How to remap a keyboard on a Mac

Use free software to swap keys around, reassign shortcuts, and even control your mouse cursor with your keyboard..

By Nathan Edwards

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Say you’re a Mac user who just got a fancy new keyboard, but it has a Windows layout. Or you want to use the same keyboard with both Windows and Mac machines. Or you’ve gotten used to a specific layout, and now your muscle memory is all wrong.

The biggest differences between Macs and Windows PCs are in the bottom row modifier keys. Windows computers have Ctrl, Win, and Alt, whereas Macs have Control, Option, and Command. macOS automatically maps the Alt to Option and Win to Command. But Windows uses the Control key for most of the shortcuts that Macs use the Command key for, which means you have to remember to copy / paste using your pinkie on one computer and using your index finger on another. Who wants that?

You could try to rewire your brain — and there’s something to be said for neuroplasticity — or you could remap your keyboard so the modifiers are where your fingers want them to be. 

If you have a fancy mechanical keyboard , it might come with software to let you remap the keys at the hardware level . Or your keyboard might have a Mac / Windows switch that flips the modifier positions. But you can remap any keyboard, including the one on your MacBook, with a couple of free macOS tools. 

How to remap modifier keys in macOS Ventura or Monterey

Screenshot of the Modifier Keys dialog in macOS Ventura.

If you just want to put the modifier keys where your fingers expect them to be, you can do that within macOS. 

If you’re using macOS Ventura:

If you’re using macOS Monterey:

Here you can swap the locations of Caps Lock, Control, Option, Command, and Function (or Globe) keys. On my MacBook’s built-in keyboard, I use this to put the Command key where Caps Lock usually goes since that’s where I put it on my other keyboards. On my external keyboard, I’ve already changed Caps Lock to Control in the firmware, so I use this tool to swap Control and Command, which puts Command on the Caps Lock key on that keyboard, too. 

Yes, this is weird. But not as weird as dedicating a giant key on the home row to Caps Lock. 

Remap your entire keyboard in macOS using Karabiner Elements

Screenshot of the Simple Modifications tab of Karabiner Elements

For more complex modifications or to remap other keys, you can use a free program called Karabiner Elements . Karabiner can assign just about any keycode to any key, as well as perform more complex modifications. I use it to swap the Backspace and backslash keys on my MacBook’s internal keyboard to match my external keyboard and swap Command and Control on my external keyboard in lieu of the built-in tool. 

Karabiner can do much more than just swap key positions, though. You can change the functions of the function keys, assign hotkeys to launch specific programs or send multiple keycodes with one key — turning Caps Lock into Cmd + Control + Option + Shift, for example. You can make keys do one thing when tapped and another when held, use the keyboard to control the mouse cursor, and more. And you can assign different behaviors to different keyboards. 

Screenshot of the “Complex Modifications” tab of Karabiner Elements

The easiest way to mess around with complex modifications using Karabiner is to download a few that other users have submitted . You can also write your own in a JSON file, but that’s way outside the scope of this article. Even the web GUI that was built to make it easier is not exactly beginner friendly. 

One word of caution: make sure you don’t double-dip. I couldn’t figure out why my Command and Control keys weren’t swapped until I realized that I had set up the same swap in both macOS and Karabiner Elements. To paraphrase Mitch Hedberg : I remapped a remap; it was back to normal. 

I’ve barely scratched the surface of Karabiner Elements myself. Though my preference is still for keyboards where you can do all of the above in firmware, Karabiner works on any old keyboard, and that’s why it’s great. 

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macOS User Guide

remap keys on mac

Change the behaviour of the modifier keys on Mac

You can change the action that modifier keys, such as Control or Option perform when you press them.

remap keys on mac

Open Keyboard settings for me

Click Keyboard Shortcuts on the right, then select Modifier Keys in the list on the left.

For each modifier whose default action you want to change, click the pop-up menu, then choose the action you want performed when you press the key or choose No Action.

For example, if you’re used to a keyboard that had the Control key where the Caps Lock key is located on an Apple keyboard, you could click the Caps Lock pop-up menu, then choose Control to have that action performed whenever you press the Caps Lock key.

