function row. I believe games make use of them which is probably why most gamers have TKL/full-size keyboards not smaller than TKL.

I don’t love anything about them, they are required to do my work. F2 - renaming stuff, F3 - searching stuff, F5 - reloading/executing stuff, F6 - bulding stuff, F8-F12 debugging stuff.

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I forgot to map them on my AMJ40 and didn’t notice for two months, which I think tells me all I really need to know.

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The only ‘nice’ thing about Function keys is they provide a lot of single key shortcuts. I use a number of them a lot, and there’s some particularly useful (if esoteric) function key combos in Windows. Keyboard shortcuts are called shortcuts for a reason :slight_smile:


I’m and Android developer and use the Android Studio and Intellij development tools (IDEs). These tools work best when you learn all the shortcut keys instead of constantly having to reach for the mouse. While they do have the ability to define your own custom key mappings, the default mappings use all the function keys and it’s really impractical trying to find alternative mappings.

Although I’d love to use the smaller keyboards, it turns out that I can only really work effectively with a tenkeyless board that has all the function keys. A number of common shortcuts involve 2 meta keys plus a function key and adding a function layer key into that combination just isn’t comfortable or efficient. I tried to use the WhiteFox for about 3 months but gave up eventually because it didn’t have hardware function keys. As soon as I switched back to my old WASD tenkeyless board programming was so much easier. Although I really love the feel of the WhiteFox, it now lives permanently in it’s case on a shelf.

Did you try setting macros for those? Or maybe setting a fn key that does both of your meta keys as well?

It would probably take more time to set up and get used to, but if you still have that whitefox sitting around I can maybe help you get something usable on it.

Thanks for the offer jetpack. No I didn’t try macros. I have such strong muscle memory for all the Intellij shortcuts that I was trying to avoid rocking that boat. What I tried was to setup a single latch key that I could just quickly bang and then do my normal shortcut combos thereby not really requiring me to learn new key combos. But I found that to be a pain when I was doing a bunch of shortcuts in a row. So I added another key to lock the function layer and that just really screwed me up because I would keep forgetting if I’d hit it or not. Anyway, I was spending so much time thinking about my key pressing instead of coding, that I just gave up.

The other thing that I really like about having actual F keys is that that they are usually separated into 3 groups of 4 keys. The space between them makes it really easy to “feel” your way to the correct key. My WASD keyboard has blank key caps, so that spacing is a very nice aid when you never look at your keyboard.

I think I’ll give my daughter the WhiteFox for university in September. I’m trying to turn her into a geek like me, so giving her the WhiteFox will help.

In the meantime, I bought 2 smaller keyboards to try (I’m not giving up) and 2 tenkeyless boards. The smaller boards are a HKKB (white) because I want to see what all the hype is all about. I realise that it will probably be worse than WhiteFox to get used to, but I wanted to try it out anyway. The other small board is the Happy Hacking Keyboard which I think I’m going to really like. It will be great to position the 2 halves to put less stress on my arms and wrists. I bought a couple of the module addons, most importantly, the 3 extra buttons which will make it really easy to map those extra keys to help me to access the Fn layer keys using my left thumb. I think that will be fast and intuitive.

The 2 tenkeyless boards are the Massdrop x MiTo Canvas CTRL and a Topre RealForce 87U white version. It’s frustrating waiting for all these purchases. The Topre boards will be hear at the end of August, the Happy Hacking keyboard at the end of September, and the Canvas CTRL in end of November.

Whats the second keyboard? HHKB is the Happy Hacking Keyboard.

Sorry, I meant the Ultimate Hacking Keyboard. Those names are too darn similar.

Yeah that’s pretty valid. You tried ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

There’s a couple layouts that fit between TKL and 60% – if you want to keep your function row, then a 75% board (KBD75 or XD84) would give you all the keys of a TKL in a more compact form – but then you miss out on all the TKL kustoms coming out …

Yes, I’ve seen those 75% boards and they look interesting. I guess I’ll try out the boards I’ve got coming first before spending anymore money. And, actually, in the end, I’m not really that worried about desk space. Speed is my only real concern, so which ever keyboard is going to be fastest to type on and not require me to ever look down at the keyboard, is the type of board I want to use. And I think that the spacing of the keys on the TLK boards (for me) make if easier to type faster with less mistakes (key misses).

Personally, I only use function keys are only useful with videogames (Kerbal Space Program and Planet Coaster) so most of the time I don’t even need them.

With the Q100, I used the function row for media keys most of the time, or to connect the board via Bluetooth to my laptop.

I use function keys pretty frequently, but only a handful of them - F5, F10, F11 - for debugging in Visual Studio. And on my Macs I use F12 as my iTerm2 hotkey (quake-style pop down from top of the screen).

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Hey jetpacktuxedo, just received the first of my keyboards that I’ve been waiting for; it’s the RealForce 87U TKL and I love it. It’s so much nicer than the WASD TKL I was using. Now I know what everyone means when they talk about the Topre feel (and sound).

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