Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The demise of the function key


I recently upgrade to a new Dell Studio 15 and retired my old Inspiron. One thing I've noticed is the function keys are now secondary - these keys are now multimedia/system functions by default and you need to use the blue Fn key to activate the old F1-12 behaviour. Other Dell and Apple laptops (at least) seem to be doing the same thing.

Is this the end of the function key? The Litl keyboard got rid of them entirely. The key combination to use them on my laptop is sufficiently difficult that they might as well not exist for me.

So this leads me to the conclusion:
- I can never rely on function key shortcuts in any software I write.
- The existing window management shortcuts (e.g. alt-F4 to close window) don't work anymore. Now I understand when people complain how applications don't consistently bind the same key to close window (Ctrl+Q or Ctrl+W or something else or nothing?).
- At the Lucid UDS we discussed Compiz keybindings - often these were bound to function keys. I notice the macbook uses the old F3 key for "show all windows". I hope some standard could emerge for these functions on PC keyboards.

I can't say I'm going to miss them overly.
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