Lenovo Fn key

Sat, May 3, 2008, 03:52 PM under UserInterfaceDesign
Very recently I received (from work) a new laptop: Lenovo T61p (to replace my aging Toshiba M5). There are quite a few gotchas with setting up this machine (e.g. I wasted an hour trying to get it to see a second internal drive), but I will spare you my setup/installation experience. Instead, you may be interested in Keith's helpful post here. Generally, I am happy with this machine from a performance perspective.


There is however the quite important issue of its keyboard: it's the laptop keyboard from hell. Why the "£$^&* don't we have a universal standard for laptop keyboards yet? The placement of keys on this laptop is weird (e.g. the ESC key is further up than the top row of keys instead of being aligned with the Function keys) and also keys I usually expect to be more easily accessible than other keys (e.g. up, down, left, right arrow keys) are actually... smaller and cramped close to the others!

However the biscuit goes to the Fn key placement in relation to the Ctrl key. I expected the Ctrl key to be firmly placed in the bottom left and for it to be larger than other keys. Instead, the Ctrl key is normal size and it is 2nd from the bottom left, its place taken by the rarely used Fn key! What is worst is that, apparently, there is no keymapping software that can fix this, since Lenovo in their wisdom have made it permanent in the firmware :-(

One of the worst examples of how this trips me up is copy/paste (Ctrl+C, Ctrl+V). I have some source window where I do a copy (but in reality I only did an Fn+C without realising it) and then close the window, switch to my target window and do a paste (in reality a Fn+V) and nothing happens. Then I realise my mistake but it's too late to do a Ctrl+V now since the copy was never actioned... Arghh!

If you think that I am overreacting, first try using a keyboard like that before passing judgement. If you own one and think I am overreacting, clearly you haven't tried pressing Ctrl+Shift+B (Build Solution in Visual Studio) or Ctrl+Shift+Esc (bring up Task Manager) with just one hand (impossible!). Anyway, it looks like I am not alone judging by the collections of complaints here, here, here and here amongst other places.

My partial solution: I removed the offending key completely (screenshot).

As an unrelated aside, the Mac Air suffers from the same bewildering choice of placement of the Fn and Ctrl keys. As a more related aside, if you see me struggling to type in my upcoming events, now you know why!

<end of rant/>
Saturday, May 03, 2008 4:57:00 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
Man that really sucks. I used to have an old Compaq Armada laptop which had exactly the same issue with the function key being where the Ctrl key should be. I did actually get used to it though, but I shouldn't have had to!

I also have noticed lots of laptops place the Start Key or Context-Menu key in a strange place (up in the rop right) have you noticed that?
Saturday, May 03, 2008 5:52:00 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
IBM has been putting the ThinkPad Fn key in that position since at least the mid-1990s. It's been there on every ThinkPad I've owned between my old 486/DX4 and my T61p. Considering IBM was *the* notebook to have long before anyone had heard of Dell, I would venture to say that it's the *other* configuration that is incorrect. Even my MacBook Pro has the Fn key in the bottom left. Regardless, its takes you all of two days to get used to it. Now put that Fn key back on so you can use it to toggle your keyboard light and break in the debugger.

Fn key placement aside, I suspect you will grow to appreciate the ThinkPad's keyboard after a week or two, and will never be able to go back to anything else. The key sensitivity, feedback, size, and spacing are the best out there. If you write code, you want to write it on a ThinkPad. If you feel differently, then you are wrong, but will quickly learn the error of your ways ;).

Also, the newer forward/back buttons placed amongst the arrow keys are great for Windows Explorer.
Sunday, May 04, 2008 7:37:00 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
Main reason why I use an external keyboard.
Sunday, May 04, 2008 10:07:00 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
Daniel,

You get used to it. I actually like it since it makes it easy to turn the ThinkLight on in the dark. (Press bottom left and top right key--instant light)!

-Marcus
Sunday, May 04, 2008 11:51:00 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
You haven't played a shooter yet ;)
Ducking becomes quite challenging because you can't assign an action to the Fn key!
ASUS doesn't do a better job here...
Sunday, May 04, 2008 12:41:00 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
All Apple Laptops I know do have the same "issue" as well... However on my Macs I don't use the Ctrl key that much. Whenever you want to use Ctrl it's mostly the Cmd (Apple) key you want and this one is just left (or right) to the space bar.

I just bought a Macbook Air, and the keyboard feels really great (to say the least). It took some time to get used to the different spacing (I upgraded from a PowerBook12") but after that it's just a dream to type. And did I mention that the keyboard is illuminated? This is really really useful.

