Windows

Your Guide to the Windows Function Keys

Your keyboard comes with a lot of useful Windows Function keys, to the point where you may not know what each one does. Here’s what they all do.

Your Guide to the Windows Function Keys
Your Guide to the Windows Function Keys

Your typical Windows keyboard is divided into several parts such as the function keys, the main typing keyboard or typewriter keys, the directional keys, and the numeric keypad, among others.

Each of these keys has its function(s). But, although the F-keys are in the front row of the keyboard, they’ve somewhat taken the backseat, and rarely get used because not many people know their functions.

In this article, we’ll walk you through the function keys, what they are, and their key functions. So, when next you hear about the function keys, it won’t sound like Greek to you.

So, What Are the Function Keys?

The function keys are keys F1 to F12 (or on some keyboards, F19) located at the top of your keyboard. You can use them for various things from getting help to controlling your media volume, among others.

Function keys can function alone and perform certain single key actions, e.g. F5 to refresh a page. They can also work together with modifier keys such as Ctrl, Shift, and Alt to perform specific commands.

The function keys are also programmable, meaning that any developer can configure them to work any way within the program or software.

Most keyboards also display action icons above some function keys letting you know what that key does when pressed, while others don’t. The latter can leave you in the dark, but not anymore.

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Let’s now meet each function key and most of their individual function(s).

F1 Key

  1. Also referred to as the “get help” key, pressing F1 in most programs will open the help screen or redirect you to a dedicated help section or page.
  2. Pressing F1 in PowerPoint will get you help on the currently selected command or control on the ribbon while pressing Ctrl + F1 will expand or collapse the ribbon.
  3. To access the Microsoft Windows help page, simply press Win key + F1 and it will open up in Edge if you have it installed.
  4. You can also press F1 to enter BIOS setup while your computer is booting.

F2 Key

  1. Pressing F2 will give you the option to rename a selected icon, file, or folder in Microsoft Windows.
  2. In PowerPoint, as well as other Microsoft Office packages, you can access the print preview menu by pressing Ctrl + F2.
  3. Still in PowerPoint, pressing Alt + F2 while in an open PowerPoint document will open up the ‘Save As’ window.
  4. Similar to pressing F1, you can equally enter the BIOS setup by pressing F2 when your computer is booting up. You can also enter the CMOS setup using F2.

F3 Key

  1. When you press Win + F3 in Microsoft Outlook, the “Advanced Find” window will open up.
  2. Pressing F3 also opens the Find tool in Google Docs, among others.
  3. Pressing F3 opens up the search bar on browsers and Windows file explorer.
  4. F3 will also repeat the last command entered in MS-DOS or Windows command line.
  5. Pressing Shift + F3 in PowerPoint changes the highlighted text to all CAPS, lowercase, or initial CAPS accordingly. This also applies to Microsoft Word.

F4 Key

  1. Pressing F4 opens the address bar in an open Window.
  2. Pressing F4 closes the current page or program.
  3. F4 also repeats the last action in most programs.
  4. Pressing Alt + F4 on the desktop environment opens the shutdown menu.
  5. Ctrl + F4 closes the current open program.

F5 Key

  1. Pressing F5 refreshes the page, desktop, folder content, or window.
  2. Press Ctrl + F5 to force-refresh an open webpage, clear cache, and download page content all over again.
  3. Shift + F5 in PowerPoint starts a slideshow from the currently-active page.
  4. While F5 in PowerPoint starts a slideshow from the first page.
  5. You can also press F5 when your computer is first loading MS-DOS to enter default settings.

F6 Key

  1. Pressing F6 highlights the address bar and tab in the active page on Chrome and most other browsers.
  2. F6 selects the back and the close tab buttons respectively in Opera. Pressing F6 twice in Edge prompts you to switch tabs.
  3. Pressing F6 twice activates Key Tips in PowerPoint. Pressing F6 again reactivates the ribbon area and pressing it subsequently helps you navigate through key sections of the screen. This works in all Microsoft Office programs.
  4. Pressing Ctrl + Shift + F6 will navigate to another open PowerPoint document. This also works across Microsoft Office programs.


F7 Key

  1. F7 mutes Windows Media Player.
  2. Pressing F7 opens the spell-checker tool in PowerPoint and opens the Editor in other Microsoft Office programs.
  3. Alt + Shift + F7 opens the Translator tool in Microsoft Office programs.
  4. Shift + F7 opens the Thesaurus tool in Microsoft Word.
  5. F7 turns on/off Caret Browsing in Chrome, Edge, and Firefox.
  6. Pressing F7 activates the Spelling and Grammar tool in Google Docs.
  7. You can view a history of all the commands entered in a particular window when you press F7 in the Windows command line.

F8 Key

  1. F8 reduces the volume of Windows Media Player.
  2. In macOS workspaces, pressing F8 will display a thumbnail image.
  3. Pressing F8 will boot Windows into Safe Mode during startup.
  4. Alt+ F8 opens the Macros dialog box in Microsoft Office applications.
  5. Some computers use F8 to access the Windows recovery system in addition to a Windows installation CD.

F9 Key

  1. F9 increases the volume of Windows Media Player.
  2. Shift + F9 will activate/deactivate grid lines in PowerPoint.
  3. Pressing Alt + F9 will activate/deactivate “Guide” lines in PowerPoint.
  4. Alt + Shift + F9 activates/deactivates the Ruler in PowerPoint.
  5. Ctrl + F9 will input Big Curly Braces in Microsoft Word.

F10 Key

  1. Pressing F10 turns on/off “Key Tips” in Microsoft Office applications like Word and PowerPoint.
  2. Shift + F10 performs the right-click function in Microsoft Office programs as well as browsers.
  3. Alt + F10 activates/deactivates the Selection tool in Microsoft Office programs like PowerPoint and Word.
  4. Ctrl + Shift + F10 will launch two open PowerPoint documents side by side in split view.

F11 Key

  1. Pressing F11 in Chrome and other browsers will enter/exit full-screen view.
  2. Alt + F11 in Microsoft Office applications like Word and PowerPoint launches Microsoft Visual Basic for Applications.
  3. Programmers use Ctrl + F11 or Alt + F11 to compile and execute code.

F12 Key

  1. Pressing the F12 key opens the “Save As” dialog box in Word, PowerPoint, etc.
  2. Ctrl + F12 opens the “Open” dialog box in Microsoft Office programs.
  3. Ctrl + Shift + F12 launches Print Preview in Microsoft Office programs, e.g., Word and PowerPoint.
  4. F12 opens Chrome Developer Tools, Firebug, and other browser’s debug tools.
  5. Pressing F12 displays all bootable devices on a computer at startup for you to choose from.

Function Better With Windows Function Keys

Now that you know more about Windows Function Keys and some of their functions, it is time to put that knowledge to practice and get more done via the Windows F-Keys.

Like other keyboard shortcuts, these function keys can help to improve your productivity levels. What’s more, if something ever happens to your computer mouse, you can always resort to the F-keys as an interim measure.

We’ve covered several keyboard shortcuts for different software and programs to help you do more without your mouse, including how to understand and use Mac keyboard symbols.

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