Finding, Installing, and Configuring a Keyboard

The keyboard is one of the most fundamental, and at the same time, simplest devices in your system. You are likely to spend most of your "Mac" time pounding on its keys, so it pays to make sure you have a keyboard you like.

Choosing and Installing a Keyboard

All Macs come with a keyboard of one type or another, so if you are happy with the keyboard that came with your Mac, there is no need to consider another type. The most recent Apple keyboard, the Apple Pro Keyboard, is widely recognized as an excellent keyboard because it combines a very nice feel with good ergonomics and features. The Apple Pro Keyboard also provides several control keys, which are the mute, volume, and eject keys; these are located along the top of the number pad. And it looks pretty cool, too.

However, other types of keyboards are available, such as those designed for maximum ergonomics, to provide additional controls (such as an Internet button), and so on.


You can check out available keyboards by visiting the peripherals section at

Many modern keyboards use the USB interface, so installing a keyboard is a trivial matter of plugging it in to an available USB port. (And remember that, as you read in Chapter 21, "Understanding Input and Output Technology," USB devices are hot-swappable so you can connect and disconnect them without turning off the power to your Mac.)

Some keyboards are wireless; two basic types of these devices are available. One type includes a transmitter you plug in to an USB port. The other type, such as the Apple Wireless Keyboard, uses Bluetooth. The advantage of Bluetooth is that you don't consume a USB port and can communicate with many Bluetooth devices at the same time. The disadvantage is that your Mac must have a Bluetooth adapter installed.

If at all possible, you should obtain a wireless keyboard; being without wires is very freeing, especially if you move your keyboard or mouse around much. And who needs all the clutter that so many wires bring?

If you use a USB-based wireless keyboard, you connect its transmitter to a USB port and then use its controls to get the transmitter and keyboard communicating. If you use a Bluetooth keyboard, you use the Bluetooth configuration tools to install and configure it.

To learn more about Bluetooth devices, see "Finding, Installing, and Using Bluetooth Devices," p. 735.

If the keyboard you select includes additional features, such as additional buttons and controls, it probably also includes software you need to install. This typically adds a new pane to the System Preferences application you use to configure the device. An example of this is provided in the next section.

Configuring a Keyboard

With Mac OS X, you can change the key repeat rate and the delay-until-repeat time. You can also configure the function keys and set the language in which your keyboard is configured. Here's how:

  1. Open the System Preferences utility, click the Keyboard & Mouse icon to open the Keyboard & Mouse pane, and click the Keyboard tab if it isn't selected already (see Figure 22.1).

    Figure 22.1. Use the four tabs of the Keyboard & Mouse preferences pane to configure your mouse and keyboard.



    If you don't have a Bluetooth adapter installed in your Mac, the Bluetooth tab won't appear on the Mouse & Keyboard pane.

  2. Use the Key Repeat Rate slider to set how fast a key repeats itself. Move the slider to the right to cause keys to repeat more quickly.

  3. Use the Delay Until Repeat slider to set the amount of time it takes for a key to repeat itself. You can test your settings in the text area below the sliders.

  4. Use the steps in the next section to configure keyboard shortcuts.

Configuring Your Keyboard Shortcuts

One of the best things you can do to increase your personal productivity is to learn to use keyboard shortcuts. In the "OS X to the Max" sections of other chapters in this book, you will find many keyboard shortcuts. You should take the time to learn and practice the shortcuts for the OS, as well as shortcuts for any applications you use frequently. The Mac Help Center also lists some keyboard shortcuts.


Using the Keyboard Shortcuts tab of the Keyboard & Mouse, you can configure many of the available keyboard shortcuts. You can enable or disable some of the standard keyboard shortcuts and add keyboard shortcuts for commands in applications you use.

If you turn on the Full Keyboard Access feature, you can access the interface elements with the designated keys. Open the Keyboard & Mouse pane of the System Preferences application and click the Keyboard Shortcuts tab (see Figure 22.2). You will see a list of standard OS keyboard shortcuts in a number of areas, such as screen capture, universal access, keyboard navigation, and so on.

Figure 22.2. Use the Keyboard Shortcuts tab to configure your own keyboard shortcuts.


Disable any of the listed shortcuts by unchecking the shortcut's On button. Typically, you would do this when that shortcut conflicts with a shortcut in an application you use. For example, the default shortcut to capture the screen to a file is Shift-graphics/mac.gif-3. The screenshot application I use, Snapz Pro X, also uses this shortcut by default. Because I don't use the Mac OS X's built-in shortcut, I changed the default screenshot shortcut to be something different so it wouldn't interfere with the default Snapz Pro X shortcut.

If you don't want to be able to use the keyboard to select control items for some reason, uncheck the "Turn on full keyboard access" check box to turn off this feature. Because it can be faster and easier to select items using the keyboard than the mouse, you should leave this on and learn to use these shortcuts.

To see an explanation of the standard keyboard shortcuts you can configure and use, see "Getting the Most from Keyboard Shortcuts," p. 739.

Use the steps in the next section to configure your keyboard's language preferences.

Configuring Your Keyboard's Language Settings and the Input Menu

You can configure the languages you use for the keyboard along with other input preferences using the International pane of the System Preferences application. You can also configure the Input menu, which enables you to quickly choose among languages and select some other keyboard tools:

  1. Open the International pane of the System Preferences application.

  2. On the Language tab, move the language you want to be the default to the top of the list by dragging it there. Move the other languages on the list to set the order in which they are used.

  3. Click the Input Menu tab. You use this area to show the Keyboard menu on the Finder menu bar and to configure the items you see on it (see Figure 22.3). The default language, which was set when you installed Mac OS X, is checked in the pane.

    Figure 22.3. You can configure the Input menu with the Input Menu tab of the International pane.


  4. Check the "Show input menu in the menu bar" check box.

  5. Check the boxes next to the other languages you want to be available on the Input menu.

  6. Check the Character Palette check box to add that to the menu. You can use this to select, configure, and use custom characters.

  7. Check the Keyboard Viewer check box to add that to the menu. This viewer shows you the keys for a selected font.

  8. Click the Options button to see a sheet that enables you to set several options relating to the languages you are using.

  9. Set the options you want and click OK.

When you open the Keyboard menu, which is indicated by a flag representing the language you have made the default, you see the items you configured there (see Figure 22.4).

Figure 22.4. The Input menu enables you to select the language setting for your keyboard and open palettes and viewers related to the keyboard.



If you select "Show input mode palette," the languages you have selected on the Input Menu tab appear in a palette that is always visible on the desktop. You can click a language on this palette to select it.

Configuring Your Input Device's Software

If you use a non-Apple keyboard and it includes software, you can use it to configure that keyboard.

Open the System Preferences application and then open the pane relating to the keyboard you are using (see Figure 22.5).

Figure 22.5. I use a Logitech Cordless Elite keyboard and mouse; the Logitech Control Center pane enables me to configure many aspects of these devices.


Use the controls provided by that pane to configure the device.

    Part I: Mac OS X: Exploring the Core
    Part III: Mac OS X: Living the Digital Life