Function Lock?!

flockkey.jpg

Ok, this has been something that’s been annoying me for quite some time. Who’s bright idea was it to come up with the Function Lock key? Apparently it was Microsoft. No surprise. If it was just another useless key like SrcLk then I wouldn’t care. But the fact that it totally changes purpose of ALL of the F-Keys and others. It’s really annoying. Here I’ll talk about my experience with a couple F-Lock “enhanced” keyboards and what I did to “fix” them.

The real reason why this annoys me is really because it changes the Insert key. I frequently use SSH programs like PuTTY and Tectia SSH Client (they used to have a free version, but no more.) So when using these programs you need to use Ctrl+Insert to copy and Shift+Insert to paste because Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V actually have a special meaning to the remote machine. (BTW this is the way most programs worked until someone had to come and change it… I’ll blame Microsoft for that one too)

For whatever reason, the Insert key is joined with the PrtScn button on these keyboards. Apparently they thought I would be using PrtScn more than Insert.

Microsoft Natural Keyboard

ms-natural-multimedia-keyboard.jpg

The MS Natural MultiMedia Keyboard has the F-Lock off at power up, and with F-Lock off, the F-Keys aren’t F-Keys, they are their alternate function. Also with F-Lock off, the Insert key isn’t insert, it’s PrtScn. So with this keyboard, every time I boot my PC I need to hit the F-Lock key to get Insert to work instead of PrtScn. Seems trivial, but gets very annoying after awhile.

Logitech Office Comfort Keyboard

logitechkeyboard.jpg

This Logitech keyboard does a little better job. On a whim, I purchased this five pack of keyboards for $25. The F-Lock is still off at power up, but the F-Keys are opposite of the MS keyboard. Meaning, with F-Lock off, they act like F-Keys not the goofy alternate function. The other think I like is that they use a more normal layout for the PageUp, PageDown, Home, End, and Delete keys. They just make the Delete key extra big and moved Insert up to the PrtScn button. The downside is that you still must press F-Lock to use Insert, like the MS keyboard. My only other complaint with this keyboard is they made the right shift key smaller than normal.

The Fix

If found this awesome little utility called KeyTweak. It makes use of Microsoft’s Scancode Map registry key to remap your keyboard. This means that it doesn’t run any silly program in your system tray all the time. It just modifies the registry and then it’s done.

With the Logitech keyboard I created very simple mapping and effectively swapped Insert and PrtScn keys. That way I don’t have to touch F-Lock unless I want to use PrnScn and everything is as it should be. For now, I’ll stick with the Logitech keyboard. It’s a little smaller than the MS keyboard so it doesn’t take up as much space. Plus, I’ve got five of them now, so I better get typing.

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9 Responses to Function Lock?!

  1. Michael Mc says:

    😮

    Oh my!

    $25 for FIVE KEYBOARDS?

    Woah. Tech stuff is so cheap in America… I know that’s probably a business price, but wow. That’s about £13 here… that’s a VERY good price.

  2. Jason says:

    Finally someone is as annoyed as I have been with having to hit the funtion lock key everytime I boot up with my Microsoft Keyoard. Of course I always forget and end up initiating whatever Microsoft task is assigned to the key instead.

  3. IronKurton says:

    bah. I have an annoying F-lock keyboard at home. It’s an older logitech keyboard (not ergo). Thank you for bringing this up.

    On another note, whose bright idea was it to start switching around insert/delete/pg up/down/home/end keys?! I don’t want them larger. I don’t want them smaller. I don’t want them transposed (think about transposing a matrix).

    As far as blaming microsoft for ctrl-insert and shift-insert, I’m not sure what you mean… Those are still functional in windows (and sometimes linux). Plus you also have the functionality of ctrl-c and ctrl-v. Best of both worlds. I use ctrl-insert and shift-insert all the time in non-putty windows. This probably stems from way back in the DOS days when I played around with QBasic a lot.

    Now if only Apple would change their keyboard combinations to ctrl-v and ctrl-c (hell, I could even live without shift-insert and ctrl-insert). End should go to end of line. Ctrl-end is for end of file. Get it right Apple!

  4. Mike Sullivan says:

    The Microsoft Natural Keyboard 4000 has the F-lock, but it doesn’t reset itself each time you reboot. Leave it on F-key functionality, and it stays that way. Also, this keyboard has the standard key arrangements for Insert, Home, PgUp, PgDn, End, Delete, and cursor arrows. Separate PrtScrn/SysReq, ScrlLk, and Pause/Break keys. It also has some idiotic programmable keys, and a key that brings up the Windows calculator, a zoom slider (which seems to scroll on web pages) and back/forward browser buttons. Very nice ergonomic layout, and it’s available in an OEM package (brown box instead of retail box) from newegg.com for much less than the retail version.

  5. Speaking of useless keys, here’s my own take on Caps Lock and a Copy/Paste key: http://blog.codedread.com/archives/2006/03/14/k-twang-a-stray-thought/

  6. You are right in blaming Microsoft for the Ctrl-C/Ctrl-V confusion. I’m amazed how many Windows users these days don’t realize three things about keyboard shortcuts:

    1. Apple invented the shortcuts “modifier-C for copy”, “modifier-P for print”, “modifier-S for save”, etc. as part of the original Macintosh design in 1984, but the Command (aka open-apple or cloverleaf) key on Mac keyboards was dedicated to that purpose (as the modifier key) specifically because…

    2. The Control key already had an established meaning in terminal emulation software inherited from dumb terminals like the DEC VT series, e.g. standards like Ctrl-C = “send ASCII BREAK to remote host”, and that’s also part of the reason why…

    3. Before Windows there were at least three competing standards for the cut/copy/paste shortcuts: those established by Borland products (Turbo Pascal etc.); Microsoft (the DOS version of Word, QuickBASIC, and others); and WordStar (probably experienced by more people in the text editor module of Sidekick).

    All of which means that whoever at Microsoft decided to adapt the Apple standard, but using the Ctrl key, was a colossal dope, because we’ve been inflicted with a confusion between Ctrl-for-terminal-control and Ctrl-for-Windows-shortcuts for the past 20 years. (Why didn’t they choose Alt?!?)

  7. Tyler says:

    I sat down to one of these at work a while back. I spent a good hour trying to diagnose why VNC wasn’t giving me the usual menu when I hit F8. I was tracing system calls and checking keyboard maps all over the OS until I finally questioned the keyboard itself.

    I have the luxury of being the de facto IT person for our lab, so that god damn piece of crap got cast into the deepest, darkest storage box we had.

    It’s still there to this day. Watching. Waiting. Biding it’s time until it can feed on human frustration again.

  8. Ilya Shubin says:

    Dear “cheap” Microsoft…My opinion. The best keyboard is a rectangle shape. It is cheap and convenient… Price example = 7 $

  9. IuliusAugutus says:

    I`m using a Microsoft Elite for Bluetooth Keyboard and that nasty Insert key is killing me 😦

    most of the time i prefer to swap the NumLook button and use 0 as INS but in next few minutes i must use a number and …. switch back the NumLook and …we start again

    the INS key is the most used key in Total Commander ..where is making the selection …the other way is Down Arrow+Space …witch does a sum of files too…but for folders is far slower to “just select” INS key

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