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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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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.







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!



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.





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


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.


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.


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.



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.

My business partner standardized our laptops on Lenovo. Let me tell you, I remedied that in less than a year. Why, and what would make me switch back to these otherwise great machines? This button arrangement. Love the explanation, and I wish the others had all followed suit, but they didn't. We've swapped the buttons in BIOS but it causes unfamiliar users tons of pain as they keep raising issues thinking the button is broken because they're pressing the wrong one now. For goodness sakes can't you at least, for those keyboards that have easily removable buttons, make the physical size the same so we can actually swap the buttons too?


Have you ever tried to put "Ctrl" sticker on FN key and vice versa? Smiley Happy



I hope it's a good sign: the new X1 Carbon doesn't have FN key anymore! Maybe on the future thinkpad models, finally they will blow a wind of change by swapping FN and Ctrl position.


@greybox: What people seem to want is to swap the Fn and Ctrl keys, not REMOVE Fn which is what they have done to the new X1 Carbon (and that's not the only change: *facepalm*

> 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. <
Not only that, I use the F# key in many applications.
I originally used the old OmniKey keyboards and mapped all my keys for quick macros (see: ).
The [F1-12] W540 keys are unreadable and quasi useless in a darkened environment, particularly from the light leak (glow) glow under the keys.
Maybe this was designed as a Chinese keyboard?
Which bring me to the point that the W540 is available in other language keyboard configurations, so there is no excuse that this cannot be done. Custom keyboards for a real workstation should be made availble, particularly, since the W540 is custom ordered.
There is no sleep key, albeit there is a claim for a workaround of the on/off key or closing te lid (which has no grip or indend to easily re-open), nor a screen off key when doing long downloads, or keeping the computer on as a fax receive Workstation when on the road and expecting a Fax at odd hours or when away attending a meeting - or using as a remote server/client.



Fn + 4 is the new sleep key for some reason. Also Fn + B for break anf Fn + P for pause.


Lenovo - THANK YOU for leaving it this way!!!  The Fn key belongs out where it is!   Anyone who doesn't like it can use your BIOS feature.  I love Fn where it is - on the outside.


ThinkPad keyboards are THE selling point.  I want a keyboard that is awesome to type on, that has a TRACKPOINT pointing device (not a touchpad!), that has a full row of function keys and ALL of the special keys including Home/PrintScr/Insert/Delete/Break!  



@brillat: belongs just because that's the way it has always been? Pretty lousy reasoning. The BIOS function for sure is nice, but it is not the same thing as if the keys were physically swapped, because the Fn key has a different shape and is much smaller. Trackpoint and rest of the special keys has nothing to do with this topic/issue.

Once you have swapped the commands through BIOS, then swap the duplicate Ctrl key on the RIGHT with the (remapped) Fn key on the left (they have the same dimensions). At least you'll key one Ctrl key back in the right place!


 I just received my new t580 from employer. I swapped the keys immediately after OS installation. I done it before i configured any other things. I spend some time to find the solution prior to setup any software or desktop wallpaper. I'm using the blind typing and my experience very sensitive to the keys position. I really was going to return the laptop when I had discovered that I can't press the Ctrl key in blind.

It's disappointing that hardware keys can't be switched due to size. It will not affect me but my colleagues.