The 'help key' poll

When I hit the help key, it's usually…

  • … by mistake.

    Votes: 31 88.6%
  • … intentionally.

    Votes: 4 11.4%

  • Total voters
    35

srobert

macrumors 68020
Original poster
Jan 7, 2002
2,062
0
A little poll. I'm curious about the results.

Complete the following sentence:

When I hit the help key, it's usually…
 

Raid

macrumors 68020
Feb 18, 2003
2,173
4,061
Toronto
Usually if I press the help key it, it's an accident. However faced with a number of questions from co-workers on computer issues (that could have been looked up) I've been politely trying to teach others what this key is for. ;)
 

mkrishnan

Moderator emeritus
Jan 9, 2004
29,641
12
Grand Rapids, MI, USA
I'll go with accident. I'm so used to notebook keyboards that I don't really use anything outside the main key cluster very frequently at all. And now with OS X, I'm not even used to hitting the function keys anymore! :eek:
 

srobert

macrumors 68020
Original poster
Jan 7, 2002
2,062
0
Just to make sure, the help key has been removed from the new Apple keyboard right? Looking at the poll's result, I don't think it will be missed. Besides, help is easily accessible from the menu bar.

Edit: Highjacking my own thread here but I was wondering if the caps lock key on the new Apple Keyboard lights up in any way when active? Thanks.
 

nbs2

macrumors 68030
Mar 31, 2004
2,719
485
A geographical oddity
I've hit it about ten times. And that was because I wasn't sure what it did, and just kept tapping it until I noticed the cursor change. Otherwise, I've never touched it.

And, bousozoku, yes, it sits in place of the insert - which I seem to hit all the time on accident on PCs (making my never touching help on a Mac all the more interesting).
 

Mr. Amiga500

macrumors regular
Jan 19, 2007
112
0
Canada
Help key?

Is this a trick question? Is there a Help key on a Mac? There's a Help key on my Amiga and one on my Atari 800 XL, but I've never seen a Help key on any Mac or PC. (by that I mean key actually labelled "Help", not just a function key)
 

bousozoku

Moderator emeritus
Jun 25, 2002
13,951
3
Gone but not forgotten.
I've hit it about ten times. And that was because I wasn't sure what it did, and just kept tapping it until I noticed the cursor change. Otherwise, I've never touched it.

And, bousozoku, yes, it sits in place of the insert - which I seem to hit all the time on accident on PCs (making my never touching help on a Mac all the more interesting).
I'd noticed several months ago that the Windows keyboards had extended the delete key (not the backspace key) and re-positioned the insert key up around where the Scroll Lock key was. I'm assuming they don't have much use for it any longer but it was a necessity with text editors for me.

Is this a trick question? Is there a Help key on a Mac? There's a Help key on my Amiga and one on my Atari 800 XL, but I've never seen a Help key on any Mac or PC. (by that I mean key actually labelled "Help", not just a function key)
You must have a laptop computer keyboard, if you don't see the help key. It's been on all of the full size keyboards since, ummm, the Macintosh II, I believe.
 

Mr. Amiga500

macrumors regular
Jan 19, 2007
112
0
Canada
You must have a laptop computer keyboard, if you don't see the help key. It's been on all of the full size keyboards since, ummm, the Macintosh II, I believe.
Really? I specifically looked for a Help key on the last two versions of iMac keyboard and didn't see one. Maybe I'm blind but I just took a look at a picture of the latest iMac keyboard and it's not there.

By the way, if there's no Help key on Macbooks, what do you press for Help?
 

bousozoku

Moderator emeritus
Jun 25, 2002
13,951
3
Gone but not forgotten.
Really? I specifically looked for a Help key on the last two versions of iMac keyboard and didn't see one. Maybe I'm blind but I just took a look at a picture of the latest iMac keyboard and it's not there.

By the way, if there's no Help key on Macbooks, what do you press for Help?
Command-shift-? is the help shortcut.

You should find the help key to the right of the delete key on white, black, or beige Macintosh keyboards with a numeric keypad.
 

WillJS

macrumors 65816
Jan 6, 2007
1,069
0


I never knew it was there until just now. :eek:

(is that red spot in the middle a faulty iPhone camera or is it for everyone?)
 

