How to Disable the F-Lock Key

Perm url with updates: http://xahlee.org/emacs/ms_keyboard/f-lock_key_problem.html

How to Disable the F-Lock Key

Xah Lee, 2006-06, 2009-08-24, 2009-11-26, 2010-08-10

Many Microsoft keyboards now has a “F lock” key. This page discuss its problems, and how to disable it.

nek 4000 home cluster2

The F-Lock key, above the Backspace key.

Microsoft introduced a F Lock key. It functions as a toggle. When it is off, the keys F1 to F12 will behave by the following pre-set definition:

Definitions when F Lock is Off
F1F2F3F4F5F6F7F8F9F10F11F12
HelpUndoRedoNewOpenCloseReplyFwdSendSpellSavePrint

How to Disable the F-Lock Key

It's is very easy to disable it. Just redefine the special functions to type F keys. So that, doesn't matter F-Lock is on or off, the F keys always send normal function signals.

  • 1. Open your IntelliType software, under “Start‣Control Panel‣Keyboard”. Click on the “Key Settings” tab.
  • 2. Now, go to the item named “Help”, double click it (or click the “Configure...” button) You'll get a pop up dialog that lets you redifine the key.
  • 3. Choose “Choose from a list of commands”. Then click “Next”.
  • 4. Choose the item named “Keystroke...”, double click it. (or click the “Next” button)
  • 5. Now, press the F1 key. Click OK.
  • 6. Now, repeat the above for each of the “Undo”, “Redo”, ... definitions.
  • 7. Click OK to exit the Keyboard Properties dialog.

That's it.

Problems of The F-Lock Key

This F Lock key is a pain because the behavior of a function key depends on the state of the F Lock, so that a user often pressed a function key only to find it do something unexpected.

For example, when the F-lock is off, F5 does Open. In a web browser, the Open command is almost never used, and F5 is normally Refresh, much more useful. So, while in a browser, you want F Lock to be on.

This means, when you work on your computer, you have to remember which application you are in, and whether your F Lock is on or off.

Many applications make use of the function keys heavily. For example: programers's text editor (Emacs), terminal emulators, 3D Modeling software, Google Earth, 3D Games (Second Life), PhotoShop, Inkscape (vector drawing program).

The need of F Lock as a improvement is itself questionable, because the function keys themselves are already intended to be programable, so the pre-programed behavior with F Lock off is a redundant step. For example, with F Lock off, F4 is Open Document. The same Open Document can be programed into F4 without a altered state of the key.

Theoretically, F Lock being a toggle for the function keys, doubles the function key's purpose as if adding another row of function keys. But, in practice, few people actually need more than 12 shortcuts provides by function keys. If they need more, it can be done by holding one of the modifier keys (Ctrl, Alt, Shift) with function keys. (e.g. Alt+F4 to close window) Holding down a modifier key while pressing a function key, is easier to remember as well as operate, than trying to toggle F Lock to the right state followed by pressing a the function key.

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