Getting Windows Keyboards To Work on Mac Systems

November 30, 2011 by · 6 Comments
Filed under: Apple, Design, Tech 

Logitech Desktop MK710

Just thought I’d post a quick little help for any of those out there that want to take advantage of a good keyboard deal but wondering if it will work on your Mac system. One little caveat before I go further, this tip is for OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard and earlier and I haven’t seen how this works on OS X 10.7 Lion yet. Personally, I’m waiting a little longer to upgrade my main workstation, but that’s another story.

While OS X does a pretty decent job of supporting the basic typing ability of almost any keyboard or mouse out there, there is the one nagging reality that if you have gotten into the habit of keyboard combo shortcuts, that the Command and Option key functions are basically switched and can drive you batty when you get an unexpected result from key command. To solve that, the utility that I use is a kernel extension that you can set from your System Preferences called DoubleCommand¬†which allows you to easily and quickly remap your basic system keys that make up the main difference between Macs and Windows operating systems–notably the Command and Option keys. Basically, I only use it to swap those two keys, as you can see in the screen grab below, but you can use it set many other possible key remapping combinations as needed.

DoubleCommand Pref Screen

While OS X won’t support all the extra bells and whistles that may have been designed into your Windows keyboard like opening up Office apps or Mail or pretty much anything else that is extra whizbang–but surprisingly, the only extra-curricular activity that I really care for my keyboard to perform besides basic typing and F key operations, are iTunes controls. Starting a song; volume control; skipping; pausing–all those functions are supported. So, if you don’t mind missing all the additional functionality, than this is the tool for you. For those that want more control and need better Lion support, there is also a link to another utility, which I have NOT tried myself, called KeyRemap4MacBook¬†that you may find more useful.

What I find ironic in all this, is actually how well Microsoft supports OS X with ALL of their keyboards and mice but Logitech seems to be dragging their feet as slowly and half-heartedly as possible in supporting Macs. This is a great tool to be able to use some of the cooler Logitech keyboards that don’t support Macs with your Mac and not drive you crazy with the Command and Option keys in the wrong place.

On last thing to remember is if you are using this for a laptop environment, when you disconnect your keyboard and go to use your built-in keyboard, your keys remain remapped and now they are swapped again. You will need to launch your System Preferences and turn off the the changes you made. The good news is that the DoubleCommand allows you to save it as a preferred setting in User Preferences so that when you reboot, it will default to whichever setting you prefer. Enjoy.