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Mac envy: How to use an Apple keyboard with Windows

by Ben Vinegar  |  April 3/2008  |  , , , ,

Photo of a Mac keyboard on a PCWith Macs now controlling 14% of the US market share (up from 9% in 2006), it’s clear that the world is quickly going Mac.

This is especially evident here at FreshBooks. When I joined last year, we were a strictly PC/Windows shop. Since then, we’ve added 6 iMacs to the grid — and more are on the way.

Resistance is futile

I, for one, welcome our new Mac overlords. To help kick-start the indoctrination process, I’ve begun using an Apple keyboard with my Windows box here at work. Sure, the buttons don’t match up perfectly (where’s the print screen button?), but with a few easy steps, you can re-map your Windows keys such that you’ll hardly notice.

Introducing AutoHotKey

AutoHotKey is freeware software for Windows XP that lets you create easy-to-write scripts that define alternate key mappings in Windows. You can do the same by hacking the Windows registry yourself – but that’s just plain silly.

The script

After you’ve installed AutoHotKey, download this script and run it (either by double-clicking or right-click -> “Run Script”). This will load a set of pre-defined rules that will make your Apple keyboard operate like a Windows one — but way sexier.

Here’s the rules I’m using:

; Swap Windows (Command) and Alt keys
; These button locations are reversed on Mac keyboardsLAlt::LWin
LWin::LAlt
; Map F13 to Print screen
; Mac keyboards don't have a print-screen button!
F13::PrintScreen

To have this script run every time Windows boots up, save it in your Startup folder (Start -> All Applications -> Startup).

That’s it! Happy typing.


  • http://www.simplestartup.com Dave

    Funny enough, I prefer using a PC keyboard with my Apple.

  • http://www.functionone.biz Joe

    Oh wow – my wife is going to love this. She uses a Mac at work – and a PC at home – and she has equal likes and dislikes about both.

    We keep this approach at our IT services company as well – we like to consider ourselves platform agnostic ;)

    However, my wife prefers her Mac keyboard for it’s compact size and feel – but hates having to rethink the keys when she comes home – this will help big time. Thanks!

    Joe-

  • http://www.imerk.net Ian

    I’m pretty much an all windows user. However, I’ve done programming and web hosting in linux in the past and I like linux. I’ve never had an opportunity to really work with a mac since i refuse to buy a mac. They may look really nice and the operating system might be really nice, but frankly I dont understand how people get suckered into buying hardware with limited/no upgradeable parts. I still dont understand why people would buy an iphone, no matter how cool the interface is, with no memory expansion slot and no user replaceable battery.

    If someone gave me a mac to work with, I would gladly take the chance to become more familiar with the mac OS. But i doubt I would ever pay for one.

  • http://www.freshbooks.com/our-team.php#aaron Aaron Adams

    Dave: have you tried the new keyboard? It’s amazing.

    Ian: you get used to it. :) I used to be a complete tweaker. Building my own machines, reading HardOCP et al daily, slipstreaming RAID drivers and hotfixes into my XP CD, overclocking, soft mods, constant little upgrades, hated Macs… the whole nine yards really.

    Now I’ve never seen the insides of my machines. And when I say “you get used to it,” I should really say, you wind up liking it a lot better this way. :)

  • http://www.donnavitan.com Donna Vitan

    MmmMmm… pretty soft Mac keyboards. Still a designer working on PCs. Maybe some day I’ll run both, but till then, having a swanky keyboard is a bonus. Though it doesn’t have to be a Mac keyboard at all.

  • http://bertzgroup.com Kerry

    I absolutely LOVE using my little Apple bluetooth keyboard whenever I have a chance. I keep it in my laptop bag in the mini-file-storage, it is thin and sleek, portable and delicious.

    When I pace back and forth in front of multple monitors, typing furiously, I feel a bit like Jonathan Pryce, evil technology baron, in whatever that totally forgettable Bond flick was (Two Days After Yesterday This Movie Will Still Be Awful?)

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  • jonathon Knight

    this is great info. Doe’s anyone know if the new Apple bluetooth keyboard will work with Windows XP? thanks

  • nem75

    Your script is missing

    RAlt::RWin
    RWin::RAlt

    The keys are swapped on the right side of the space bar, too. ;)

    Also mapping the Insert key might come in handy:

    F14:Insert

    (Or somesuch.)

