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How to remap keyboard keys on macOS

If you need to remap keyboard keys on Windows 10, AutoHotKey is a simple way to do it. For macOS, there’s no equivalent of AutoHotKey if you’re looking for script-based solution. That said, if you need to remap keyboard keys on macOS, you can do it with a free, open source app called Karabiner-Elements.

Karabiner-Elements is as popular on macOS as AutoHotKey is on Windows 10. It not only gives users a simple GUI for remapping keyboard keys on macOS, it can also be used for more complicated keyboard modifications.

If you’re looking to disable modifier keys on macOS, there’s a stock feature that can do that and you don’t really need this app for it.

Remap keyboard keys

Download and install Karabiner-Elements. Once installed, run the app and go to the Simple Modifications tab. This is where you can remap a keyboard key. Click the ‘Add Item’ button at the bottom and open the ‘From key’ dropdown. It will list every single key on your keyboard. Select the one you want to remap and then open the ‘To key’ dropdown. From this dropdown, select which key should be executed when you tap the key you’re remapping.

In the set-up below, when I tap the ‘a’ key, it will instead enter ‘1’. Repeat this for all the keys that you need to remap. Any time you want to reset the key back to normal, click the Remove button next to it.

Macs, like all other computers, have function keys that can control volume, brightness, the backlit keyboard, etc. Out of the box, you cannot change how these keys work but Karabiner-Elements can.

Go to the Function Keys tab and there, you can change what the function keys on your MacBook do. If you need the function keys to act primarily as function keys and not control brightness, sound, etc., enable the ‘Use all F1, F2 etc. keys as standard functions keys’ option at the bottom and by default, the function keys will act as standard function keys. In order to use them to change the volume or brightness, you will have to tap and hold the Fn key when you press a function key.

This particular modification will only work once you’ve booted to your desktop. Karabiner-Elements doesn’t modify the core keyboard functionality so, on your boot screen where the app isn’t running, it will not be able to modify any key. The modifications will only take effect once you’ve booted to your desktop and run the app.


  1. so I’m having trouble with this program. so I want that function keys would work on my usb keyboard but it just doesn’t and I have seen another man having trouble with this on GitHub and If I go to the log it says failed to bind like 15 times and the it says device open forbidden and it just reapets that code all over again a million times and it just doesn’t work

  2. You say it’ll only work if we boot to our desktop… but…err… aren’t we already booted into our desktop!? Bit confusing to be honest. Do you mean that the effects will only take place if you reboot!?

    • What I think the writer means is that you can’t expect the app to work when the OS isn’t fully booted.

    • I think he means that this only works while you are booted and logged into your account on macOS. For example during the login screen or if you dual-boot Windows 10 it wouldn’t work.

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