The new MacBook Air still has a function row, but it’s not the one you remember

Things have changed.

Apple announced a trio of new Macs — MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, and Mac mini — all powered by its M1 chip at its "One More Thing" event today. The CPU and GPU performance gains over Intel chips look monstrous even though the laptops are a few steps backward in some ways.

One thing that you may have missed: the function row on the MacBook Air has changed. It's different.

Apple has swapped out the shortcut keys for Launchpad and keyboard brightness for Spotlight search, Dictation, and Do Not Disturb, respectively. See for yourself:

The function keys have changed.Apple

Curiouser and curiouser — The change is curious since macOS Big Sur, coming out on November 12, is the first version of macOS to allow iOS apps to run windowed inside of Macs. Launchpad, a setting I've largely ignored since it debuted in 2011 on OS X Lion, would've been handy for launch apps via its grid-like space. I suppose you could now use Spotlight search to launch all apps.

I can see the utility for the Do Not Disturb button, but how many people are using Dictation on a daily basis that it deserves its own button? Dictation is very useful for people with disabilities. However, I can't even remember the last time I used dictation. It must have been years ago.

Still, I guess we should be grateful the MacBook Air has a function row at all. The new MacBook Pro is stuck with a Touch Bar despite my pleading Apple to kill it and start fresh.