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In 2001, I was playing on the computer of someone who had a number of extra keys along the top of their keyboard. Simply by pressing the corresponding key, the extra keys allowed you to open your web browser, email client, or whatever you programmed them to do. I had seen keyboards like this before, but I'd never understood the appeal.
I wanted to look up something, so to get to the web browser, I started making my way through the menus of software that were available on their computer. The owner suggested that I simply press the "Web" button, saying that Google was their browser's home page. Surely enough, I pressed the "Web" button, and Google popped up without delay.
The convenience of those extra keys impressed me, and I thought about all the ways that they could make my computing life more efficient. For example, instead of having to look for a text editor to jot down a quick note, all I'd have to do is press one key, and then start typing.
At the time, I'd been using an old IBM 101-key clicky keyboard for eleven years. What kept me using it for so long -- aside from the fact that it had always worked perfectly -- was that it had a layout that I couldn't find on most modern keyboards. The Backspace, backslash, Enter, and right Shift keys were all wider than most of the other keys, and none of those four were on the same row as each other. Other keyboards had large Enter keys that ate up the space of where the backslash would be, so I would very often press something unintentionally. Basically, the old keyboard's layout seemed more logical with regard to its ergonomics.
Another thing I liked about my old keyboard was that it was very flat. Most modern keyboards were raised near the back, which I always thought was stupid because it doesn't fit the natural shape of human hands. They also had bulky parts that served no purpose, so they consumed more desk space than was necessary.
I started looking for a keyboard that had both the layout I wanted and the extra keys along the top. My quest came to an end less than a minute later when I found a model by Logitech that perfectly matched what I wanted.
The next day, I went out to a local computer store and bought a "Logitech Internet Navigator Keyboard". I took it home, and programmed each of the twenty extra keys using XBindKeys.
The only thing that I didn't understand when I was preparing to buy it was why the Escape key was about one centimetre to the right. After a few days of using the keyboard, I realized that it made for better ergonomics, and I liked the change.
My new keyboard was an excellent investment.
A little more than a year later, I suggested to someone else that they get a keyboard like mine to help with their productivity. They took my advice, and soon bought a "Logitech Elite Keyboard". Their new keyboard was very similar to my own, except that it had something I had never heard of before: F-Lock.
For longer than I've been alive, keyboards have had function keys (F1, F2, et cetera). Each function key has a different purpose, depending on what software you're using. Most software generally uses F1 as the help key, but developers are free to choose the key bindings they want.
Function keys can also be combined with modifier keys like Control, Shift, or Alt, much like any other key. In FreeBSD, for example, you can press Alt+F1, Alt+F2, and so on to switch between virtual terminals.
Some company decided one day that they thought each function key should be assigned a specific purpose, and that every program should use each function key the same way. Instead of simply changing the key bindings in their software (like changing the Save command from Ctrl+S to F8, for example) and printing their functions on the function keys, they opted for a ridiculous solution. Their idea was to replace the function keys with keys that required special software to give uniform functionality to each of their programs' key bindings.
Despite how preposterous this idea was, other keyboard manufacturers followed suit.
To not eliminate the function keys completely, a key called F-Lock was added. It can be pressed to make the "enhanced" function keys work like their traditional counterparts (F1, F2, et cetera). Even though this allows for backward compatibility, there are many problems to consider.
Physically modifying your keyboard risks substantial damage to your computer. Instead, there are safer and more long-term solutions that you can employ:
I asked someone I know to send a picture of their F-Lock key for me to use in my "I Hate F-Lock" logo. In their file browser, they prefer to press F2 to rename files as opposed to navigating through the menu system. They pressed F2 to rename the file from their digital camera's automatically generated name to something more appropriate. After a few seconds of waiting for something to happen, they realized that F-Lock was turned off.
Making this one web page resulted in someone's frustration with "enhanced" function keys. Imagine how annoying it would be in a larger project.