Globe key on Mac: Everything you can do with the fn key

You probably know the fn or globe key on the Mac keyboard. But how often do you use them? And for what? Did you know how many different functions the button can have? In this guide I have summarized everything you need to know about the special key on the Apple Mac. So you know where it is positioned on different keyboard models, which key combinations you can use it for and where the corresponding settings for customization can be found. Feel free to use this post as a cheat sheet for using the globe or fn key on the Mac.

Where is the globe key on the Mac keyboard?

The fn or globe key is located on small "Magic Keyboard" keyboards without a number pad, on the built-in MacBook keyboards, and on the iPad's folio keyboards at the bottom left. Above this is the shift key, and to the left of the fn key you will find control.

On large “Magic Keyboard” keyboards with a numeric keypad, the arrangement of the keys is a little different. There you will find the fn key directly below the F13 key. It is located in the keypad above the arrow keys. These are located between the letter part of the keyboard on the left and the number pad on the right.

What kind of button is that?

The button described is a function key that can be used for key combinations similar to control (Ctrl), option (Alt) and command. However, you can also assign actions for single and double presses without additional buttons.

For example, simply pressing the Globe key can change the Mac's language settings (for example, from German to English to use the appropriate keyboard layout). But the emoji overview can also be called up if the setting is activated accordingly. Pressing it twice can trigger the dictation function.

First important setting: Use F keys with or without fn key

No matter which Apple keyboard you use, at the top you will see the F keys numbered consecutively to the right of the Esc key. These have certain system-wide functions on the Mac. Use F1 and F2 to control the brightness of the display (if possible). F11 and F12 control the volume of the audio output. And so forth. In order to use the F functions (F1, F2, F3, etc.) in individual apps, you also have to press the fn key.

If the whole thing is set the other way around, then when you simply press them, the keys only act as F keys for the respective functions in certain apps. To use them to adjust the brightness, use play and pause, regulate the volume and so on, you must also press the fn key. Both settings make sense in different uses of the Mac. If you want to quickly use system-wide functions, choose the first. If you want to use F functions in apps and games, choose the second one.

That's how it works:

  1. Click on that Apple logo () at the top left of the menu bar
  2. In its menu select the System settings ... from
  3. You can call it in the left sidebar Keyboard-Settings
  4. Click on the “Keyboard Shortcuts…” button
  5. Choose from the pop-up menu on the left function keys off and (de)activates the switch on the right

Select action for simply pressing the fn/globe key

As you can see in the first of the two screenshots above, there is System Settings -> Keyboard also the menu item “When pressing the 🌐 button”. At least that's the name of the setting on macOS 14 Sonoma. In older systems, the fn key can also be used. However, for both you can choose from these options:

  • Change input source
  • Show emojis & symbols
  • Start dictation function (press the 🌐 button twice)
  • No action

“Change input source” means the keyboard language. So if you have defined several possible languages ​​or keyboard layouts for yourself, you can switch between them by simply pressing the globe key. This also explains why the symbol is a globe.

Personally, I use “Show emojis & symbols” to assign the fn key. Sometimes I want to insert small images into emails, blog posts or featured images, or select the ✔︎ and ✗ for feature lists. And in my opinion, simply pressing the fn key is the quickest way to do it.

If you prefer to enter text via dictation rather than typing on the keyboard, then the third setting “Start dictation function (press the 🌐 key twice)” is the right one. The double tap is a safety precaution so you don't accidentally activate the microphone and voice transcription.

Use the fn key as Esc, control, option, command or caps lock

Depending on the workflow, it may also make sense to use this key as another function key instead of the fn options provided. You can repurpose them directly in the macOS settings. To do this, go back to the keyboard settings and click on the “Keyboard shortcuts…” button again. In its pop-up menu you now select on the left Special keys .

