Notebook PC keyboard key assignment

February 17, 2009 at 11:41:51
Specs: Windows XP Home
I have a new Lenovo S10 Netbook PC. It has the [FN] and [CTRL] keys reversed compared to all other notebook PCs I have ever used. How can I swap them, preferably in BIOS so they work the same way in and out of Windows? If that is not possible, can a simple registry edit accomplish this inside Windows XP Home?

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February 17, 2009 at 12:11:47

try a remap of the keyboard.

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February 17, 2009 at 12:52:17

Thanks for such a quick response.

I have looked at lots of keyboard remapping software in trying to solve this problem. KeyTweak looks better than most I have seen, but as it says under the heading "Some common questions:"

"Can KeyTweak affect the Fn key on my laptop?"

"No, that key doesn't generate scancodes."

That is why I had the impression it would take a patch to the BIOS to accomplish the reversal of the [FN] and [CTRL] keys.

I am tempted to explore KeyTweak further for other purposes, whether I can fix this or not, so Thank You for the link. It will save me having to figure out how the registry stores the keyboard scan codes and editing them myself.


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February 19, 2009 at 00:17:22
What I did not explain clearly is that the problem is my hitting the [FN]key while trying to type the [CTRL] key because these keys are in the opposite location compared to the other two keyboards I use most of the time. Though I know consciously of the difference when I use the S10, my fingers still try to go where they're used to going anyway unless I really slow down and concentrate -- a real distraction.

Remapping the other keys does not solve this problem.

Any ideas anyone?


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February 19, 2009 at 07:56:53

sorry i didnt see the fn quote i only found the software last week for a very old laptop with an odd keyboard issue which actually turned out to be the fn numlock combo.

having looked around the fn key apears as you say to be hardwired, and other people have had the same issue, a physical method is use a blue tac to prevent the key from being pressed till your fingers 'remap' for that keyboard.

again sorry for the misleading post.


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February 19, 2009 at 15:34:43

Apology accepted but not necessary. I have also been looking into what the key scan codes are and how they are mapped in the registry in case I need to change something else around, so KeyTweak would be a much more elegant approach than I was planning. Thanks again for the link. Always good to have good tools in the toolbox.

For instance, on the IdeaPad S10 the [PgUp] & [PgDn] keys are unshifted and do double-duty as [Home] = [FN]+[PgUp] and [End] = [FN]+[PgDn]. Since I use [Home] and [End] much more often I am thinking of reversing them with [PgUp] and [PgDn], meaning that they won't require using the [FN] key. I know that the [FN] key does not generate a scan code by itself, but I am hoping that the combination of it plus another key sends a code I CAN remap. Hope that makes sense. (Probably what I'll discover if I can swap them is that my impression of which I use more often was not accurate and I just noticed the ones that require the extra keypress more than the ones that don't.)

One other thing I'm experimenting with is the "On-Screen Keyboard" that comes with Windows XP. It allows keyboard key presses to be accomplished with mouse clicks. The better I fine-tune the Synaptics track pad the more useful it becomes, but still a bit distracting.

The moral of the story so far is that I didn't consider carefully enough before purchasing a "netbook" how big the tradeoff between compact size and keyboard function would be in actual use. It is still a really neat little machine I would recommend to others, but only if they are sure they can live with it. Probably anyone who leans more to navigating with a mouse/trackpad than on the keyboard would not be as bothered by this as I am. But, it would be SO MUCH better if it didn't require the mental keyboard remapping with the stupid placement of the [FN] key. (WHY did they DO THAT? It looks like all the other Netbook manufactures did that part right.)

If I can not find a patched version of the BIOS code (I can't be the ONLY one annoyed by this, can I?) I might even consider hardware re-wiring of the keys, if that is possible. Everything is so miniturized these days the old approach of cutting one PC board trace with an Exacto and soldering a strap between it and another has become obsolete. I don't even own a screwdriver small enough to open the case on this thing. Pretty drastic, but then upgrading BIOS is not to be taken lightly either, I've read.

Does anyone out there know how someone would go about patching BIOS to do something like this? Or, at least, convice a manufacturer to do it? Anyone else bothered by this?


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March 11, 2009 at 09:29:35
I recieved a Private Message from someone having the same problem with an MSI Wind netbook asking whether I have found a work-around yet.

I was hoping to find a way to patch the BIOS to reverse the [FN] and [CTRL] keys and just swap the key caps on the keyboard.
Now I'm not even sure the BIOS could treat the [FN] key differently, depending on how it is wired into the motherboard. I am also not ready to hack into the hardware at this point.

I did get an idea from a recent episode of This Week In Technology - Security Now! with Leo LaPorte and Steve Gibson (#184).
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Steve mentioned that he tweaks the Windows Registry to remap the [CapsLock] key to be the [CTRL] key so his Wordstar trained fingers still find it in "the right place" (Pre-IBM PC-AT placement). Since I almost never use the CapsLock intentionally, putting the CTRL key there (with KeyTweak -- thank you again 1stepbeyond) might be an improvement. It's still different than my desktop keyboard, but I guess I could do the same re-map on it. Then I only have to adjust when using someone else's keyboard ...

My advice to anyone considering buying ANY Lenovo (or MSI) notebook would be to look at other brands with the keys in "the right place", which for me is as close as possible to the most common desktop keyboard layouts. A good alternative to the S10 would be the new Samsung NC10. It looks like a much better keyboard layout, in addition to the keys being much less cramped (~92% of full size vs ~80% for the S10.) The penalty is that it is 0.5 inch wider and does not have an ExpressCard slot, though it does have a 6-cell battery instead of the S10's 3-cell.

(Even if it had been available when my wife needed the netbook for a trip, her top criterion was small size + light weight -- it had to fit into her purse -- and battery life was low on the list, so the S10 might still have won out over the NC10 for her, being the primary user.)


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