A nifty feature of Apple's laptops, as well as the company's latest keyboards, is that the function keys (F1 through F12), which often go unused, can perform useful alternate functions. For example, they let you control volume, screen brightness, and iTunes playback, and they provide quick access to Expose and Dashboard. You can choose, using the Keyboard & Mouse pane of System Preferences, whether you want these special functions to always take precedence over the function keys' standard behavior, or if they should require the use of the fn key.
But what if you want only some of the function keys to adopt this special behavior? For example, what if you want quick access to volume and brightness controls, but you want the other F-keys to behave like standard F-keys? Kevin Gessner's FunctionFlip 1.1 is the answer.
The first time you launch FunctionFlip, it displays its Settings window, where you tell it which special functions correspond to which F-keys on your particular keyboard. (Different Apple keyboards have slightly different key assignments.)
After that simple setup procedure, FunctionFlip sits in your menu bar and lets you choose the behavior of each "special" F-key. If you've checked the box in Keyboard preferences for "Use all F1, F2, etc. keys as standard function keys," choosing a key in the FunctionFlip menu forces that key to perform its special action; otherwise, choosing a key in the menu makes it work as a standard F-key. (In either case, you can access the other behavior for a key at any time by pressing the fn key.)
FunctionFlip has worked well for me. My biggest complaint is that I'd prefer it to be a System Preferences pane. The convenience of menu-bar access is nice, but I find that I don't change FunctionFlip's settings very often, so it's just taking up space in my already crowded menu bar.
FunctionFlip 1.1 requires Mac OS X 10.5 and a recent Apple laptop or keyboard.
This story, "FunctionFlip 1.1" was originally published by Macworld.