To return the keys to their original settings, click Restore Defaults.


How To Remap Keys On Your Mac

When Apple designed the MacBook keyboards, they were probably thinking of which commands we will be using the most when they assigned shortcuts to specific functions, but as with everything else that is being used by millions of people, actual usage does not always align with intended purpose, so many default keys are left unused while some missing keys remain desired. If you have a lot of unused keyboard shortcuts yourself and would like to replace their functions with something that you actually use, below is a guide on how to remap keys on your Mac.

Which Keys Can You Remap?

There are several sets of keys on your Mac keyboard that perform individual functions. You can modify the functions of some keys, but there are some that you cannot. Among the sets of keys that the functions of which you can easily change and remap according to your needs are the function and modifier keys.

The function keys are usually located at the top most part of your keyboard and are either marked with a letter F followed by a number (e.g. F1, F2, F3, etc.) or an icon that signifies what they do (e.g. sun icon for brightness and speaker icon for volume).

The modifier keys, on the other hand, are the sets of keys that you use in combination with another key to perform specific functions like the CMD, CTRL, Caps Lock, Shift, and Option keys.


What Do Function Keys Do?

Traditionally, Function keys were designed to work as shortcuts to system-related commands usually buried under convoluted menus and submenus; however, since they are not frequently used by the average user, Function keys have been increasingly remapped to provide quick access to basic customization tools (like brightness or volume control) although their traditional functions have not been completely removed but simply delegated to the backseat instead.*

For example, in the current Mac keyboard design,

*To use the traditional functions of the Function keys, you have to press F1 or F2 together with the Fn key.

**F5 and F6 has no specific function attached to it by default.

What Do Modifier Keys Do?

Like Function keys, modifier keys also work as keyboard shortcuts to frequently used commands. Some examples of commands that your modifier keys are assigned to perform by default are:

Aside from being used as keyboard shortcuts for system-wide commands, modifier keys can also be used to execute application-specific commands like:

How to Remap Keys on Your Mac

If you are not happy with the default functions of your Function and Modifier keys, you can easily remap the keys on your Mac to assign keyboard shortcuts according to your specific needs and preferences.

To remap the Function keys and change how they work,

Go to the Apple menu

To remap the modifier keys and assigned new key combinations for shortcuts,

This works for system-wide commands; however, you can also remap keys to perform certain functions while particular certain apps.

To do this,

Just make sure that the new keyboard shortcut that you created isn’t already assigned to another command. Otherwise, it’s not going to work unless you will change the shortcut that was created first. If you don’t know which keyboard shortcuts have already been assigned to which commands, you can use this detailed list for reference.

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Eduardo Ferrara

Been trying to remap num pad comma into as period with no luck, tried Karabiner app with no avail either, using a regular windows keyboard in imac with high sierra, any ideas ?

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is it possible to program a/any key to load me email address when pressed….?

I am sick of typing my long email address many times a day….!!!

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You can go to System Preferences > Keyboard > Text Replacement. There you can map what shortcut will transform into the phrase you’d like to use. I have hundreds of these set up myself, including phone number and email.

For example for Email & Website I use: @work – [REDACTED] @site – https://www.[REDACTED].com

You can also do it, like me, with common abbreviations. Example: obv – obviously np – no problem omwh – on my way home

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I’ve got the exact same problem as Laura except that I programmed “Show the Desktop” to the Control (Ctrl) key and there is only one – on the left! Now, I have to hit the Ctrl key twice (with a display of the Desktop in between) before I can use it as a modifier. I cannot get it back to do what it’s supposed to do! The real problem is that I forgot how I programmed it!!…

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I’ve programmed my right shift key to take me to the desktop, but I want to put it back to its normal function? Everything I read refers to modifier or function keys. But the right shift key is not one of them.

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Hi Laura. I believe the assignment option you’re looking for isn’t found under Keyboard Preferences, but rather at System Preferences>Mission Control>Keyboard and Mouse Shortcuts, where you’ll find the assignment options for Mission Control, Desktop, Dashboard and Application windows.

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Dick FeldmAn

This is all fine, but I would like to remap “caps lock” to “forward delete.” Is this impossible? I’m running Catalina. Karabiner does not seem to work. What can I use?

