Hook Me Up! --MAC VERSION - external keyboard
September 22, 2016 4:30 PM   Subscribe

Basically, I want to use my laptop without using the keyboard on the laptop, and use the external monitor, as well as an external keyboard. Is this possible?

I have a stand alone apple monitor (not a smart monitor or a touch screen, approximately 10 years old, maybe).
I have the cable that I use to connect the monitor to my laptop so that I can use both screens or the larger screen.
I do not have a desktop computer other than my laptop.

Is there any way to hook things up so that I can use an external keyboard (i.e. not the keyboard on my laptop, which is what I'm doing currently)?

Basically, I want to use my laptop without using the keyboard on the laptop, and use the external monitor, as well as an external keyboard. Is this possible?

Plain English please or photos would be awesome. I'm lucky I figured out how to get the monitor working with my laptop...
posted by RaRa-SpaceRobot to Computers & Internet (17 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
Yes. Plug in a USB keyboard and mouse to the laptop, connect the laptop to the monitor.

When you plug in a new USB Keyboard, the Mac will ask you to hit a couple of keys to confirm its guess about what keyboard layout you have. It should just do this once.

Once those (monitor, keyboard, mouse) are all working, simply close the laptop.

It should be that simple. I am on that same setup right this moment, but I'm running Windows, so I can't check that OSX will do the same as Windows does, but I'm pretty sure it does.
posted by Sunburnt at 4:38 PM on September 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


Yes, this is entirely possible. I ran my old Macbook Pro as a desktop for more than two years and hardly ever as a laptop. Just plug in the keyboard, mouse, and monitor and you can leave the laptop shut permanently. There are some neat solutions to this available such as Henge Docks. These make it easier to connect/disconnect as they hold the connectors in place when the computer is disconnected. All modern Macbooks are designed to stay cool enough when they are used shut (in "clamshell mode").

More information direct from Apple on how to do this is here
posted by tillsbury at 4:38 PM on September 22, 2016


Sure, just get a USB keyboard and plug it in, or get a Bluetooth keyboard and follow the pairing instructions. You'll probably want a mouse or external trackpad too, as Macs are not the best for keyboard-only navigation and it's awkward to use an external keyboard and have to keep reaching up to the built-in trackpad. Many laptop stands have a built-in USB hub, which is nice because you can connect your keyboard and mouse (and any other desktop USB stuff) to that and only have one cable to connect and disconnect from the computer.
posted by contraption at 4:39 PM on September 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


The advice "just plug in the USB" works if you have a computer that has more than one port. If you have the Macbook that only has a single USB-C port, which you're planning to use for the monitor, you'll need to either use a bluetooth keyboard, or get a multiport adapter (e.g.).
posted by aubilenon at 4:44 PM on September 22, 2016


Sure, here are your options, theoretically

1) Apple's proprietary wireless keyboard and separate trackpad thingie. (I didn't investigate these because I didn't feel like being ripped off)
2) a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse. (Could not find such a package for Mac, though it may exist)
3) an optical keyboard and mouse that send signals to your laptop via a little radio inside a USB - plenty of these, Logitech does tons. Some of them say they don't work for Mac, but most do.
4) a USB hub that has ports for a wired mouse (and/or keyboard) and anything else you want.

Because I have one dead USB port, and couldn't find decent + affordable bluetooth options, I went for 4) hub (for a cheap, wired mouse) + 3) for the keyboard (I have a Microsoft keyboard right now, the USB goes into the hub). This is ok with me, because it means I can plug other USB things into the hub (printer, music stuff). (I feel this is a very 2004ish solution, I'm sure it's now possible to operate laptops telekinetically, but it works.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 4:50 PM on September 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


Leaving a laptop closed during use isn't recommended. Heat can build up and damage the screen.

But yes, just turn the brightness way down, use an external keyboard (I like the Microsoft ergonomical keyboard) and mouse.
posted by paulcole at 5:41 PM on September 22, 2016


1) Apple's proprietary wireless keyboard and separate trackpad thingie. (I didn't investigate these because I didn't feel like being ripped off)

These are excellent, by the way, and a great solution. I much preferred the key action of the official Apple one and the trackpad is great (and retains the feel of the laptop one. I don't consider the extra cost to be a rip off, because the quality is much better than the majority of the others I tried.

I set up my Macbook Pro on a small stand next to my main monitor and used them together, but there is no reason why you can't do that and just not use the laptop screen.

The Apple Bluetooth keyboard/trackpad option works really well, especially with rechargeable batteries.
posted by Brockles at 5:50 PM on September 22, 2016


I've used a laptop as both a laptop, and as the brains of a two-screen desktop set up for years. When I want to move around the laptop, I simply unplug the USB keyboard (which has a USB plug *in* it for the mouse), and unplug the desktop monitor, and I'm ready to go. It takes, literally, seconds, and I do it all the time--sometimes even several times a day.

