Most Mac users I know have their function keys mapped to control volume, brightness, and the like. However, most students don’t know that with a few modifier keys, you can gain a lot more control over these features.

Fine Tune Volume/Brightness Control

Many times, the default adjustment for the volume up/volume down buttons is just too imprecise, especially when you’re using headphones. To remedy this dilemma, here’s a handy tip to adjust your volume up or down by 1/4 of a whole level.

Increase your volume just a quarter step after today.To do so, you simply hold down the Alt and Shift keys while you press volume up, volume down, or any other Mac function key. For example, you can also fine-tune your display’s brightness with the same key combo.

Quick Access to System Preferences

Speed up your workflow with these handy keyboard shortcuts: If you hold down just the Alt key when pressing a function key, that will immediately open the preference pane associated with that function. For example, hitting Alt with Volume Up will launch the Sound Menu, Alt with Brightness Up will launch Display Menu, and Alt with Keyboard Brightness Up will launch – you guessed it – the Keyboard Menu. 

Super Duper Low Volume

If you’re ever in a situation where you want to put the volume just a tick above zero, hold down the Volume Down button until you’ve muted the sound, then hit the Mute Key. This will put the volume just above zero and is very handy for if you want to listen to your tunes inside the library but don’t have your headphones.

That’s it! You’ve now got the knowledge to master your Mac’s function keys and fine tune your hardware. One last thing: Unfortunately, Apple decided to leave Lion users out in the cold with the 1/4 step volume and brightness control feature and dropped it altogether from OS X 10.7. If you fall in that boat and want fine-tune control, you’ll have to manually adjust the sliders for sound and brightness from System Preferences.

Have you found any other cool uses associated with the function keys? Let us know in the comments!