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10.4: Activate Dashboard via a PowerBook's Fn key System 10.4
Tiger only hintWay back when, I set my PowerBook's useless (to me anyway) Fn key to trigger Exposé. Cool and all, but I found I never used Exposé -- except when I hit the Fn key by accident! Along came Dashboard, and I knew my Fn key would finally find its ... er ... function! But the Dashboard and Exposé prefs panel didn't allow me to set it for Dashboard -- it was only available in the pop-up list for Exposé. D'oh!

Well, I don't give up easily, and although it was a lot harder than I anticipated, I figured out how to set Fn for Dashboard. Read on, though this ain't for the faint of heart!

Here's what I did...
  1. From the Terminal, you need to convert a binary plist file to ASCII XML format so you can edit it. Alternatively, if you have the Developer Tools installed, you can open it with "Property List Editor" and skip this step. Type the following (the $ is just the prompt; don't type that):
    $ cd ~/Library/Preferences
    $ plutil -convert xml1 com.apple.symbolickeys.plist -o com.apple.symbolickeys.xml
    
  2. Use your favorite editor on the new file:
    $ vi com.apple.symbolickeys.xml
    
  3. Go to the end of the file (look for 62), and change the following largish block of text. Here's the original:
    <key>62</key>
    <dict>
        <key>enabled</key>
        <false/>
        </dict>
        <key>63</key>
        <dict>
            <key>enabled</key>
            <false/>
    </dict>
    
    Replace the above with the following:
    <key>62</key>
    <dict>
        <key>enabled</key>
        <true/>
        <key>value</key>
        <dict>
            <key>parameters</key>
            <array>
                <integer>8388608</integer>
                <integer>8388608</integer>
            </array>
            <key>type</key>
            <string>modifier</string>
        </dict>
    </dict>
    <key>63</key>
    <dict>
        <key>enabled</key>
        <true/>
        <key>value</key>
        <dict>
            <key>parameters</key>
            <array>
                <integer>8519680</integer>
                <integer>8519680</integer>
            </array>
            <key>type</key>
            <string>modifier</string>
        </dict>
    </dict>
    
    I told you it was scary!

  4. Save your changes, quit the editor, and convert the XML file back to binary:
    plutil -convert binary1 com.apple.symbolickeys.xml -o com.apple.symbolickeys.plist
    
  5. Log out out or reboot for your changes to show up.
[robg adds: When I first tried this, I didn't even have this file. In order for it to be created, it seems you need to change the defaults in the Dashboard & Exposé panel. I set the Dashboard to F13, then quit System Preferences, and then found this file had been created. However, after applying the edits above and logging out/in, I still didn't have an Fn option in the Dashboard section, so your mileage may vary with this hint -- it's quite possible I just did something wrong, so I'm running this one untested...]
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10.4: Activate Dashboard via a PowerBook's Fn key | 9 comments | Create New Account
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10.4: Activate Dashboard via a PowerBook's Fn key
Authored by: greengeek on May 15, '05 02:37:03PM

Some interesting things to note about the symbolickeys plist file. You could do this in 10.3 to change the keys for exposé, in fact I believe there was a hint posted about it.

Changing the entries in the file does not add the new keys to the Expose/Dashboard pref pane, but does change which key triggers each action. If you open the pref pane again and change any of the settings, you will lose the manual changes you made.

The other unfortunate thing about the settings in that file, and also the plist for the Keyboard pref pane, is that the only way to trigger the changes is to logout/login. I was looking into a script that could change the modifier key settings for different keyboards on the fly, but it would still require a login/logout to make the changes take effect.



[ Reply to This | # ]
wrong file name
Authored by: empco on May 15, '05 03:56:57PM

On my iBook G4, the files is called:
com.apple.symbolicHOTkeys.plist not com.apple.symbolickeys.plist

I edited it in pico with the terminal, because my Xcode tools didn't display the file right.

After restart it works great with the fn key!



[ Reply to This | # ]
10.4: Activate Dashboard via a PowerBook's Fn key
Authored by: mikey8270 on May 15, '05 05:52:38PM

Would there be any way to modify this file so that on a powerbook the expose keys DON'T require fn, but keyboard backlight adjustments do? I want everything to stay the same except the behavior of F9 and F10. Thanks.



[ Reply to This | # ]
10.4: Activate Dashboard via a PowerBook's Fn key
Authored by: mzarra on May 15, '05 06:20:36PM

Yes. Go into the keyboard preference pane and on the keyboard tab select "Use the F1-F12 keys to control software features". After selecting this it will require function to use the brightness and volume controls.

Expose will be unchanged unless you change it specifically in the expose panel.



[ Reply to This | # ]
10.4: Activate Dashboard via a PowerBook's Fn key
Authored by: mikey8270 on May 15, '05 09:13:01PM

Well I said I only want to change the function of F9 and F10, not F1-F12. I would like F1 and F2 to control screen brightness, not fn+F1 or fn+F2, etc. and ONLY change F9 and F10.

Is that possible?



[ Reply to This | # ]
10.4: Activate Dashboard via a PowerBook's Fn key
Authored by: qwerty denzel on May 16, '05 02:03:54AM

Huh? I'm confused. Do you want exposé to be Fn-F9 and Fn-F10? If so then go to the exposé system preferences pane and hold down Fn whilst choosing the F9 and F10 items.



[ Reply to This | # ]
10.4: Activate Dashboard via a PowerBook's Fn key
Authored by: mikey8270 on May 16, '05 04:10:42AM

Let me clarify then: by default on my 15" powerbook, f9 and f10 are set to control brightness of the backlit keyboard and fn+f9 and fn+f10 do expose...even though they are set to just f9 and f10 in expose preferences.

What I'd like to do is switch this behavior for just these two keys -- make f9 and f10 do expose, and make fn+f9 and fn+f10 do backlit keyboard brightness. While doing this, id like to make sure that f1 - f8 to keep their current behavior.



[ Reply to This | # ]
10.4: Activate Dashboard via a PowerBook's Fn key
Authored by: scottjenson on May 16, '05 07:50:46AM

This is my biggest beef with the powerbook team being rather out of step with the OS team. This too drives me crazy. The powerbook team as basically 'taken over' the function keys in a way that is incompatible with the OS:

1) They load up the function keys with things I don't need (like backlight control)
2) They FINALLY provide me a way to turning it off in Panther (but it is all keys or nothing!)
3) There is no way just turn off the 'crazy fn keys'

I just wish the powerbook team would use the keyboard control pannel like everything ELSE in the operating system! That way I turn turn off any of the overly zealous powerbook function keys without ripping every friggn' out of them out. This isn't asking too much is it?

Actually it is as I use to work at Apple and the Powerbook/System Software teams were practical strangers. They rarely coordinated on anything so asking for this type of 'deeper design cooperation' is probably a lost cause...

Scott



[ Reply to This | # ]
10.4: Activate Dashboard via ANY key
Authored by: Alpha Centauri on Jul 14, '05 09:01:15PM
Since reading this hint, I've had Dashboard activating with the function key. However, this has taken away my possibility of using fn-backspace for forward delete, which I had gotten accustomed to. Actually I preferred Dashboard to activate using the only key I absolutely never ever use: the one right below escape (can't type the symbol any more, it activates Dashboard...). So after some hours of searching around for the right values to enter as described in the hint, I've finally found out, how to get these. I downloaded this program: http://www.prefab.com/uibrowser/ and followed the steps explained here at the end of the page ("How do I create scripts to send keyboard shortcuts?") in order to get the right keystroke value. Then I simply followed the hint using the key code I got from UI Browser.

[ Reply to This | # ]