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The lack of function keys is not unprecedented, though. Well into the '90s Macs generally didn't have any. What do you use them for?

I don't mind the lack of function keys; I've realized to my mild surprise that the only things I tend to use them with have been bits and bobs I remapped myself with Keyboard Maestro (I used to have F13 remapped to...something or other, for instance) and the occasional terminal app that uses function keys. I do use media keys, but I've found the Touch Bar is by and large just fine for that. (I don't really have muscle memory associated with those, and controls like volume and brightness are fine use cases for a surface that can do sliders.)

In practice, my only real complaints with the Touch Bar are (1) not enough things really find ways to take advantage of it, which contributes to its "just a gimmick" feel, and (2) GIVE ME BACK A PHYSICAL ESCAPE KEY.

The lack of a mechanical Escape is nuts, yes. But Apple could and should have dealt with that by moving the Escape to somewhere else on the keyboard. In fact they should have done that anyway, as Escape is too remote on the far left of the far-away function row. Given the the MBP keyboard as it is, most users should probably remap Esc to the Caps Lock key, at least if they don't tend to hit Caps Lock by accident.

I used to remap caps lock as another control key, actually, but sure, they could put the escape key somewhere else. My muscle memory is for where the escape key is now.

(...but I actually remap caps lock to escape in my iPad's terminal client, ironically, because the Brydge hardware keyboard has no escape key at all!)

There is this Karabiner software:


It allows remapping keys, so you could e.g. remap the whole top row from ~, 1 to 0 to act as ESC, F1 to F10 when needed. Not ideal but better than touch bar.

I used Karabiner for a while, but didn't find a lot of incredible use for it in practice. Some people love it, though.

I'd have liked to have seen more apps try and do something with the touch bar, though. Amusingly, Apple's native Terminal.app does more work with it than many other apps I've seen -- it adds a virtual key that toggles the Option key between Option and Meta, adds a "Man page" button that will bring up the man page for the last-typed command, and lets you quickly change the theme of an existing terminal window.

Quite a lot of shortcuts in IDEs like IntelliJ IDEA and many others depend on them.

Are there modifier-key-based alternatives to the F-key shortcuts? If so then one should be using those instead; in fact one should be using those instead of the F keys anyway, since they're (by all accounts; not an expert) faster and more convenient for touch-typing. (They may be slightly less discoverable than the function-key versions, but that's no longer a problem once you've gone ahead and discovered them.) If there's no modifier-based alternative to some important shortcut, then that's certainly pretty dreadful. It is more the ISV's fault than Apple's, but obviously that's cold comfort to users. What Apple should do, though, is map keys on the right-hand side of the mechanical keyboard to the F keys while the Fn button is held down —so, like a typical laptop numlock, only with a momentary rather than a latching modifier —instead of only changing the Touch Bar display.

Real functions keys are excellent for debugging -- single step, step into, etc.

Modifier-based shortcuts are not as good because it usually takes two hands, and maybe I want a hand free to use the mouse to scan values, operate the UI I’m testing, etc.

Also, IDEs have a ton of functions so all the simple modifier combinations are already in use. A complex two-hand combination is good for something you frequently use once while typing (e.g. “show autocomplete”). Debugging, on the other hand, is something you do relatively infrequently (hopefully!) but when you’re in that mode, it’s great to have dedicated single keys, closely clustered together.

Physical keys are much easier to use than touchscreen buttons, especially when not looking at the keyboard.

I avoid the TouchBar like the plague, but I think JetBrains is to blame for that particular problem. macOS apps don't typically use the F keys for shortcuts, and I wish JetBrains would offer an optional, more Mac-like set of hotkeys out of the box. (Their "OS X" scheme is basically just the Windows one with ctrl and cmd exchanged.)

I use my F keys to trigger scripts that do things like focus browser and reload page or bring the terminal to the front.

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