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Apple Mac OS X tips and tweaks

Date: 3rd February 2012     

Fix OS X Lion keyboard faults with repeat and shortcuts

OS X Lion has some great features and there is a lot to like in it, but it also has some oddities too. One of the strange things it does is to prevent a key from repeating when it is held down.

Another peculiar thing that it does, or rather does not do, is assign a keyboard shortcut to Launchpad. Of course, you can click it in the Dock, but the Dock can become cluttered with icons and it's best to remove it to free up space and launch it with a keypress. A few tweaks is all it takes.

Enable key repeat
Start TextEdit and type a letter, such as e. Hold down the E key and instead of repeating and entering a string of eeeeee... instead a little window pops up after a couple of seconds and in it are foreign characters - e with various accents as used in French, German and other languages. You can click the one you want or press a number key to select one.

This is fine if you regularly write in foreign languages, but it is a pain if you don't and what you really want is a row of eeeees. Some keys do repeat, such as - = + and so on. The reason is that there aren't special foreign language versions of them. So why don't the number keys repeat? Suppose you want a string of 25 zeros, you would have to press the 0 key 25 times. Why can't you just hold it down and have it repeat? It's strange.

To turn off this foreign character display and make keys repeat, open Terminal in the Utilities folder and enter the following command:

defaults write -g ApplePressAndHoldEnabled -bool false

To put things back as they were, enter:

defaults write -g ApplePressAndHoldEnabled -bool true

Restart the Mac after entering the command because it might not take effect immediately.

Launch Launchpad with a keypress
Launchpad is an app that displays applications on the Mac just like iOS devices. It makes your Mac more like an iPad and there are screens of icons, you can swipe or use the right/left keys to slide from one screen to another, and you can run apps with a mouse click. If you still have Launchpad in the Dock then drag it off to remove it. It takes up valuable space and it doesn't need to be there. You can easily run Launchpad with a keypress instead.

Go to System Preferences on the Apple menu and click Keyboard. Select Launchpad and Dock in the list on the left and the keyboard shortcuts are shown on the right. Notice that there isn't one for Launchpad and it is not obvious how to add one. You need to double click in the empty space on the right of Show Launchpad where the keyboard shortcut would be displayed if there was one. Now press any key combination, such as Option+Command+L (make sure the key combo isn't used for anything else). Now you can run Launchpad by pressing these keys.

Launchpad and Dock

Add/change Mission Control shortcuts
Select Mission Control in the list on the left and all the shortcuts are displayed. Are they all set or are there gaps? Double click on the right to add a keyboard shortcut if none exists or to change the one that is currently used. Press the keys you want to use.

Launchpad and Dock