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  • Kendo

    I use a MAC Bluetooth keyboard with Vista Ultimate on my HP laptop …. LOVE’N it….I’m a MS man all the way but Apple makes some cool ass hardware. I use KeyTweak (it’s Free just do a search on google for it) to rectify the button problems.

  • jProxy

    Hi — this is great. Thanks for posting!

    I am experiencing a case where alt-tab leaves the little window that displays the various app-choices.

    I can hit escape to make it go away once I’ve chosen a window to focus, but it seems strange. Anyone else have that?

  • big bobby bobka

    yup, I got the same problem as jproxy.

  • JP

    The “S” key on my Dell Inspiron laptop stopped working after I used some compressed air to clean the funk out of it. I just picked up a new Mac keyboard even though the lady at the Mac store said it wouldn’t work on my XP rig. Glad to see she was totally wrong!
    Thanks for the link to AutoHotKeys!

  • http://www.freshbooks.com/our-team.php#ben Ben Vinegar

    Hi jProxy, Bobby – it would appear I’ve had the same problem all along, but never really noticed it. Once I start clicking around in the window I’ve just switched to, it goes away.

  • Burritoilkethesun

    Aaron Adams: dude it just sounds like you’ve become old and uninspired. Thanks for giving me another reason not to buy Apple products.

  • http://www.popculturetees.com/ Liz

    As a long time freshbooks users, I just should have guessed that after getting a new mac keyboard for xmas, you guys would have the info to get my print screen button back.

  • http://sanscamouflage.com Josiah

    This was just what I needed, thanks for the script! It worked out great but for one thing… The alt-tab is “sticky” and doesn’t work properly when you release.

    After looking at their support docs, I found the answer. In case anyone else runs into this problem, add this to your script:

    *Tab::Send {Blind}{Tab}

    I found it here:
    http://www.autohotkey.com/docs/misc/Remap.htm#AltTab

  • prochobo

    Thanks for the info! I just got one of these and I was frustrated with the Windows compatibility. I found some more tips on Autohotkey here:

    http://www.isyougeekedup.com/apples-awesome-short-stroke-aluminum-keyboard-review/

  • targat

    It works follows in windows -Alt+Capslock+F14 and you wil get Alt+Print Sreen

  • alt-tab frustration

    see here:
    http://www.autohotkey.com/docs/misc/Remap.htm#AltTab

    if your alt tab doesn’t work on this!

  • Ctrl+Alt+Delete

    Does anyone else’s ctrl+alt+delete not work, for some reason i have to press option(alt) which should be set as a the Win key. However, alt tab with what i remapped as alt (command) does work, i cant figure out whats wrong.

  • adeline

    Hi all,

    I need help on my mac keyboard. I may have accidentally press some fun tabs and my number key pads on the right hand side of my mac keyboard does not work at all. Is that a way to remove the number lock on my mac keyboard? Please help! Thanks a lot!

  • AMDphreak

    Apple will never be welcome in my home. I bought an iPod 5.5G and its battery was completely dead after 2 years of average usage. Apple is, and always will be, a company dedicated to the most attractive scams ever to be permitted in a store.

    Their operating system really is crap after all. I’ve taken several hours to begin my study of MacOS’s by using the Macbooks in my school’s bookstore, and I am mesmerized by how skimpy the Operating System is, and even more by how few applications it has. I went to the Mac Store in Memphis Tennessee, and it was the most hilarious thing to me when I walked in. They fit the entirety of their available software in one neat little neck-high bookshelf. That’s not a scarcity–that’s a video-game hero army: 1 soldier against a million oncoming combatants.

    As for their keyboards, there are few tactical cues as to where you are on the keyboard, and the keys catch your fingers when moving from one to the other, causing you to hit the wrong keys.

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  • Jason

    Thanks so much for this script. Helped me out a lot!

  • James

    Awesome article. This one helped me out a lot too when I was trying to make the transition from PC to Mac.
    http://www.freemacblog.com/mac-server-series-install-wordpress-on-your-mac-using-mamp/comment-page-2/#comment-148530

  • james

    Hey guys. did some more research and also found this site. It might be even better than the first one I posted!
    life123.com/technology/computer-hardware/mac/how-to-use-a-mac-computer.shtml

  • Andrew

    works on win7! appreciate it!

