Apple M1 MacBook Air gives some functions keys new duties

While the venerable keyboard itself hasn't changed much in terms of layout, the extra function keys that have been added to computer keyboards tend to move around a lot. Beyond the more standard F1 to F12 keys, additional functions, especially those on top of those F-keys, have been rather inconsistent across manufacturers and models. The latest shift comes with Apple's announcement of new Macs powered by its first M1 Apple Silicon which now ditches rarely used keys and gives them new things to do.

The secondary functions that sit on the top row of our keyboards have never really been standardized though manufacturers are at least consistent with their own products. They do change from time to time, though, often without prior warning or announcements. Apple's changes to the new MacBook Air, for example, almost went unnoticed until Bloomberg's Mark Gurman did.

The tech journalist noted that three Function keys have silently been changed. The old MacBook Air's keyboard, for example, had Launchpad on the F4 key while the F5 and F6 keys hosted the Keyboard Brightness controls. In the new MacBook Air powered by the M1 Apple Silicon, however, these are gone, perhaps for good.

These three keys have been repurposed for Spotlight, Dictation, and Do Not Disturb functions, features that used to require going into Settings or a keyboard shortcut combo to access. Apple perhaps saw that these are or will be used more frequently than, say, the Launchpad. Some might contest, however, the removal of direct keyboard brightness controls.

Fortunately, the layout is the only thing that Apple has changed. It has still stuck to its scissor switches since it was severely burned the last time it tried to change the mechanism beneath. The new MacBook Air retails for $999 and starts shipping next week.