Keyboard layout frustration

Once upon a time, on Suns (and X-terminals) in a land far, far away, the “Control” key was underneath the Tab key, above the Shift key. Then along came the PC keyboard, which swapped the two. For a while I used to remap my keyboard to put the keys back in the right places, but eventually I had to use too many native Windows machines, so I taught my hands the new Ctrl key location.

Apparently the people that designed Compaq notebook keyboards did so inside of a locked box. Every other laptop I’ve used (Dell, Toshiba, Acer, Sony) has had the usual three or four keys in the bottom left corner of the keyboard: Ctrl, Fn, Alt or Ctrl, Fn, Windows, Alt. Not my Compaq; it has Fn, Ctrl, Windows, Alt!

Who in their right mind does that? They committed two egregious sins: _changing_ a “standard” keyboard layout, and putting a seldom used key (Fn) in the bottom left in place of a commonly used key (Ctrl). I don’t expect most people to know all the emacs Ctrl sequences, but the Ctrl key is used in all sorts of Windows keyboard shortcuts (especially select all, cut, copy, and paste)!!

Even worse, the Fn key cannot be remapped; it is intercepted by the keyboard controller, and used in combination with other keys to generate scancodes for keys that don’t physically exist, like the numeric keypad). _Some_ Compaqs have a BIOS switch to swap the keys; mine doesn’t. So I can’t even swap them back…

For now I’ve found a Windows keyboard remapping utility, “KeyTweak”: and I’m using it to change the Caps Lock key to another Ctrl key (thus putting the Ctrl key back where it was a decade ago). I’ve done the same thing on all of my Linux boxes at home. It’s not an optimal solution, because I still have to use other machines with the Ctrl key in the bottom left…


(Everything else about this laptop is spiffy, btw; the keyboard is my only complaint :-)

posted at 6:15 pm on Tuesday, December 09, 2003 in Rants | Comments (5)


  1. Mike says:

    Hi Harald
    I’ve started to look at your blog on the odd occasion – initially found it through a Kites link I think.
    Is spiffy a Canadian word? or are you a Jeeves & Wooster fan?

  2. Harald says:

    I’m pretty sure it’s a British term, which is almost certainly where I got it from; several people around me come from British stock (including me :), so I probably picked it up that way.

  3. taridzo says:

    you can say that again! i’m not of the old school, but i’ve found the presario laptop layout surprisingly annoying.

  4. Ryan says:


    I’m with you.

    In my opinion, Dell has the best keyboard layout for laptops; Dell even has the 6 navigation keys layed out correctly (insert, delete, home, end, pg up, pg down).

    IBM would have the perfect keyboard layout if they could fix the Ctrl/Fn key switch.

    Toshiba has the worst keyboard layout (even though Ctrl key is correct); navigation keys all over, tilda key next to space bar, windows key in upper right hand corner..stupid.

  5. Peter says:

    I found this thread because my company standardized on Compaqs and I am SO FRUSTRATED with the damn flip of Ctrl and Fn. Previously we could use Dell or Compaq and I always went with Compaq. For my home laptop I’ve had Toshiba and HP without this problem. Now I’m constantly hitting the wrong key, etc. What sort of rock do the compaq designers live under?

    I appreciate any help on this matter. tomorrow I’ll check the bios you mentioned as well as KeyTweak.



RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.