(Cancel Reply)

How to Remap a Keyboard on a Mac

Customize your mac to fit your needs.

remap keys on mac

remap keys on mac

What to Know

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.

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

Select Keyboard .

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.

Click Shortcuts to see more options.

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.

When you find a shortcut you want to change, click the existing key combination on the right.

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.

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

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.

To disable a shortcut without deleting it, click the checkbox next to its name.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 .

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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The one setting every Windows user should know when switching to Mac


Recently, I did a thing: I switched my heavyweight Windows PC for a docked 16-inch MacBook Pro . The hardest part of the transition, surprisingly, wasn't the data transferring or assimilation to Apple's bubblier operating system. 

Also: This free utility is so simple and useful, it should be shipped with every Mac

It was the fact that, for years, I had gotten so used to reaching over to the bottom-left corner of the keyboard for the Control key in order to select all (Ctrl+A,) copy (Ctrl+C,) paste (Ctrl+V,) and do all the other useful Windows-based shortcuts , that by the time I was presented with the MacBook's repositioned Control key alternative, the Command key, my muscle memory was beginning to question itself.

So what if I told you you can remap the Apple keyboard so that the Globe key, which is situated where the Control key is typically found on a Windows layout, serves as the Command key instead? Here's the lowdown.

Also:  The best ergonomic keyboards

(Even if you've always been a Mac user, and everything I just wrote meant nothing to you, you'll still want to read this. There's a good chance that the following remapping feature will benefit you just as much, too.)

How to remap the Globe key into the Command key

1. open up keyboard settings.

Let's start by running a Spotlight Search (clicking the magnifying glass on the top right of the status bar) and searching for "Keyboard." Hit return and the Keyboard settings should open, presenting you with a slew of adjustable options.

You can also access this menu by clicking the Apple icon on the top left of the status bar > System Preferences > and then Keyboard.

2. Open Modifier Keys

On the bottom right of the Keyboard settings should be a button labeled "Modifier Keys...". It is here where you can remap and modify what each key to the left of the spacebar can do, like changing the Globe key to trigger the Command action instead.


3. Remap the Globe key to Command

Make sure "Apple Internal Keyboard / Trackpad" is selected on the top menu and then set Globe key's action to Command. If you still want the functionality of the now-replaced Globe key, you're welcome to remap it elsewhere.

Note: There is a "Control key" on the Mac keyboard but it doesn't function the same as that on Windows. The Command key is the direct alternative.


How this helps

From a Windows user perspective, being able to still access my usual keyboard shortcuts -- and by usual I mean ones I use dozens of times a day -- without searching for the right combination of keys increases my productivity. It's also a more natural and effortless action to shift my pinky downward to press and hold the new Command key versus tucking my thumb underneath my hand to hit the old one.

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How to Remap Your Mac's Function Keys to Do Anything You Want

Here's how to remap your Mac keyboard to boost the function keys, which can do so much more with some customization.

Are there any function keys on your Mac’s keyboard that seem useless to you? You can reprogram them to be more useful!

Remap a function key to take a screenshot instead of revealing active apps in Mission Control. Or change a key that normally opens Launchpad to instead bring up the emoji viewer, or a menu bar calendar of your choice.

Such changes are easy to make, as we’ll see below. But first, let’s take a closer look at function key behavior itself.

The Dual Role of Function Keys

By default, the function keys on your Mac’s keyboard trigger the actions indicated by the icons printed on them. Accordingly, the F1 and F2 keys adjust the screen brightness, the F3 key triggers Mission Control, the F4 key opens Launchpad, and so on.

They can also operate as regular function keys (F-keys) though, which are keys that can be programmed (or reprogrammed) to perform certain actions on your computer or in particular applications.

To use the old-fashioned F-keys, you have to hold down the Fn key as a modifier. macOS doesn’t have a default action linked to any F-keys except F11 and F12 when you do this, so they won’t do anything when pressed.

That’s where remapping these keys come in. We’ll tell you how to add actions to these empty keys in the sections below.

