Computer keyboards have undergone many changes over the years. Initially, they only had a few function keys, but more function keys were added as technology evolved. Today, computer keyboards have a dozen (or more) function keys that perform different tasks. If you’re having trouble figuring out what the function keys do on your computer keyboard, you’re not alone. This article will explain what each of the function keys does on a standard keyboard in both Windows and macOS.
What Are Function Keys?
Many keyboards have a set of dedicated keys that are not part of the QWERTY keyboard. These “function” keys are typically F1, F2, F3, etc., and are usually found in a row across the top of the keyboard. They allow you to perform different functions with your computer. For example, pressing F1 will open the help menu, and pressing F8 will put your computer into full-screen mode. The purpose of each function key is specific to your operating system and software that you use, so there can be a wide variety of functions associated with each of the function keys. Still, there are some common uses across platforms.
Common uses of function keys in Windows
- Opens a new browser window or tab with information on how to get support
- Opens the Windows Help and Support Center. For example, if you press F1 in Windows 7, it will open the “Help” screen
- Alt+Shift+F1 creates a new worksheet tab in Excel
- Renames the Selected Object (icon, file, or folder)
- Edit the active cell in MS Excel
- Open the search function from the File Explorer
- Repeats the last command in the command prompt window
- Opens the address bar in File Explorer and most web browsers
- Alt + F4 closes the currently active window
- Ctrl + F4 closes the current browser tab
- Refreshes the current browser tab
- Ctrl+F5 clears the cache and downloads all contents of the current webpage again
- Selects the address bar or current tab address bar in most Internet browsers
- Runs spell check and grammar check in most Microsoft applications (Word, Outlook, etc)
- Turns on the Caret Browsing (keyboard-based navigation) in Chrome, Firefox, and potentially other browsers
- Enter the Windows startup menu during bootup (access the Windows Safe Mode)
- Refreshes a document in MS Word
- Send and receive e-mail in Outlook
- Selects the menu bar of the current application
- Shift + F10 opens the context menu for the highlighted file, folder, or other objects
- Toggle fullscreen mode in a web browser
- Open developer tools in Chrome, Edge, and possibly other web browsers
- Opens “Save as” function in MS Word
- Ctrl+F12 opens a document in Word.
Common uses of Function Keys in macOS
- Dim the screen brightness
- Brighten the screen
- Open Mission Control, shows you every app that’s running
- Open Launchpad, opens the dashboard for access to widgets
- Decrease keyboard brightness (On compatible notebooks / backlit keyboards only)
- Increase keyboard brightness (On compatible notebooks / backlit keyboards only)
- Skip back one media track or restart the current track
- Play or pause audio or other media
- Skip forward or fast forward media
- Mute audio/media
- Turn volume down
- Turn volume Up
Setting up the macOS function keys using System Preferences
If you use a Mac, you likely know how to access the function keys. But if you ever need to reset or change their settings, System Preferences is your best bet. Here’s how:
- Launch System Preferences by clicking the Apple logo at the top of the menu bar and selecting “System Preferences.”
- Click on “Keyboard.”
- Under “Keyboard Shortcuts,” select “Function Keys.”
- In the “Functions” section, you can change the key sequence for each function key (e.g., Control-F1 to open a new window).
To reset all function keys to their default settings, click on the “Reset All Function Keys” button at the bottom of the window.
In conclusion, function keys can be handy tools for completing specific tasks in Windows and macOS. By learning what each key does and how to use it in specific applications, you can save time and improve your workflow. For more information on using function keys in particular applications, consult the application’s Help menu. We hope that you’ve found this article to be helpful. Happy computing!