Mac Karabiner Key Remaps I Use

Karabiner (formerly KeyRemap4MacBook) is a tool that lets you remap certain keys on your keyboard. I find this useful as a developer and someone who writes words in a few ways.

Mega Fast Key Repeats

When I pair with someone for the first time or give a presentation, they usually ask “how are you moving the cursor so fast?” I use Karabiner to crank up the cursor speed. This is most useful for navigating quickly between letters, words, and sentences. Also, it’s useful for quickly killing characters. At first the cursor seems to be flying around, but soon you gain control and can’t imagine working another way.

My current settings (see the “Key Repeat” tab) are for a “delay until repeat” of 250 milliseconds and a “key repeat” of 10 milliseconds. Any shorter of delay until repeat causes me to add extra chaarractersss when I don’t intend to do so. Similarly, 10 milliseconds of key repeat allows me to be pretty precise in cursor placement without sacrificing nearly top speed.

Try it for a week and I’d bet that you won’t go back to slow repeats.

Caps Lock -> Escape

I wrote about remapping caps lock to escape a long time ago, and my thoughts on it have not changed much. If anything, my muscle memory has made it more indispensable. The Macbook keyboard already has a control and alt on the left side, so I’m not sure why you would remap caps lock to those.

The current best way to remap it is to use Karabiner, which has it as an option (just search “caps”.) It works everywhere flawlessly, so there is not much more to say.

Emacs / Readline Shortcuts

Emacs and readline (bash, zsh, etc.) use an interesting set of meta (alt) and control commands to help you navigate around. You probably already use some of the built-in keyboard shortcuts for editing text. For example:

  • Ctrl+a to move to the beginning of the current line
  • Ctrl+e to move to the end of the current line
  • Ctrl+k to kill to the end of the line without copying to clipboard
  • Ctrl+b to move one character backward
  • Ctrl+f to move one character forward
  • Alt+backspace to delete word backward

If you’re a command-line or Emacs junkie, you might want more power or consistency. Plus, by making the behavior system-wide,you’ll make those muscle memories stronger. There are some Karabiner settings that emulate these behaviors:

  • Alt+b to move to previous word
  • Alt+f to move to next word
  • Alt+d to delete word forward
  • Ctrl+d to delete character forward
  • Ctrl+u to delete to the beginning of the line (copying to clipboard if you want)

You can also change Ctrl+k to copy the contents you killed to the clipboard. There are a ton of other Emacs commands but I don’t use it heavily enough to want to use these bindings. Some of the alt command remaps will overwrite the default Mac insertions (Alt+f usually inserts the “ƒ” character, for example), but I don’t use them often enough to justify keeping them around.

To find these settings, look under the “Emacs Mode” section of the main “Change Key” tab. I was digging around and saw this, and it has made me much more effective at moving around.

I primarily use Vim for writing other prose so it doesn’t help there, but I write a non-trivial amount of words in Slack and email. After making these changes I find that my editing speed in those programs is much faster and more intuitive. Also my readline editing speed and accuracy are up as well.

Hope this helped!

Hope this post helped you squeeze a little more power out of your keyboard. I’d love to hear any keyboard hacks you use that you get value out of. Leave a comment!

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