My parents have a keyboard from Microsoft and even MS engineers screw things up sometimes :-) By default on this keyboard the fn key is always active, so you have to press fn to deactivate the fn feature! That's even worse than your layout issue!
So if you want to enter BIOS, press fn+F1 (of fn+F10, I don't remember). If you want to load any help page, press fn+F1.
Personally I would have trown this keyboard where it belongs, but my parents don't use the F keys that much so they got used to it...

So I hope after some days you're going to get used to it. After all I never heard something (too) negative about any ThinkPad.
Best regards!
Anonymous
Sunday, May 04, 2008 12:45:00 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
You're lucky - my work IBM (pre-Lenovo) T42 has exactly the same layout but with one huge ommision - the Windows Key..! This and the daft placing of the Fn key doesn't bother me at work as the laptop is docked and I use a USB keyboard, but at home it's really annoying. Two of my most used shortcuts Win+E and Win+R are not longer available and it bugs the hell out of me!
Sunday, May 04, 2008 1:30:00 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
This is funny. Reading this explained an oddity I recently noticed. I have a T60P and apparently trained myself too well to get around the FN key placement. In the last month I've been doing a little more work on my desktop and am constantly hitting the Windows Key, since I'm used to a ctrl button there on the lappie... annoying.
Monday, May 05, 2008 6:18:00 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
It can't be worse than this: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jacobgordon/2455618195/in/photostream/

: )
Monday, May 05, 2008 2:20:00 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
I have to agree it incredibly frustrating on any keyboard. I have a Alienware laptop with the same 'Fn' placement. But between work and home I have to regularly switch to around 4-5 different keyboard layouts.

Worst of all most desktop machines have the same problem, my one particular bug bear is squashed 'home' 'end' 'pgup' etc. keys
Tuesday, May 06, 2008 7:56:00 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
HAHA!! My better half has the same problem (or at least I have the problem , it's her first computer) with her Samsung laptop. The odd thing is, I somehow change the resolution and allsorts of things while trying to perform 'normal' shortcuts.

Your solution I think is the best available.

I was thinking of buying a Lenovo, but I think this woudl annoy me far too much.

Cheers for the heads-up!
Tuesday, May 06, 2008 8:27:00 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
You think that is bad, check this out: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jacobgordon/2455618195/in/photostream/
Sunday, May 11, 2008 2:55:17 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
Neil: Yes, one of my older Tosh's (not the M5) had the Windows key in the upper right corner (which is ridiculous).
Mike: Reading your comments I was going to point out that you clearly have never used a desktop (aka normal) keyboard. Then I read your comment about liking those stupid buttons next to the UP key and realised it is true: you have never used a desktop keyboard ;)
Steve: Unfortunately, a lot of my computing is on the couch/bed and when presenting at events – an external keyboard is not a realistic/convenient option.
Marcus: 10 days later I am not used to it – far from it, I hate this thing. The light does nothing for me given the angle I have the lid open at. If they were smart, they would have made it backlit the keys.
Moggoly: I can only sympathise.
Chris: That is exactly what amplifies the issue: I too use other normal keyboards in-between and get reminded of the crappiness of the Lenovo's design.
John: All my desktop machines are consistently great. Yes, squashed keys annoy me too!
Matt: Glad I saved you the aggravation.
John and Simon: That picture takes the biscuit; at least they recognise that as a cock up whereas they try to defend the Lenovo's layout as "by design".
Wednesday, May 14, 2008 8:30:00 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
Dude, I understand your pain, I have a X61, the laptop is even smaller!
Akim
Wednesday, May 14, 2008 2:33:00 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
I experienced the ridiculous FN key in place of CTRL on a Samsung laptop a few years ago - and the killer is copy/paste. I totally agree - standardise where possible.
Thursday, May 15, 2008 7:09:00 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
I honestly have to say I disagree. I love how Lenovo does their laptop keyboards. I've been using a Toshiba loaner laptop and I always make the mistake of the location of control key due to this. Look at how Dell puts Home/PGUP/PGDN/End on the edge, seriously, wtf. Give me a full size keyboard and put those useless keys elsewhere.

Per Akim with the x61, you should have gotten an x300. It has a full size keyboard. I had an x60 and it drove me nuts due to the size of everything. I deemed it unusable actually.
Monday, June 02, 2008 3:49:00 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
Amusingly, just got hold of a new HP 6910p - Fn+Ctrl are in 'correct' locations. However, for Thinkpad users the BIOS has the interesting option 'Swap Fn/Ctrl key locations'.

Shame the Thinkpad doesn't have a similar BIOS setting. For those who think it would be confusing, you can pop the key tops off easily.

