A Comprehensive List Of What Those F1 – F12 Computer Keys Can Do

Chances are good you’ve noticed the row of numbered keys across the top of your computer keyboard that all have an “f” in front of them. But  they may not get much use. If you’re using a laptop, they might even share space with other options, such as your Wi-Fi switch or your mute button.

Maybe you know the purpose of one or two of them, or perhaps you simply try to avoid them because you have no clue what they do. However, learning the uses for these function keys can help you become even more efficient. Check out this comprehensive list of functions so you can stop neglecting those little f keys.


Windows users can press this key to access the Help Menu or support page related to the current open page. For example, if you are currently viewing the desktop and press F1, Windows Help and Support opens. When using an MS Office application, the Help dialog opens. If you are browsing on Google Chrome, F1 opens the Google Support page.

On a Mac, F1 reduces the screen’s brightness.


Windows users can press this key instead of right-clicking an item and choosing “Rename.” Click on a file, folder or other object on your desktop or in any folder and press F2 to highlight the current name. Type in the new name and press “Enter.”

F2 increases the screen’s brightness on a Mac computer.

PC desktop folders photo
Flickr | quali-T


Press this key on a Windows PC to open the Find dialog for the current view. For instance, if you are viewing the desktop, the File Search window opens. On a browser, the Find on Page box appears.

On a Mac, F3 activates Expose view, which gives you a glimpse of everything currently running.

mac expose photo
Flickr | Malkav


It doesn’t do much on its own (aside from opening the address bar in Internet Explorer or Windows Explorer), but with some simple combos, it can be quite useful. For example, Ctrl-F4 will close the current document and Alt-F4 closes the current application.

F4 on a Mac gives you dashboard access to business, communication and Internet widgets.


You can refresh a page in Windows by pressing the F5 key. F5 in most MS Office programs brings up the Go To dialog. In PowerPoint, the key can be used to start slideshows.

F5 is unassigned on Macs.


Cycle the cursor through various points on a page, panes or frames using F6 in Windows. Shift-F6 does the same thing, but in reverse.

F6 has no assigned function on Mac computers.


In most windows and applications, F7 has no function. However, if you are working in Microsoft Word or some other Office programs, this handy shortcut runs the Spelling and Grammar Check. Shift-F7 opens the thesaurus with synonyms for the selected word.

On Macs, F7 can be used to rewind media content.


If your computer is having issues, tapping F8 repeatedly while the machine reboots brings up the Recovery screen so you can access Safe Mode, provided you have a Windows 7 or earlier operating system. F8 will also extend text selection in Word.

On Mac OS 10.3 or later, F8 displays a thumbnail for all current workspaces.

blue screen of death photo
Flickr | Jeffrey Beall


While it has no essential Windows function, F9 will refresh fields in Word and prompt Outlook to send and receive messages.

If you are running Mac OS X, you can open Mission Control by pressing the F9 key.

mission control mac photo
Flickr | Emmanuel Alanis


On a Windows computer F10 activates the menu bar or ribbon of the open application. Shift-F10 brings up the right-click menu.

On Mac 10.3 OS or later, F10 displays all open windows for the active application.


You can switch to full-screen mode in browser windows by pressing F11 on a PC. Pressing the key a second time lets you escape this mode.

Press F11 on a Mac running OS 10.4 or later to hide all open windows and display the desktop.


F12 will open the “Save As” window in MS Office programs. Ctrl-F12 brings up the “Open” window and Shift-F12 saves an existing document.

On a machine running Mac OS 10.4 or later, you can use F12 to show or hide the dashboard.

Make It Even Easier

Mac users can configure the top row of keys to work as standard function keys without holding the Fn key. Select “System Preferences” from the Apple menu and click “Keyboard.” Choose “Use all F1, F2, etc. keys as standard function keys” on the Keyboard tab.

If you are a Windows user, look for an F Lock key. You can press this to toggle between the keys’ primary commands and the F key functions.

[h/t: Reader’s Digest]