Mr. Amiga500

macrumors regular
Jan 19, 2007
112
0
Canada
Thanks for the picture, WillJS. :)

I'm a little disturbed that the Help key has been replaced with "fn" on the new keyboard. I've always thought it very stupid that Windows computers didn't have a Help key and now for some reason, Macs have gotten rid of theirs. It doesn't make sense. Help is something used quite often, so it should have a dedicated key for it.
 

bousozoku

Moderator emeritus
Jun 25, 2002
13,951
3
Gone but not forgotten.
Thanks for the picture, WillJS. :)

I'm a little disturbed that the Help key has been replaced with "fn" on the new keyboard. I've always thought it very stupid that Windows computers didn't have a Help key and now for some reason, Macs have gotten rid of theirs. It doesn't make sense. Help is something used quite often, so it should have a dedicated key for it.
You have to look back quite a bit of time to understand this.

In August 1981, the IBM PC had 10 function keys to the left of the typewriter area. These were in the same places that certain keys were on the IBM 5250 and 3270 dumb terminals but instead of those specific functions, they were soft keys, useful for any purpose an application could want.

The first major application to offer help text was Lotus 1-2-3, which tied help to the <F1> key. Since that time, help text has been tied to the <F1> key in IBM's CUA and Microsoft's GUI documents. <F5> was refresh, <F10> was menu access, and <F12> was cancel.

Until the Macintosh II, there wasn't an extended keyboard that I remember. It was rather compact to match the machines with the 9 inch display. Since there weren't enough keys, there was no help key. When the extended keyboard followed IBM's new 101 key design that came with the PS/2, there was suddenly room.

Unfortunately, there is still no real standard for keyboards and when things diverged so recently, I suppose Apple decided that they should do what they wanted as well.
 

Mr. Amiga500

macrumors regular
Jan 19, 2007
112
0
Canada
Interesting history. So the original Macintosh didn't have a Help key either? That means that the Mac must have copied the Amiga and Atari when they eventually added one. ;)

As for the PC function key assignments, (although I can fully understand the reasons it happened) once again backward compatibility has restricted good design. If F1 is always Help and F5 is always refresh and F10 is always Menu then these keys are now reserved keys and no longer "function keys" that can be freely used. Therefore they should have been moved to dedicated keys with their usage labelled, leaving the block of function keys free for use. (of course, it's far too late to do that now) For example, on the Amiga all function keys are user programmable without having to worry about "reserved" function keys. (I set my F1 to "flip through screens")

On the new Mac keyboard, I've noticed symbols on the function keys. Do you press "fn" to do the function symbolized or are these function keys now reserved for these functions? (like Windows function keys)
 

mkrishnan

Moderator emeritus
Jan 9, 2004
29,641
12
Grand Rapids, MI, USA
On the new Mac keyboard, I've noticed symbols on the function keys. Do you press "fn" to do the function symbolized or are these function keys now reserved for these functions? (like Windows function keys)
I believe they work just like Apple notebook keyboards -- you have a software option in system preferences of either getting software function keys (i.e. for functions in programs) when you press the keys and the hardware actions (the things on the keycaps) when you press them with the fn key, or vice versa. :)

Although, to be honest, I'm more than content the way it is ... the only times I really use windows Fn keys are the default ones (primarily alt-F4 and ctrl-F4) and when I'm using ancient terminal software. The only thing I ever do with them on a Mac is the hardware functions, unless I'm running Windows on my Mac. :)
 

bousozoku

Moderator emeritus
Jun 25, 2002
13,951
3
Gone but not forgotten.
...
As for the PC function key assignments, (although I can fully understand the reasons it happened) once again backward compatibility has restricted good design. If F1 is always Help and F5 is always refresh and F10 is always Menu then these keys are now reserved keys and no longer "function keys" that can be freely used. Therefore they should have been moved to dedicated keys with their usage labelled, leaving the block of function keys free for use. (of course, it's far too late to do that now) For example, on the Amiga all function keys are user programmable without having to worry about "reserved" function keys. (I set my F1 to "flip through screens")
...
Well, the keys before Windows 3.0 and OS/2 were pretty much undefined and are probably still used by many developers for whatever they want. Instead of command-v for paste, it's commonly Shift-insert from the earliest days of the IBM PC but I can never remember whether copy is control-delete or shift-delete. One is copy and the other is cut. Apparently, Microsoft couldn't remember either and they just use Macintosh assignments with the control key substituted for the command key.