If you’re like most people, every now and then you look at all of the F1-F12 keys at the top of your keyboard and wonder why they’re there. I mean you know that F1 is definitely for “Help” (even if you’ve never used it) and the others are for… like.. maybe other stuff? If you have your laptop maybe you can use it for modifying some setting like your screen brightness or volume.
However, what were they originally for? Can you modify them? What are the best uses for your function keys?
The default uses for function keys
The function keys are originally made for simple commands on your computer. On Windows, the functions keys are usually pre-programmed to do very simple tasks. However, some of them are pretty much useless unless you need a very specific thing in a very specific program, especially if you aren’t using a Mac. Take a look:
- F1 – Opens a help screen when this key is pressed.
- F2 – In Microsoft Windows, renames a highlighted icon, file, or folder in all versions of Windows.
- F3 – Opens a search bar in most programs.
- F4 – Open find a window in Windows 95 to XP. Open the address bar in Windows Explorer and Internet Explorer. Repeat the last action performed (Word 2000+).
- F5 – Refreshes or reloads the current window.
- F6 – Move the cursor to the address bar in Explorer, Firefox, and most Internet browsers.
- F7 – Used to open spell check and grammar check in Microsoft Office programs.
- F8 – Opens the Windows startup menu. Opens Safe Mode when turning on the computer.
- F9 – Refresh document in Microsoft Word. On macOS, you can reduce brightness with it.
- F10 – In PCs, it activates the menu bar of an open application.
- F11 – Enter and exit fullscreen mode in most browsers.
- F12 – Open the “Save as” window in Microsoft Word.
As we mentioned, you can also use them with the “Fn” key to do some other task. On a Mac, those tasks are usually the default function for them.
However, right off the bat, you can tell that you’re probably never going to use at least some of them. You may use the F5 when surfing online but are you really ever going to use the F8 key to open the menus? Especially since you can usually just use the Alt key. And unless you’re using the Office software daily, the F2, F7 and F12 keys are never going to be pressed, as well as the F4 key.
So does that mean you’re never going to have any use for those? Not necessarily.
How to use function keys
Now as we’ve seen before, a lot of function keys are useless unless you are in need of a very small and specific thing. Does that mean you’re never going to use them? Not at all!
Here’s how and when to use the combination of Alt and Ctrl with the function keys. Some of them will surprise you!
- F2 – Use it for Microsoft Word: Alt+Ctrl+F2 opens a document window. Ctrl+F2 displays a print preview.
- F3 – Use it when writing: Ctrl+F3 will upper or lowercase the currently highlighted text. In Microsoft Word, you can also use Shift+F3 to change the text from upper to lowercase or a capital letter at the beginning of every word.
- F4 – Close stuff faster: Alt+F4 closes the current window. Ctrl+F4 closes the open window or tab in the active window.
- F5 – Refresh, even when it’s not working: Ctrl+F5 forces a complete refresh of the website (and not just a partial one). It clears the cache and downloads all of the contents of the page again.
- F7 – Don’t waste time searching a word you don’t know: Pressing Shift+F7 will run a Thesaurus check on a word you highlighted.
- F10 – A right-click shortcut: Shift+F10 does the same as right-clicking on anything you can highlight.
- F12 – Quicksave and print: In most word processors, Shift+F12 saves the document and Ctrl+Shift+F12 prints it.
Are these too complicated or not as useful on your laptop? If you’re sure you’re not going to use them, then stop pressing the Fn key to controlling your volume or screen brightness!
Depending on your laptop, you can modify it on your Control Panel or while rebooting your keyboard. Simply look for your laptop’s maker followed by “access function keys without pressing fn” and you’ll find out how to change the configuration on your keyboard.
Now that you know how to use them, you’ll never see the function key row the same way again!