With a little bit of Synergy


When I received the Apple Bluetooth aluminium keyboard as a birthday present last November, it didn’t replace the older white Apple Wireless Keyboard I use more frequently on my main Mac workstation. I am too comfortable with the latter. If you count work and not-work relating writing, I type at least 12 hours a day at the computer, and the design of the keys of the newer slim keyboard has proven to be a little impractical for that amount of typing. Plus, the old white model is an extended keyboard, and I need the extra keys. But for the PowerMac G4 Cube I have by my side it was just perfect: compact, without cables so I can easily draw it closer when I need to type something on the Cube, and great for light typing overall.

The only drawback is that the latest Bluetooth aluminium keyboard is not fully compatible with Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger. Most of the keyboard works, but the special media keys on the first row aren’t recognised and are treated like simple Function keys. The latest 2009 Aluminium Keyboard Firmware Update 1.0 which enables such features requires at least Mac OS X 10.5.8, and the firmware update for the previous 2007 keyboard model (the one with 3 AA batteries) appears completely ineffectual on the newest keyboard.

It’s mildly annoying not being able to control the display’s brightness or the volume from the keyboard, but I accepted the trade-off anyway. On the 22-inch acrylic Cinema Display, brightness controls are quite within reach, and for the volume, well, I just use the volume icon in the menubar. Lately, though, I’ve been listening to more classical music while working, and my classical library is on the Cube, so I wanted to have a quick way to control iTunes without losing focus on my main monitor. I thought Hey, now those media keys on the Bluetooth keyboard would surely come in handy. Putting this thought on the back of my mind, knowing that very little could be done to enable those keys, I started looking for some application that at least allowed me to control iTunes more easily, without the need to have the iTunes interface always on the foreground, for instance.

Keeping in mind that probably the latest cool apps don’t support Tiger, I had to look for something that I knew had been around for a while. Then I remembered a nice utility my friend Grant Hutchinson used (and perhaps still uses): Synergy. I knew Synergy was a powerful, versatile application, yet imagine my surprise when I browsed its preference pane’s tabs and found this:

Synergy preference pane

Synergy’s hot keys goodness

The original shortcuts for the iTunes’ controls were different: I reconfigured them to match the media keys on my keyboard, applied the changes and voilà. Now when I open iTunes, the keys highlighted in the image below do work.

Apple Bluetooth keyboard

(Image courtesy of Apple)

Yes, I have to press the ⌘ key as well, but it’s really no big deal: since the pictograms match the assigned shortcuts, I find them quickly enough and don’t have to memorise other less immediate shortcuts. I’m aware that not many people are in this same situation, so I don’t know how much this ‘tip’ is going to help you. In any case, you should at least give Synergy a try. The latest version works with Snow Leopard, plus there’s a specific version for Leopard and above, and finally version 3.4.1 (which I downloaded) works with Mac OS X 10.2.8 and above.

The Author

Writer. Translator. Mac consultant. Enthusiast photographer. • If you like what I write, please consider supporting my writing by purchasing my short stories, Minigrooves or by making a donation. Thank you!


  1. Pur non avendo problemi di tastiera lo uso anch’io e tra tutti quelli provati mi sembra il migliore.

    Bravo Riccardo!

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