Meanwhile, would you prefer your function keys to default to being regular F-keys? That’s pretty easy to accomplish.

How to Use Function Keys as Standard F-Keys

Visit System Preferences > Keyboard > Keyboard and select the checkbox for Use all F1, F2 etc. keys as standard function keys .

Now the F1 , F2 , and other keys work as regular function keys, and you’ll have to use the Fn key modifier to access the printed symbol functions.

Actions to Assign to Function Keys

You can program many different actions onto your Mac’s function keys to make using your Mac a lot easier. It’s good to think about what specific actions you’ll want on each key so you can plan out your function key remapping efficiently.

Some actions we’d consider putting on F-keys are ones with hard-to-remember shortcuts, like the emoji viewer ( Control + Cmd + Space ).

You could also have a function key launch Calendar, Mail, or the Notification Center for you, if you use those a lot.

A word count F-key to run a macOS word counter script when you select text is another useful idea. As is a key that activates Spoken Content on your Mac , and a page reload key.

Many special macOS services also make great candidates for function key shortcuts, which you can assign from System Preferences > Keyboard > Shortcuts > Services .

Remapping Function Keys in System Preferences

To remap individual function keys to do your bidding, visit System Preferences > Keyboard > Shortcuts . That’s the same location for customizing keyboard shortcuts on macOS .

Here you’ll find two panes: one shows a menu of different macOS functions and settings and the other shows the list of actions you can perform with a keyboard shortcut or function key under that menu listing.

To alter or add a function key to an existing action, it must have the box beside it checked.

Once it does, you can click into the text box containing the function key, shortcut, or none text to the right of the action name, and hit the F-key you want to program the action onto.

As an example, say you want to toggle the Do Not Disturb mode using the F10 key. To program the F10 key, go to Mission Control in the settings pane, and ensure the box next to Turn Do Not Disturb On/Off is checked.

Click on none or the current shortcut, and hit F10 on your keyboard. Go ahead and hit F10 again—you’ll now be toggling Do Not Disturb on and off!

Some actions need to be added into your Shortcuts tab before you can assign them to a function key. This can include actions for specific apps, as well as actions that can apply to your entire computer.

Perhaps you want to be able to enter full-screen mode in any app on your Mac by hitting the F11 key. This action doesn’t exist in the macOS system settings, but it does exist in basically every app.

To add this action, head to App Shortcuts in the settings pane, and hit the plus (+) button below the actions pane. A window will appear for adding an action.

We’ll want the Application dropdown in this window to be All Applications for this example, but you can set it to specific apps for other actions.

The text in Menu Title needs to perfectly match the way and action is labeled in menus of applications. In this case, going into full-screen mode usually reads as Enter Full Screen under the View tab of most apps, so that’s what we’ll type into the box here.

Finally, to set Keyboard Shortcut , click on the text box beside it, and hit F11 on your keyboard. Click Add , and now when you hit F11 your active app will go into full-screen mode!

If you want to exit full-screen mode with F11 as well, you’ll need to add exiting full-screen mode as a separate action. Simply follow the steps above with Exit Full Screen in Menu Title instead, and now F11 will let you toggle full-screen mode.

Remapping Function Keys With Third-Party Apps

You can also program actions onto your function keys with third-party applications like Keyboard Maestro and Karbiner-Elements.

Keyboard Maestro and Karbiner-Elements both let you assign actions to function keys like you can in System Preferences, but they also let you design macros which you can assign to function keys as well.

Another app you might want is FunctionFlip, which lets you keep some function keys operating with its default actions while turning others into regular F-keys for you to program.

The best app to use depends on how much you want to customize your Mac’s keyboard behavior . But for more involved or complicated actions, a third-party app will give you more options than adjusting options in System Preferences.

Download: Keyboard Maestro ($36, free trial available)

Download: Karabiner-Elements (Free)

Download: FunctionFlip (Free)

Troubleshooting Function Key Issues

You might run into a few problems while remapping function keys, but there are workarounds for them:

Download: BetterTouchTool ($9 for 2 years or $21 for lifetime access, free trial available)

Make the Function Keys More Useful

The function keys on your Mac’s keyboard are an underused resource. We hope we’ve inspired you to use yours more with our instructions and tips for remapping them. And we hope programming your function keys makes using your Mac easier than ever!

