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Is there any way to make the Home, End, and function keys all have primary (not "fn") status?

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I have a Dell Vostro 7590. To put it politely, I will say that the keyboard layout is... less than ideal.

One of the problems with the keyboard is that the function keys have been relegated to alternate status. (Actually, you can switch between two modes: either the function keys have alternate status, or the Home and End keys have alternate status.) To press a key with alternate status, you need to also press the "fn" key. This is a productivity killer for me. I use several applications which require frequent use of Home, End, and at least the first few function keys. There is a significant cognitive burden to remembering that I must press "fn" when I'm working on this computer's built-in keyboard, but no other keyboard. The Home, End, and function keys are supposed to be hotkeys that speed up productivity, but Dell's keyboard design slows me down.

I am posting here to find out if anyone has discovered a solution for this. For instance, does Dell offer a driver that will swap the primary and alternative status of the F1 through F9 keys?

Please note that I'm aware I can toggle between the function keys having alternative status vs. the Home and End keys having alternative status. (For instance, as discussed here: https://www.dell.com/community/Laptops-General-Read-Only/Dell-Inspiron-1545-Function-Keys/m-p/334256....) This does not solve the problem because it does not allow the frequently used hotkeys Home, End, and F1 to F9 to all have primary status at the same time.

 

-TC

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Re: Is there any way to make the Home, End, and function keys all have primary (not "fn") status?

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@T.C.  Fyi it would help people understand the issue a bit better if you explained which key you had to press along with Fn in order to trigger Home/End on your particular system.  I went and checked the Vostro 7590's documentation since I couldn't quickly find a close-up photo of its keyboard layout, and it seems that Home is Fn+F11 and End is Fn+F12.  Is that correct?

If so, this is actually a variation of a growing number of complaints with a growing number of systems involving this layout.  The more common complaint comes from people who got used to what used to a standard layout where Home/End were triggered by pressing Fn+Left/Right.  Dell has been removing the ability to trigger Home/End that way and instead moving Home/End to the top row.  The people making complaints (which would include me, if I had such a laptop) are calling the new design a productivity killer because Home and End are now no longer anywhere near PgUp/PgDn, which are activated by Fn+Up/Dn or dedicated keys in the arrow key "box".  That's unfortunate because Home/End and PgUp/PgDn are often used together for navigating various environments.  They want a firmware change that restores the ability to use Fn+Left/Right to activate Home/End, even if the keys are not physically marked as such.  But even under that earlier layout, you had to press Fn to trigger Home and End, which is pretty common on laptops these days.  (Although some Lenovo laptops have dedicated Home/End keys on the top row and ALSO allow those functions to be triggered by Fn+Left/Right, despite those keys not being marked for that purpose, which is the best of both worlds in this regard I guess.)

But in terms of a fix, this isn't something that can be fixed with a driver because the Fn key itself actually isn't seen by the OS; it's only seen by the system firmware, and it simply results in a different keyboard scan code being passed up to the OS when you press the next key (or results in a function handled entirely by system firmware).  So the closest you could come to achieving the "hybrid" setup you want would be to use something like AutoHotKey.  You could set your keyboard so that the F keys behaved like normal F keys when pressed on their own, then use an AutoHotKey profile to remap F11 and F12 to act as Home and End, then set some other key combination to trigger actual F11 and F12.  But that assumes that you don't need F11 and F12 themselves very much AND would be able to define another key combination to trigger F11 and F12 that would NOT involve the Fn key, since again the OS can't see that key independently.  Other than that, technically with AutoHotKey you can map Home and End to any key or key combination you like, but then you still have that cognitive burden.

In any case, there's no way within the system to have certain F keys default to being F keys while other F keys default to their "auxiliary function" behavior.

This incidentally is why as a heavy user of keyboard shortcuts and function keys I always take a very close look at the keyboard layouts of any laptops I'm considering, especially how these types of navigation keys are activated.

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Re: Is there any way to make the Home, End, and function keys all have primary (not "fn") status?

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@T.C.  Fyi it would help people understand the issue a bit better if you explained which key you had to press along with Fn in order to trigger Home/End on your particular system.  I went and checked the Vostro 7590's documentation since I couldn't quickly find a close-up photo of its keyboard layout, and it seems that Home is Fn+F11 and End is Fn+F12.  Is that correct?

