What Do The F1-F12 Keys Do?
Ever look at your keyboard and wonder what all of those F[insert number 1-12 here] keys are? They’re laid out across your entire keyboard and seem pretty important since they’re at the very top and yet you have no idea what in the world they do? Well wonder no longer!
Those keys are called ‘Function Keys’ and are essentially shortcuts or hot keys that can allow you to do things much quicker on your computer than you may be used to. Pretty cool, right?! But you’re probably asking what in the world they mean and how to use them so let’s get started and break these buttons down!*
Please note that some function keys make have different purposes depending on the operation system (OS).
The F1 key, in a Windows 10, will pull up a help/support menu for the browser or application you are in when you press it. This will allow you to more quickly access any answers to issues you may be having without having to manually search around for a support landing page first.
In macOS, the F1 key allows you to reduce the brightness of your screen.
The F2 key, in a Windows 10, reduces your click count a bit when it comes to renaming folders, files, etc. When you’re on your desktop or within a folder all you have to do is single-click select the item you’d like renamed and hit the F2 key. Once you do that, the current name will be highlighted and ready to edit/change just like that!
In macOS, the F2 key does the opposite of the F1 key and increases the brightness of your screen.
The F3 key, in Windows, pulls up a ‘Find’ field so that you are able to do a quick search of the page you’re on. If you’re in a browser and want to look up a specific word that may be on the page hit F3 and use the dialog box that pops up to conduct that search. Alternatively, you can use this key on your desktop to search for a specific file on your computer.
In macOS, F3 will prompt your computer to zoom out and show small panels of everything that you have running at the time.
The F4 key for Windows doesn’t have it’s own inherent purpose but when combined with either the CTRL or ALT keys, is a helpful one. CTRL-F4 closes documents and ALT-F4 closes apps. Always play it safe and save your work before using these combinations!
In macOS, you can use this key to see a dashboard that will give you access to different widgets you may find handy.
The F5 key is the one you are probably familiar with if you’re familiar with any of the keys. This key simply refreshes your browser. It can also be used to start a slideshow in PowerPoint.
In Windows, the F6 key works similarly to the ‘tab’ button in a spreadsheet or form. Using this key will allow you to swiftly rotate through applicable fields on a page. If you get carried away and click so fast that you pass the field you need, simply use SHIFT-F6 to move backward.
As with F5, the F6 key does not serve a specific purpose in macOS.
F7, in Windows, doesn’t serve a purpose within browsers or applications but will run the ‘Spelling and Grammar Check’ feature in Microsoft Office programs. If you have a word highlighted, SHIFT-F7 will open the thesaurus feature and provide you with synonyms.
In macOS, the F7 key can be used a rewind button.
F8, in Windows is an incredibly helpful key if you’re having some issues with your computer. Tapping this key over and over while your computer restarts will put you into what is called ‘Safe Mode’. Bear in mind that this only works with Windows 7 or earlier. You can also use this key for text selection in Microsoft Word.
For macOS 10.3 or later, the F8 key will act similarly to the F3 button and show you thumbnails of all that you’re working on.
The F9 key doesn’t serve a major purpose in Windows but if you’re using Outlook will prompt the sending and receiving of messages.
In macOS, this key will open ‘Mission Control’.
In Windows, the F10 key will open menu of the application in use. SHIFT-F10 will act as a ‘right-click’.
In macOS, 10.3 or later, you can use F10 to display open windows within the application being used.
F11 is another one of the keys that is more familiar to folks. This key activates a full screen view. When you want to exit full screen all you need to do is hit F11 again.
If you are using macOS 10.4 or later, you can use the F10 key to access your desktop from whatever page you may be on without needing to minimize any open screens
Finally, we meet the F12 key. This key will prompt the ‘Save As’ field in Microsoft Office programs. Coupled with CTRL, F12 will bring up the ‘Open’ field and SHIFT-F12 will save your document.
With macOS 10.4 or later, you can use F12 to pull up your dashboard. Hit it a second time to hide it.
Well that’s all, folks! I hope that now you feel empowered to increase your efficiency with these convenient, yet often underrated, keys. When time is of the essence just remember to keep calm and function on!