  • Ian

    Haha, wow. I love it when people who don’t know what they are talking about post about Mac OSX. :D

    AMDphreak: Just because you have had one bad experience doesn’t mean everyone does. My 5.5G iPod is still going strong. Long battery life still with average use. Not sure why you’re having such problems.

    What exactly do you mean by skimpy? You mean that it has the power of the Unix command prompt behind it as well as all of the OSX window system AND X11? G’dam! You’re right! Also, that bookshelf isn’t all the Mac apps!!! Hahaha. There are lots you can find online. You ever use Google before? Oh wait… I bet you’re a Bing guy. ;)

    As far as being able to customize your computer…

    I am in the same boat, that is not to say I don’t own and enjoy Macs. How much customizing and building of Laptops do you do? Really? I have a desktop that I tweak out daily. Rarely keep an OS on there for a couple months (I currently have Ubuntu 9.10 and Win7). When I’m messing around with that I definitely appreciate having my MBP and iMac running quickly and smoothly.

    So go ahead and not buy a Mac. Stick with your Windows 7 computer and enjoy it. Just wanted to let you know that you’re missing out.

    To those who say “there are no apps for Macs,” you are ignorant and ill-informed.

  • Charlie

    How do i get it work in windos 7 !!??
    I’ve tryed so many way, but i cant get it work :(

  • http://joshcoast.com josh Coast

    Dose it work for the volume buttons too? I do miss that (among many many features that come standard in a mac OS) while working on the PC at work.

  • cambey

    Is there a way to do this with Windows 7? All I need for the work I do from home is the insert/overwrite button and I would be set.

  • Need help plz

    Hai guys , I really want to know how I can bind my Eject key on my Apple Slim USB Keyboard but it doesn’t seem to be a key according to Sharpkeys/Windows. Anyone else having this retarded problem? and also how do I bind my media keys ( F7 , F8 , F9 , F10 , F11,F12) to their correct functions?
    Thx guys

  • Dean

    Hi,
    What about windows keys ctrl-alt-del needed to logon to my domain and vpn … will a mac keyboard work ?
    What steps do I need to take ? as above ?

    Cheers,
    Dean

  • poop

    I’d rather use my computer than spend hours tweaking it.

    Don’t get me wrong. I use Linux as a development platform. But then again, I use Arch Linux. An hour’s worth of tweaking to get the thing installed, up, and running is all it needed.

    That, in a nutshell, is why I bought a 24 inch iMac way back in 2007. I liked being able to use FrontRow (and its remote control) to watch videos. Also, the keyboard shortcuts make much more sense. Meta keys should go under your thumb, not in a place where you need to move your hand from the home row AND stretch the hell out of your pinkie. There are loads of other reasons, though I have to admit Windows 7 has improved the Windows line significantly, and has pretty much caught up to Mac OS X. Competition is good, and I have high hopes for the next OS X release.

    My† iMac’s hard drive broke a few months ago. So I bought a new SATA drive, cracked the case, and upgraded it. I upgraded my own RAM. Admittedly, Apple uses some customized parts to fit into the case. I couldn’t upgrade my video card, even if I wanted (I guess that would be nice, but I’ll live with it. It’s good enough for playing 1080p video. Heck, it’s good enough that it can downscale 1080p video while running a bunch of other OpenGL applications. No surprise there) Apple’s control over the hardware means I don’t have to worry about drivers, for the most part. It is a COMPUTING APPLIANCE, with the full power of Unix under the hood for those of us that want it.

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  • http://www.brelson.com Brendan

    I’ve just bought a Mac keyboard for my Windows machine, and the Alt-Cmd issue was my one remaining bugbear. Thanks to this post, it is now solved!

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  • Karls

    Software is funky. Not easy to use at all. Instructions alien.

  • Simona

    I think Linux is the best. I’m not a programmer or anything, but once you get the hang of it its better than both windows and mac. Ive ran Ubuntu, Debian, Yellow dog, and Opensuse. There are so many varieties. My good friend convinced me not to buy another Mac and installed it on my old macbook. Its about a million times better. I don’t know how to install windows programs or anything but he did it. Frankly its the best choice, and its free. If you have an old ibook or older macs debian and yellow dog run perfectly.

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  • Askastner

    Using a windows PC and
    A Mac keyboard.
    Shift+” =@

  • Rebeca

    Thanks. My only pet-peeve in using the Mac keyboard on my PC was the absence of the Insert key. Now that’s past!

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