App of the Week – Remap your Mac’s Keyboard with KeyRemap4Macbook
Last summer, I bought a cheapo Windows-style keyboard off Amazon, and it was getting uncomfortable to reach down for the Windows key (which acts as command in OS X) and instead hitting the Alt/Option key just because I was so used to them being switched on my Mac keyboard. Not wanting to deal with this annoyance any longer, I turned to my old friend Google and discovered KeyRemap4Macbook. Despite its terrible name, KeyRemap4Macbook is a very full-featured key remapping program for your Mac. Open it up and you’ll see checkbox after checkbox with more options than you could ever imagine – it’s definitely worthy of an App of the Week review!
Platform Availability: Mac OS X 10.4 and up
Cost: It’s free! Download it here!
What it is: This great addition to your Mac’s System Preferences allowing you to reassign the function of virtually any key on your keyboard. Whether that’s making Alt/Option act as Command or F8 act as the Play/Pause button, regardless of the key/function combo you want, KeyRemap4Macbook will probably let you do it.
What it Does: After you install and open up the KeyRemap4Macbook menu, you’ll see a list of options to remap keys. Expand each menu and you’ll see even more options for pretty much any key you can imagine. Just check the box(es) for what you want and KeyRemap4Macbook does the rest.
Features: Search Function – KeyRemap4Macbook features many, many remapping options, so this great feature is a lifesaver. Type in the key or function you desire and KeyRemap4Macbook will intelligently display just what you’re looking for.
Pass Through Mode – Let’s say you’re working in a program where you need the keys to act as originally intended. KeyRemap4Macbook lets you turn off all functionality quickly and easily with three different options to toggle it on and off: Fn+Escape, holding Escape, and Escape + Tab.
Multitouch Gestures – This is kind of a gimmicky but still nice feature. KeyRemap4Macbook lets you turn on or off individual maps using multitouch controls. Not too useful but still shows the developer’s dedication to making a complete app.
Multiple Profiles – Wow! What a godsend this feature is! By having multiple profiles, KeyRemap4Macbook allows you to save different key mappings to different profiles. This allows you to customize your maps to even fit better with specific apps like Excel. Fantastic feature.
The Competition: I found one good alternative to KeyRemap4Macbook.
ControllerMate – $15 - Mac OS X 10.4.11 and Up
Why the Featured App is Best: If you check out its feature page, you’ll see that ControllerMate is a very cool app for precisely manipulating all your human interface devices. However, it’s rather complex to use and does cost $15. I always believe price is important so it’s hard to ignore how KeyRemap4Macbook is free. Of course if you really want that customizability, I think ControllerMate’s purchase price is more than justifiable.
Summary: KeyRemap4Macbook is a great free app that allows you to easily remap your keyboard with very many options. It’s slick, easy to use, and even features different profiles. If you’re looking for even more customizability, check out $15 ControllerMate. For most people however, KeyRemap4Macbook should do just fine.
What do you think of KeyRemap4Macbook vs. ControllerMate Let us know in the comments!