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Setting up a Windows keyboard on a Mac

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Spoiler alert: It is such a pain.

 

Intro

I recently got a MacBook Pro arc from Amazon and a wireless keyboard from Logitech to fulfil my ultimate goal of having a dream desk. As you can see from the picture above, that dream came true and I am beyond happy with the result. It doesn’t seem like a lot of work and in reality it literally takes 5 minutes to set all of the above up, but the thing that took me absolute ages to sort out is the keyboard.

I ordered a Windows keyboard because I thought that it would be super difficult to sell the Mac version afterwards and so far I absolutely love the keyboard. However, what I hated was making it work with my Mac. So, this is a post for anyone who had the same issue as I did – making a Windows keyboard work with a Mac.

Solution

Firstly, I should mention that most of the keyboard works absolutely fine, but what causes problems is the function keys and the extra keys above the arrows. The problem with the function keys is pretty simple – they just don’t work. So, in order to fix this you have to get an app called Keyboard Maestro. It is 100% free for the purposes we will be using it for. When you have the app installed make sure you know what keys are not working as they should. Obviously, if you have an external monitor the brightness keys won’t work for that monitor and there is nothing you can do about it. But map out what other keys are not working as they should.

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Keyboard Maestro will save your life

The main problems for me were the volume keys. One of the reason why they might not work is because your external keyboard might have different keys assigned to different function keys. For example, volume up on the standard Mac keyboard is F12, but it is F11 on my external keyboard. To fix this go to Keyboard Maestro and click a plus (+) button under the Macros panel. This will create a new Macro which you will have to name. After that, select HotKey from the dropdown and physically press on the key on the external keyboard. When the key is recognised – choose an action which you want executed when that key is pressed. Following my previous example I should have pressed F11 on the keyboard for my hotkey and I should select an action – increase system volume. Perform the same procedure for the rest of the keys that don’t work and you are nearly set.

Issues

When you come back to your normal Mac keyboard you may find out that this method has backfired on you and now your original Mac keys are messed up because F11 on an external keyboard is not the same as F11 on your Mac. Luckily, there is a simple fix for it. Open KeyboardMaestro>File>Quit Engine. Now your Mac keys should be working fine, but your keyboard keys will again be messed up. There is simply no easier workaround this particular issue because neither Apple nor other external apps support profiles for different keyboards. What a disappointment.

Screen Shot 2016-02-13 at 20.33.32

If it doesn’t work – disable shortcuts in System Preferences

In addition to that, if for some reason Keyboard Maestro still doesn’t work – go to System Preferences>Keyboard>Shortcuts and disable any enabled shortcuts that use the same keys as Keyboard Maestro. However, remember that you will have to enable them back when you switch back to your normal Mac keyboard.

Chrome media buttons issue

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Now, if you are like me and you love Google Play Music and your keyboard’s media keys then you will soon find out that even though you have Keyboard Maestro they still don’t work. To solve this issue you have to get yet another app for your Mac – BeardedSpice. This app essentially hijacks your media keys (both on your Mac keyboard and any other keyboards) and uses them to control media on the websites and apps it currently supports. After the installation of this app you will notice a new icon on your status bar. From there you will be able to choose from which tab or app you want to control media from and then you are set. You can also disable or enable the websites and apps which you want to control with the media keys or you can just choose one so the app will choose it automatically.

A huge pro of BeardedSpice is that not only it supports all the standard website and apps which you would expect to control with your media keys, but it also adds support to many new ones, the best example being – YouTube. So even if you don’t have any of the issues with the media keys it is still an extremely useful app to have.

Conclusion

What have we learnt today? Setting up a Windows keyboard on a Mac is a pain. Obviously it is less painful if you have read this post, but imagine how much Googling people have to do in order to find all of this out without getting frustrated? I can tell you from experience – a lot. And also, if you didn’t have any of the issue which I and some other people have or will have – you have found out about BeardedSpice! What a day!