If so, this is actually a variation of a growing number of complaints with a growing number of systems involving this layout.  The more common complaint comes from people who got used to what used to a standard layout where Home/End were triggered by pressing Fn+Left/Right.  Dell has been removing the ability to trigger Home/End that way and instead moving Home/End to the top row.  The people making complaints (which would include me, if I had such a laptop) are calling the new design a productivity killer because Home and End are now no longer anywhere near PgUp/PgDn, which are activated by Fn+Up/Dn or dedicated keys in the arrow key "box".  That's unfortunate because Home/End and PgUp/PgDn are often used together for navigating various environments.  They want a firmware change that restores the ability to use Fn+Left/Right to activate Home/End, even if the keys are not physically marked as such.  But even under that earlier layout, you had to press Fn to trigger Home and End, which is pretty common on laptops these days.  (Although some Lenovo laptops have dedicated Home/End keys on the top row and ALSO allow those functions to be triggered by Fn+Left/Right, despite those keys not being marked for that purpose, which is the best of both worlds in this regard I guess.)

But in terms of a fix, this isn't something that can be fixed with a driver because the Fn key itself actually isn't seen by the OS; it's only seen by the system firmware, and it simply results in a different keyboard scan code being passed up to the OS when you press the next key (or results in a function handled entirely by system firmware).  So the closest you could come to achieving the "hybrid" setup you want would be to use something like AutoHotKey.  You could set your keyboard so that the F keys behaved like normal F keys when pressed on their own, then use an AutoHotKey profile to remap F11 and F12 to act as Home and End, then set some other key combination to trigger actual F11 and F12.  But that assumes that you don't need F11 and F12 themselves very much AND would be able to define another key combination to trigger F11 and F12 that would NOT involve the Fn key, since again the OS can't see that key independently.  Other than that, technically with AutoHotKey you can map Home and End to any key or key combination you like, but then you still have that cognitive burden.

In any case, there's no way within the system to have certain F keys default to being F keys while other F keys default to their "auxiliary function" behavior.

This incidentally is why as a heavy user of keyboard shortcuts and function keys I always take a very close look at the keyboard layouts of any laptops I'm considering, especially how these types of navigation keys are activated.

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Re: Is there any way to make the Home, End, and function keys all have primary (not "fn") status?

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Thank you for the reply. Yes, Home is Fn+F11 and End is Fn+F12.

I have had many laptop computers over the years, and I've always adapted easily to the layout without thinking much about it. This is the first computer I've owned where the keyboard layout has given me cause to complain. But if there is no solution, I'll make the best of it.

-TC

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Re: Is there any way to make the Home, End, and function keys all have primary (not "fn") status?

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Jphughan's answer was helpful and informative, so I marked it as the solution. In fact, I adopted a different solution which may not work for everyone. I will describe it here.

It turns out that when NumLock is off, the number keys on the right of the keyboard get reassigned to the following functions:

  • 1: End
  • 2: Down
  • 3: PgDn
  • 4: Left
  • 6: Right
  • 7: Home
  • 8: Up
  • 9: PgUp

The keys are not labeled with these functions. (I can only speculate that the industrial designers at Dell thought proper labeling would clutter up the clean look of their keyboard.)

In any case, I know what the keys do, so my solution is to 1) disable NumLock by default and use the numeric keypad for navigation, and 2) make the top row of keys work like function keys by default. This way, I never have to push the "fn" key.

Losing the ability to type numbers on the numeric keypad is not a problem for me becuase I'm a touch typist who learned to type not only the letters, but also the numbers above the letters. It is actually faster for me to use those numbers rather than the numeric keypad for anything except purely numeric data entry (which I will probably never do on this computer). Thus, the numeric keypad is wasted on me. I would much rather have a nice wide, centered keyboard with no numeric keypad than a cramped off-center keyboard with a numeric keypad. (Apparently, I'm in the minority on this because I've noticed that all the computer manufacturer have discontinued the option for a centered keyboard with no numeric keypad.)

So, if you are a touch typist who can use the numbers above the letters, and if you can remember that 7 is Home and 1 is End, then my solution may work for you. If not, you may want to look at Jphughan's suggestion to use AutoHotkey; I thought that sounded promising.

-TC

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