What Do the F Keys on a Computer Do?

Written by nina nixon Google
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The F (function) keys on a computer keyboard are shortcut keys. By pressing an F key once, mouse navigation is bypassed or at minimum, shortened. Processes are completed faster and with less effort. And if problematic issues do come down upon the mouse device, utilising the F keys more often will cut down on its usage until it is repaired.


The "F" keys are located in the upper section on the top of the keyboard. They are numbered in sequence from left to right, from F1 through F12. They are typically grouped in three sets of four functions each, F1 through F4; F5 through F8; and finally F9 through F12; or they could appear laid out with minimal space separating them from one another, directly across the top of the keyboard.


Most of the function keys are pre-assigned to perform certain actions when they are pressed. This hold true primarily for function keys F1 through F7. Other keys, such as F8 through F12 are typically not assigned for regular computer use, but instead have more programming related functions.

Each key has a different shortcut function to expedite steps in completing tasks. Here is a brief overview of each key's general shortcut function. Note there may be some variance between computer models, however, these general instructions apply to most.

F1 - Brings up Windows Help. F2 - Opens title line of folder so it can be renamed. F3 - A Search function. F4 - Shows Address bar list display for Windows Explorer or My Computer. F5 - Active program's Refresh key. F6 - Runs through items on desktop or window F7 - Runs the Spell and Grammar check in the active program. F8 - Runs Windows in Safe Mode. F9 - Break point debugging use when used with the Shift key; some programs no assigned use. F10 - Opens active programs File menu bar. F11 - Shows full screen view in Internet Explorer. F12 - Bypass debugger - Command prompt access; some programs, no assigned use.

Dialogue Box Function Keys

Out of all of the available function keys, there are only two that display dialogue boxes. These will require other user to make additional choices in order to finish desired tasks. (This differs from other function keys where the user is required to input information to rename a file, conduct a search, or tab through elements on a desktop). The F1 key brings up the Windows Help screen. From there, the user will highlight, click and enter data to solve issues using the relevant Help information. The F4 key shows active list items in the Address drop down menu. The user then must make a selection from the list shown.

F1 Key Compatibility

As long as a computer keyboard has the Windows logo key symbol on it, Windows Help screen can be accessed by way of the Natural keyboard shortcut. To open Windows Help, while within the active software program, press the Windows logo key first and hold it down and then press the F1.

Limitations of Keys

If the Accessibility Option for StickyKeys is activated, some function keys may not work. To verify that is off, click "Start" from the toolbar menu. Next, select "Control Panel", "Accessibility Options" and then go to the keyboard tab. Uncheck the box next to "StickyKeys."

Some programs must be open to run a shortcut function and others may need to be closed. For example, if a file must be renamed, it must be closed first. And if it is placed on the desktop and the folder renaming shortcut function F2 is pressed, the title text box will open. In order for the address bar display shortcut function F4 to work, a dialogue box containing an address bar must be visible. This is appropriate for use with Windows Internet Explorer and for searching directories. It is helpful to have a handy reference sheet nearby that lists each function key's purpose.

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