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Why is the FN key on the outside left instead of CTRL?


Why is the Fn key on the outside left corner of ThinkPads?  (IdeaPads too)


It seems that Ctrl is on the outside corner for many other PC's made by other manufacturers - why is it different?


Lenovo's, David Hill explains it :  (see orignal blog post for full context)




The Fn key  first debuted on the monochrome display ThinkPad 300 in October of 1992.   The Fn key circa 1992 was placed exactly as it is today.  Interestingly enough,  Apple uses the same positions for their Fn and Ctrl keys as ThinkPad. 


Every other notebook personal computer manufacturer that I know of  has the Fn and Ctrl key positions swapped. (reversed from how it is on ThinkPad & IdeaPad) 


The Fn key was originally placed  by the ThinkPad designers in the lower left hand corner to make the key easier to locate when using the keystroke combinations. There was a rationale. This is especially handy for turning on the ThinkLight in the dark. Aim for the two extreme corners. Desktop keyboards have never had the Fn issue to deal with since there are not such stringent  size contraints for their keyboards that require the use of such a key.


Newer model ThinkPads support a function to swap the key functions in BIOS.  If you have a T410, T510, X201, W510, W701 or later ThinkPad, and wish to remap these two keys, check your BIOS for a setting.


F1 to enter BIOS on startup

Select Config

Select Keyboard and Mouse

Toggle the Fn and Ctrl Key Swap enable or disable (normal)



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Njall On 2011-04-27, 22:18 PM

It would be really nice to know which laptops have this functionality.  I bought an SL510 from Costco in late March 2011 and I cannot swap the FN and CTRL keys in the BIOS.  If I could swap the FN and CTRL key the SL510 would be near perfect for me.  As it is I am looking at exercising the Costco 90 day return and getting another laptop.  I would strongly consider a different Lenovo laptop if I could only be assured that I could swap the FN and CTRL keys. 


If it matters why, my editor of choice when I am programming is Emacs.  The control key is integral to the full use of Emacs and my fingers are very well trained to look for the control key at the bottom left most part of the key board.  The one-key in position is as out of place as it would be if the control key were in the middle of the keyboard.  That and I am a congenital whiner.




parsi On 2012-01-17, 10:52 AM


yip144 On 2012-05-14, 7:44 AM

Dear Mark,


Thanks for the article.


I get hold of a T500 recently and my left pinky is very confused by this Fn-Ctrl thing.


Then I saw your article saying T500 can appy the swap by updating the BIOS. So I updated my BIOS to 3.22 (6FET92WW) 2011/12/14, but can't find this swap option.


Could you please kindly suggest what have I done wrong? Maybe I have to update to a specific version of BIOS first?


Looking forward for your reply, thank you very much!

Mark_Lenovo On 2012-05-18, 18:59 PM



The article originally noted that the T400/500 (Montevina) series Thinkpads would support this change. At the time of the blogs from Yamato in 2009, these systems had been in the market for a while and the Yamato development team was looking forward to introducing this feature in the upcoming (at the time) T410/T510 models and there was discussion about whether we could incorporate this feature into future BIOS versions for the T400/500, and I believed this was implemented when I posted the article.


Based on your inquiry, I retested on BIOS 3.24 of the T400 / T500 and an R400 today and found this feature is not included.  I then verified it was available on a T410 and T510 model system.  I have revised the article to remove notation for the prior models.  Apologies for confusion on this.




Scott586 On 2012-10-07, 3:50 AM

Shame we can't also physically swap the keys around to match their new functional location.

greybox On 2013-06-02, 6:48 AM

Despite they can be swapped using BIOS but it still can fool the uninitiated (I feel sorry for them) and I feel it's just not right to have key label that doesn't match its function.


It's time for revolution, lenovo. The physical button of FN and CTRL must be swapped now as people today are more using CTRL than FN.

frg On 2013-09-16, 10:02 AM

I agree with greybox. I use Ctrl WAY more often than Fn. I use it only basically for volume and brightness (this model doesn't have ThinkLight anyway). Ctrl I use on almost all applications, from copy-pasting to custom shortcuts. And pressing the real Ctrl and for example numer "1" or "2" forces my fingers to go to a really awkward position, so I can't really get used to it. And I don't want as there is the BIOS setting anyway.


Maybe there should be a study asking which button people use more often, Ctrl or Fn, instead of asking which order they prefer. If the rationale for Fn's position to the extreme left is that it is easier to find, then same rationale should be applied to Ctrl.

Bahanix On 2013-10-06, 20:23 PM

This answer seems to explain why some times ago was the FN key on the outside left instead of CTRL, but I just can't understand why is FN at the left of CTRL today.


Like frg, if the rationale for Fn's position to the extreme left is that it is easier to find, then same rationale should be applied to Ctrl.


Very frustrating.


Bahanix On 2013-10-06, 20:32 PM

I forgot to explain why FN at left of CTRL is so frustrating:


Many shortcuts use CTRL+SHIFT:

- CTRL+SHIFT+v paste without formatting;

- CTRL+SHIFT+t reopen a closed tab;

- CTRL+SHIFT+i open DOM inspector;

- CTRL+SHIFT+n open a private tab;


So one finger just can't hit both CTRL and SHIFT, so I need my two hands for a simple shortcut instead of one, unlike all other keyboards I know. As a developper, this mapping just let me go crazy.

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