six colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Dan Moren

FunctionFlip for your flipping f-keys

My dad’s 2008 MacBook—the good old aluminum model that didn’t have a FireWire port—gave up the ghost a couple weeks ago, and after determining that it wasn’t worth fixing, we finally replaced it yesterday with a new 13-inch MacBook Pro.

But as I was setting up the new machine for him, I ran into an interesting situation. My dad still likes to use Dashboard for quick access to the calculator widget1, but the keyboards on the MBPs have long since done away with the Dashboard button in favor of Launchpad’2.

You can turn off Launchpad in System Preferences → Keyboard → Shortcuts, but even if you assign Dashboard to the same key—F4—it will only work when you hit the key combination Fn-F4. Alternatively, you can turn all the Mac’s special shortcut keys into standard function keys, but then none of the other shortcuts (volume, brightness, etc.) will work without holding down the Function key.

To solve this, I dug around and located the long-running FunctionFlip by Kevin Gessner, which I first wrote up back in 2008 when I got my own aluminum MacBook. Good news! It still works flawlessly on El Capitan.

After installing the preference pane and giving it permission via the Security & Privacy System Preference pane, I told it to flip just the F4 key, which I had assigned to Dashboard. Now my dad can still bring up his widgets without having to hold the Function key, and without interfering with any of the other handy keyboard shortcuts.

It’s a niche tool, to be sure, but once set up, it does a perfect job of handling that single task without any further intervention.

  1. I showed him Spotlight. And the Notification Center calculator widget but, well, he likes things his way. Can’t blame him for that. ↩

  2. Incidentally, still probably my least favorite iOS-like feature to make the jump to the Mac. ↩

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[Dan Moren is a tech writer, novelist, podcaster, and the Official Dan of Six Colors. You can email him at or find him on Twitter at @dmoren.]