If you use multiple keyboards, you can first select the input device you want to customize next to “Select keyboard”. In addition to the internal MacBook keyboard, I also have the connected USB keyboard. But let's stick with the Mac keyboard including the fn key. For this you can repurpose the Caps Lock key, the Control key, the Option key, the Command key and the globe key.

You can choose from the other keys, the Esc key and “No action”. So you can basically exchange all function keys with each other, which can be done, for example: This can be useful, for example, when switching from a Windows keyboard to the Mac keyboard - at least exchanging the option and command keys can be worthwhile here. You can also deactivate the Caps Lock key here if it annoys you. For the fn key you simply set what seems sensible and useful to you.

Use fn key for mission control/desk display

Mission Control is the macOS function that shows you all open (as well as non-minimized) program windows in an overview so that you can quickly select the one you are looking for. If the switch is deactivated in the setting explained first, you can call up Mission Control with the F3 key. If the switch is active, call up Mission Control with fn+F3. Anyway, you can find some handy Mission Control and Desktop Display options in Mac's System Preferences:

  1. Click on that Apple logo () at the top left of the menu bar
  2. In its menu select the System settings ... from
  3. In the left sidebar you call Desk & dock on
  4. Scroll all the way down and click on the “Shortcuts…” button
  5. If desired, set the fn or other key to enter Mission Control or the desktop

As you can see, you can use a variety of buttons for Mission Control and the desktop display. This gives you the opportunity to customize these options to suit your workflow. If the fn key has not previously been part of it, it can be integrated without having to reassign an already used key and learn how to use it again.

All key combinations with the fn key

After this deep dive into the Apple Mac's settings, let's get back to the basics. In addition to the individually definable options for using the fn key, there are also very simple and ready-made key combinations. These allow you to execute individual macOS commands quickly and easily, which will help those of you who prefer to use the keyboard rather than the mouse or trackpad.

Here are the different fn key combinations:

  • fn+N – Calls them Notification center which is also accessed by clicking on the menu bar clock or by swiping with multiple fingers from the right edge to the center on the trackpad.
  • fn+C – That calls control center in the menu bar. Subsequent navigation with the keyboard is not possible, so the mouse or trackpad must be used. So this shortcut doesn't really make sense.
  • fn+A – That calls Dock which you can then maneuver with the keyboard. More details here: Without mouse and trackpad – Use the dock with the keyboard.
  • fn+Shift+A – That calls Launchpad where you can navigate using the arrow keys and search for a specific program by entering an app name. More details here: Three ways to launch Mac apps using just the keyboard.
  • fn+F11 or fn+H – Calls him Desk and pushes the open apps to the side. From macOS 14 Sonoma, this can also be done by clicking on a desktop section - more about this here: Show Mac Desktop by Clicking (and How to Disable It).
  • fn+F – Moves the active app window to the Full Screen and ends it again when pressed again.
  • fn+Q – Calls a new one quick note so that a thought can be captured immediately. You can think of this combination with the English name for quick note, namely Quick note, remember.
  • fn+E – Calls them Emoji and symbols overview on. A good key combination if simply pressing the fn key is already occupied. Otherwise, you can also call up emojis and symbols without the E (see instructions above).
  • fn+D – Activates the Dictation function for voice input of text. This is also a good replacement in the event that pressing the fn key twice does not trigger the dictation function (see instructions above).
  • Simulate Up, Down, Top of Page (Home) and End of Page (End) – If you use one of the smaller Apple keyboards, but want to use the page navigation keys that are located above the arrow keys on the large model, you can simulate them while holding down the fn key: Down or up arrow is scrolling, arrow Arrow to the right is the bottom of the page and the arrow to the left is the top of the page.
  • Simulating the Delete key: On large keyboards with a number pad there is also the Delete key, which is also abbreviated as del or displayed as ⌦. If you use a smaller keyboard or MacBook, you can use it with fn+⌫ (fn+Delete) substitute. So you don't delete to the left, but to the right. Details here: Delete key on Mac keyboard - key combination simulates "Remove".
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