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Easy way to remap non-modifier keys on Mac?

I want to remap § to ` and ± to ~ on my Mac keyboard because they are located in a place I am not used to. Is there an easy way to do this?

bmike's user avatar

3 Answers 3

Remapping § to ` and ± to ~ worked on my Mac (running OS X 10.15.6) without additional software with the following code snippet.

To do this automatically at startup - Create a new file named ~/Library/LaunchAgents/com.user.loginscript.plist

with the following content:

The file needs to be registered with a one-off execution of the following command:

See also this solution which explains how to use Automator instead of launchctl .

Gal Bracha's user avatar

The two apps most commonly used to do this are

There’s a lot of other options , but these are the easiest in practice for most people to just manage their layouts easily.

Tom Gewecke's user avatar

Here is explains "EXACTLY" the problem that I am having with a simple solution.

You need to update karabiner.json and add this part:

You must log in to answer this question.

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Remapping of keys in Mac OS X

My MBP comes with a Turkish keyboard but I'm using US layout. However, the key just under ESC gives § instead of ` (back-quote) which I frequently use.

I need to remap this key but I couldn't find any information except remapping of modifier keys. How can I do it?

Gaff's user avatar

3 Answers 3

Try KeyRemap4MacBook . It seems to offer a lot of options. Maybe it will fix your problem as well. Here's what it says about it:

This is a very powerful keyboard remapper for Mac OS X. In addition to simple key remapping, it has special remapping modes like Emacs-mode, SandS-mode (Space and Shift).

Ixanezis's user avatar

You can use the hidutil command-line tool, which comes with macOS since Sierra 10.12:

The keys are referenced by Usage ID from the USB HID Usage Tables Specification. The section key § is listed as "Keyboard Non-US \ and |" (0x64, see ) and backtick ` is "Keyboard Grave Accent and Tilde" (0x35).

siho's user avatar

Mac 10.12 sierra users should use this:

DMG download:

In "From key", I selected the option with Japanese characters and in To key I selected GRAVE_ACCENT_AND_TILDE (`) .


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  1. How to remap a keyboard on a Mac

    How to remap modifier keys in macOS Ventura or Monterey · Open System Settings, scroll to Keyboard, and select Keyboard Shortcuts… · Hit Modifier

  2. Change the behavior of the modifier keys on Mac

    On your Mac, choose Apple menu > System Settings, then click Keyboard in the sidebar. · Click Keyboard Shortcuts on the right, then select Modifier Keys in the

  3. Change the behaviour of the modifier keys on Mac

    On your Mac, choose Apple menu > System Settings, then click Keyboard in the sidebar. · Click Keyboard Shortcuts on the right, then select Modifier Keys in the

  4. How To Remap Keys On Your Mac

    How to Remap Keys on Your Mac · Open “System Preferences,” · Click on the “Keyboard” tab. · Select “Shortcuts.” · Select “Use all F1, F2, etc. keys as standard

  5. How to Remap a Keyboard on a Mac

    How Do You Reassign Keys on a Mac Keyboard? · Select the Apple menu on your Mac, and then click System Preferences. · Select Keyboard. · If you're

  6. How to Remap Keys on Mac OS?

    If it helped, please SUBSCRIBE: is a short tutorial to show you how to remap keys on Mac OS and MacBook.

  7. How to remap the Command key on a Mac keyboard

    On the bottom right of the Keyboard settings should be a button labeled "Modifier Keys...". It is here where you can remap and modify what each

  8. How to Remap Your Mac's Function Keys to Do Anything You Want

    To remap individual function keys to do your bidding, visit System Preferences > Keyboard > Shortcuts. That's the same location for customizing

  9. Easy way to remap non-modifier keys on Mac?

    Remapping § to ` and ± to ~ worked on my Mac (running OS X 10.15.6) without additional software with the following code snippet.

  10. Remapping of keys in Mac OS X

    This is a very powerful keyboard remapper for Mac OS X. In addition to simple key remapping, it has special remapping modes like Emacs-mode