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The Key To Change: How to use any USB keyboard on a Mac
by rob

Did you know that if you plug just about any USB keyboard into a recent Mac, it will work just fine? That's right! Through the wonders of the Universal Serial Bus, many peripherals are dual-platform.

Why would you want to use a PC keyboard on a Mac? You may be a Mac “switcher” who wants to use a keyboard you already have, you may use both Macs and PCs at one desk and want to use one keyboard for both computers via a KVM switch or you may be a Mac user that wants a larger selection of keyboards. Whatever the reason, here are a few tips for your multi-talented keyboard.

Keyboard Layout Comparison
Keyboard Layout Comparison

The layout of a QWERTY keyboard is the same on both the Mac and PC except for a modifier key, the Command key. The Command key (decorated with the Apple logo and cloverleaf symbol) lives next to the spacebar on a Mac keyboard and is the main modifier key used in keyboard shortcuts. On a PC keyboard, the Windows key is used as the Command key.

On a new Mac keyboard, there are a few buttons that PC keyboards lack. There are volume controls and a CD eject key above the numeric keypad. Some multimedia PC keyboards (like the Zboard that I'm using right now) include volume control keys in different layouts. The eject key won't be on any non-Mac keyboard, but you can press the F12 key for two seconds and Macs will recognize this and eject the CD tray.

When moving your cursor around in a block of text on a Mac, the Home and End keys will scroll to the beginning or end of the document while leaving the cursor where it was. If you want to move the cursor in an input box (the address bar or form input fields in a webpage), you can use the up and down arrows the same way you would the Home and End keys in Windows.

Here are some handy keyboard shortcuts for your PC keyboard:

Alt-Up Arrow = Move the cursor to the beginning of the paragraph
Alt-Down Arrow = Move the cursor to the end of the paragraph
Windows-Shift-3 = Screenshot of entire screen gets saved to the desktop
Windows-Shift-4 = Changes cursor to a crosshair to select an area of the screen for screenshot

For a complete list of Mac OS X keyboard shortcuts, read Apple's Support article.

What if you have a favorite PS/2 keyboard that you want to use with a Mac or non-PS/2 PC? You're in luck! There are PS/2 to USB adapters available from Belkin, Compaq and QVS.

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