This is nothing like the recent Dell laptop gaff where they shunted an entire row of letter keys across by one to fit the keys in better. Touch typists revolted, oddly enough. Funny that they thought they could do it though.

http://www.engadget.com/2008/05/01/dells-vostro-keyboads-putting-the-hurt-on-uk-touch-typists/
Friday, July 18, 2008 3:07:00 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
I came to this site with a T61p also - I want to be able to brighten and lower the screen with one hand - can't with that damn function key location!!
Anonymous
Friday, September 05, 2008 2:10:00 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
Fully agree with you. How many times have I pushed the F1 button instead of ESC. And honestly, the F1 button is about the most useless button on a PC anyway, does anyone really use it to get 'help'????
I got this new T61 from work and am unfortunately stuck with it. I just hope it will die soon and I can in the meantime convince our IT department that Dells are not only cheaper but also better!
And oh boy, is this thing ugly...
Anonymous
Tuesday, October 07, 2008 4:34:00 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
I really hate the FN-key placement... together with all other stupid keys...
so here is a picture of what i really want :-)

http://www.mdk-photo.com/pictures/T400%20with%20Perfect%20Keyboard.jpg

someone should start a movement against FN-CTRL misplacement
or maybe start a movement towards a standard design for keyboards - based on the 102 Qwerty design

I'd love to get rid of windows-keys, numlock, scroll lock, capslock, underlying numpad-keys
I'd also love to secure the Home-group in the old layout just like this:
http://www.mdk-photo.com/pictures/keyb.jpg

most keys are WTF-keys... useless legacy keys

what happened to "The costumer is always right"
Sunday, March 01, 2009 3:39:00 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
I have Lenovo R400 laptop. At home I have classical Chicony keyboard. I use them mostly 50/50. I happened to me few times, that at destop I was pressing the Win button, because I expected Ctrl to be there. As you get used to it, it saves a lot of time. All frequestly used shortcuts are faster. Ctrl + C - the way from ctrl to c is one key shorter than on normal layout. Also the Fn key is easy to find for ThinkLight, Fn+F5 and other. On the other hand I hate the Next/previous keys on the sides of the up arrow. Love to have empty space there.
Friday, March 06, 2009 5:42:00 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
Man I just posted a quick "I hate list" of my work Lenovo T500. I hate Lenovo so much right now. I would even downgrade to a slower Dell just because of the stupid keyboard.
Sunday, March 29, 2009 7:27:00 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
I've got the same problem on my new lenovo. I love the notebook so far, but that Ctrl/Fn thing is hella annoying.
I already swapped PgUp with Home and PgDown with End because I use home/ end a lot more than the page buttons. But as it seams the Fn problem can't be solved by software, unless Lenovo publishes a BIOS upgrade with that option (*fingers crossed*).
Right now, I'm seriously contemplating gluing something across the two keys so that Ctrl is pressed when I hit Fn.
Marc
Wednesday, April 08, 2009 10:39:00 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
Can someone with skills take a soldering iron to this keyboard and show us how a youthenized Fn key mod is done!
Anonymous
Wednesday, June 10, 2009 1:02:46 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
Hi. I'm also stuck with this issue on a Lenovo T400. If you head over to the Lenovo Community forums, you'll see it's the most popular complaint by far. ( See: http://forums.lenovo.com/lnv/board/message?board.id=T400_series_ThinkPads&thread.id=7121 )Yet Lenovo is not responding to this concern at all. Lenovo sucks. That being said, here are a few ideas to help the issue:

1. Remove the contact underneath the Fn key; glue/epoxy a bridge between the Fn key and the Ctrl key so that when you press the Fn key, the Ctrl key depresses as well. I tried this mod with super glue and failed -- the bridge wasn't stiff enough.

2. Rewire the key layout. This entails popping off the keys and carefully rewiring the conductive layer below the keyboard itself. This is a risky mod because if you mess up, you can ruin the keyboard.

3. Attempt to byte-hack the BIOS image so that Fn is interpreted as Ctrl and Ctrl is interpreted as Fn by the hardware. This is also very risky because if you upload a non-functioning BIOS image, your machine will be virtually impossible to revive.

4. Try to swap Fn/Ctrl in software. I'm pretty sure this is impossible in Windows but maybe there's a kernel level hack we can do in Linux. I doubt it though.

Like I said, I've attempted option #1 and failed. I'm going to buy a spare keyboard on ebay and go for #2.

This is such poor customer service on Lenovo's part. It would be trivial for them to add a swap option in the BIOS, yet they do nothing. This is downright offensive.
Friday, December 11, 2009 3:45:44 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
I can go a whole day without a reason to use the fn key.
What I want is that it beeps at me when I press fn-c, that way I'll no I didn't copy anything.

Any one know how to do that.
Anonymous
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