I've also played with the best way to use/not use the laptop screen, and in the end I find it useful to use both the laptop screen and the monitor screen at the same time, if only to move extra windows, documents into the laptop screen. You have several options to play around with screens. To explore them, go to Apple > System Preferences > Displays.
posted by Violet Blue at 7:15 PM on September 22, 2016


"Leaving a laptop closed during use isn't recommended. Heat can build up and damage the screen."

Really? Literally everybody in my office does this. We have laptops, docks, keyboards and one or two monitors each.
posted by Jahaza at 8:33 PM on September 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


1) Apple's proprietary wireless keyboard and separate trackpad thingie. (I didn't investigate these because I didn't feel like being ripped off)
2) a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse. (Could not find such a package for Mac, though it may exist)
3) an optical keyboard and mouse that send signals to your laptop via a little radio inside a USB - plenty of these, Logitech does tons. Some of them say they don't work for Mac, but most do.
4) a USB hub that has ports for a wired mouse (and/or keyboard) and anything else you want.
I think the first 3 points there are mixed up & arse-about:
  1. Apple's "proprietary" wireless keyboard & mouse isn't proprietary at all, but standard Bluetooth.
  2. Standard non-Apple Bluetooth keyboards & mice work also work (give or take keymapping, which OSX usually prompts you about anyway when first pairing).
  3. A good whack of the Logitech wireless keyboards and mice - basically, the ones which don't specifically say they're Bluetooth, but instead just say "Wireless" - use a proprietary Logitech connection/protocol that isn't supported on OSX.

posted by Pinback at 8:37 PM on September 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


Yes, make sure you are getting Bluetooth devices, not just "wireless" ones. But wired are better, and more reliably can wake a clamshell machine from sleep than some wireless ones.

The Apple keyboard and particularly the trackpad (if you like that sort of thing) are well worth the additional money.

Don't listen to anyone who says laptops overheat when closed. It doesn't apply to aluminium Macbooks, which are specifically designed for this. Part of the reason for the aluminium case in the first place, which is itself an enormous heatsink.
posted by tillsbury at 10:40 PM on September 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


Sorry if my answer has led to confusion about some points, OP. I just meant Apple's keyboard and touchpad, which are Apple products.

(I just couldn't find any other Mac-friendly bluetooth products - you may.)

A good whack of the Logitech wireless keyboards and mice - basically, the ones which don't specifically say they're Bluetooth, but instead just say "Wireless" - use a proprietary Logitech connection/protocol that isn't supported on OSX.

Many of these are supported, and the ones that aren't still usually work (though yes, you may have to fiddle with key mapping. Though you may also not). I've successfully used the K400 (though I don't recommend it; keys are cramped, causing issues with the apostrophe and Enter key for lots of people) and the K830 (which I do recommend, it's lovely). Both of those are "media" keyboards, though (no mouse, just a touchpad).
posted by cotton dress sock at 4:02 AM on September 23, 2016


"(I just couldn't find any other Mac-friendly bluetooth products - you may.)"

Virtually all bluetooth keyboards and mice will work on Macs.
posted by I-baLL at 6:02 AM on September 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


Apple's wireless keyboard, mouse, and trackpad are not proprietary; they use Bluetooth just like any other examples of wireless input devices from Logitech or whomever.

I use their mouse, but prefer a nicer keyboard.

I've pretty much always worked like you describe. First, I used a normal extra monitor AND the laptop screen (ie to get two screens) plus my USB keyboard and wireless mouse. About 18 months ago I switched to using a giant Thunderbolt display, but the main parts of the setup are the same.

Oh, and the idea that you shouldn't run a laptop when it's closed is just poppycock, at least with Macs. I do it all day, every day, unless I need to move around. It's a supported configuration.
posted by uberchet at 7:59 AM on September 23, 2016


Worth noting that most MacBooks will only turn on external monitors while closed if they're plugged into a charger. A Mac running off internal batteries will only run external monitors if it's open.
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 8:06 AM on September 23, 2016 [2 favorites]


Many of these are supported, and the ones that aren't still usually work (though yes, you may have to fiddle with key mapping. Though you may also not).
The main issue is that Logitech doesn't officially support (most? all?) their non-Bluetooth wireless peripherals on OSX, and the level of functionality varies from "not at all" to "works as a standard keyboard / mouse, plus maybe the media keys and some gestures".

Short of seeing if someone else has tried the specific model you're looking at, or being your own guinea pig, there's no way of knowing how functional they are on OSX. Whereas their Bluetooth ones are recognised for what they are and work pretty much 100%.
posted by Pinback at 5:13 PM on September 23, 2016


OP, I think you're just going to have to try things. Every non-Bluetooth Logitech - and Microsoft - keyboard / mouse combo I've used with my Mac has worked for me, as a normal keyboard or mouse, supported or not.

Virtually all bluetooth keyboards and mice will work on Macs.

In theory. The reliability of Bluetooth communication (with any device) has seemed to be very far from 100%, to me. Patchy AF. YMMV. (Laptop model, device, OS, etc., and individual laptop probably make a difference.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 6:29 PM on September 23, 2016


« Older WOOFing...what's the best way to contact a host...   |   I take measurements, you mail me clothes Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.