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 that 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

All 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 20, USB devices are hot-swappable so that you can connect and disconnect them without turning off the power to your Mac.)

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.

  1. Open the System Preferences utility, click the Keyboard icon to open the Keyboard pane, and click the Settings tab if it isn't selected already. The Keyboard pane has two tabs. The Settings tab enables you to configure some basic aspects of the keyboard. The Full Keyboard Access tab enables you to set up your keyboard so that you can access menus and other elements.

  2. Use the Key Repeat Rate slider to set how fast a key repeats itself.

  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. Click the Full Keyboard Access tab.

  5. Check the "Turn on full keyboard access" check box to turn this feature on.

  6. Use the Press Control (crtl) with pop-up menu to choose which keys will be active when you hold down the Control key. Your options are Function keys, Letter keys, or Custom keys. When you make a selection, the keys that activate various features will be shown in the center of the window.

  7. Select the highlight option you want using the radio buttons at the bottom of the pane. If you choose "Text input fields and lists only," the Tab key takes you only to text input fields and lists. If you choose "Any control," the Tab key takes you to each element in a dialog box or window.

  8. If you chose Custom keys, set the keys you want to use.

  9. Click the Show All button on the System Preferences utility toolbar and then click the International icon.

  10. Click the Input Menu tab. You use this area to turn on the Keyboard menu on the Finder menu bar and to configure your keyboard for multiple languages (see Figure 21.1). The default language, which was set when you installed Mac OS X, is checked in the pane.

    Figure 21.1. You can customize the language properties of your keyboard with the Input Menu tab of the International pane.


  11. Check the check boxes next to the other languages you want to be available. When you do so, the Keyboard menu will appear on the desktop (see Figure 21.2). You can make a different language active by selecting it on this menu. You can also open the Character Palette from this menu.

    Figure 21.2. This menu enables you to choose the language setting for your keyboard; it appears when you activate more than one language using the Keyboard Menu tab.


  12. Click the Options button. You will see a sheet that enables you to set several options relating to the languages you are using. You can choose the keyboard shortcuts to use to rotate between keyboard layouts. You can also disable font and keyboard synchronization (when this is enabled, the fonts available to you are linked to the keyboard configuration you have selected).

  13. Set the options you want and click OK.

  14. Quit the System Preferences utility.


Mac OS 9 introduced some nice keyboard control options, such as the ability to quickly and easily set a function key to open any file. Mac OS X takes a few steps backward in this area and provides only minimal control over your keyboard. You can regain some of this lost ground by using an automation tool, such as AppleScript or QuicKeys. Hopefully, Apple will add these features back in when it releases future versions of Mac OS X.

If you turn on the Full Keyboard Access feature, you can access the interface elements with the designated keys: Menu bar (opens the Apple menu; use the arrow keys to move to and open other menus and the commands they contain), Dock (selects the Finder icon; use the arrow keys to select other Dock icons), and so on.

If you use a keyboard that provides additional functionality, such as an Internet button, that keyboard will come with software to provide additional controls for the keyboard you are using.


One of the best things you can do to increase your personal productivity is to learn and 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.

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