How to Make a Standard Keyboard Work Like a Mac Keyboard

So, you’re not too crazy about the Apple keyboard, but you’ve already gotten used to the command key layout? You can turn a standard Windows keyboard into a Mac keyboard and mimic its layout by simply switching around the command keys. Granted, this won’t give you the same multimedia and eject functionality of the Apple keyboards, but you can replace a lot of this by using a multimedia keyboard with audio controls.

To do this, you’ll need to plug in your standard keyboard and follow these steps:

  • Launch System Preferences.
  • Select Keyboard from the Hardware section of the menu.
  • Select Modifier Keys on the lower-right area of the window.
  • Choose your preferred keyboard in the Select Keyboard drop-down.
  • Select Command as the action when the Option Key is selected.
  • Select Option as the action when the Command Key is selected.
  • Hit OK.
  • Close System Preferences.
  • Open TextEdit and test copying and pasting.

You can always reverse any changes you’ve made by accessing the Modifier Keys menu and selecting the Restore Defaults button.

At this point, you should be able to copy, paste, and navigate through OS X with as much ease as you would with an Apple keyboard.

This trick worked for me when plugging in an old Logitech G15 gaming keyboard. Even with all the extra bells and whistles, everything worked flawlessly after that one simple adjustment. For most standard keyboards with media keys, these keys should work natively with OS X. This isn’t true in all cases, but after trying a half-dozen different older and newer keyboards, I’ve yet to come across one that doesn’t work.

Also, if you’re running a version of OS X prior to 10.4, you may want to try out DoubleCommand, a free app for the Mac that allows you to remap your modifier keys and make a standard keyboard behave more like one made for use with Mac OS X.

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Ryan Matthew Pierson