What are the F1 through F12 function keys?

The function keys or F-keys on a computer keyboard, labeled F1 through F12, are keys with a special function defined by the operating system or the active program. In certain instances, they may be combined with the ALT or CTRL keys. Understanding what are the F1 through F12 function keys purpose is computer and app dependent.

On some smaller keyboards and laptop computers, the F-keys may have a dedicated purpose, such as changing the screen brightness, the volume, or other device-specific functions. On these keyboards, there’s an Fn key that you can hold down to toggle what the F-key does. See our Fn page for further information and help with using this key.

Below is an overview of the more common function keys (F1 – F12) for Windows and macOS.

function keys

F1 Function Keys

  • Used as the help key in almost every program. When pressed, a help screen opens, or you’re directed to a web page.
  • Enter BIOS setup as the computer is booting.
  • Windows key +F1 would open the Microsoft Windows help and support center.
  • In Excel, press ALT + SHIFT + F1 to create a new worksheet tab.
  • Open the Task Pane.
  • Pressing CTRL +  F1 runs a spell check in Corel WordPerfect.


  • In Microsoft Windows, renames a highlighted icon, file, or folder in all versions of Windows.
  • In Microsoft Excel, edits the active cell.
  • Alt+Ctrl+F2 opens the open document window in Microsoft Word and allows you to select a document to open in Word.
  • Ctrl+F2 displays the print preview window in Microsoft Word.
  • Enter BIOS setup as the computer is booting.


  • Often opens a search feature for many programs, including Microsoft Windows, when at the Windows desktop on Windows 7 and lower.
  • In some programs, after an initial search is performed, F3 finds the next search value.
  • In MS-DOS or Windows command line, F3 repeats the last command entered.
  • In Microsoft Word, Ctrl+F3 lowercases any highlighted text.
  • Shift+F3 changes the text in Microsoft Word from upper to lowercase or a capital letter at the beginning of every word.
  • Windows key+F3 opens the Advanced find window in Microsoft Outlook.
  • In Windows Explorer, start the search function.
  • Open Mission Control on an Apple computer running the macOS X operating system.


  • Open find window in Windows 95 to XP.
  • Open the address bar in Windows Explorer and Internet Explorer.
  • Repeat the last action performed (Word 2000+).
  • Alt+F4 closes the program window currently active in Microsoft Windows.
  • Ctrl+F4 closes the open window or tab in the active window in Microsoft Windows.
  • While in the Excel formula box, pressing F4 switches between an absolute and relative cell reference.


  • In all modern Internet browsers, pressing F5 refreshes or reloads the page or document window.
  • Ctrl+F5 forces a complete refresh of the web page, clearing the cache and downloading all contents of the page again.
  • Refresh the list of contents in a folder.
  • Open the find, replace, and go to window in Microsoft Word.
  • Pressing F5 starts a slideshow in PowerPoint from the first slide. Pressing Shift+F5 starts the slideshow from the currently active slide.
  • Pressing F5 when the computer is first loading MS-DOS loads the default settings.


  • Move the cursor to the address bar in Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, and most other Internet browsers.
  • Ctrl+Shift+F6 opens to another open Microsoft Word document.


  • Commonly used to spell check and grammar check a document in Microsoft programs such as Microsoft Word, Outlook, etc.
  • Shift+F7 runs a Thesaurus check on the word highlighted.
  • Turns on Caret Browsing in Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox.
  • Open the Layers panel in Adobe Photoshop.
  • While in the Windows command line, press the F7 to view a history of all the commands entered in that window.


  • Function key used to enter the Windows startup menu, commonly used to access Windows Safe Mode.
  • Used by some computers to access the Windows recovery system, but may require a Windows installation CD.
  • Displays a thumbnail image for all workspaces in macOS.
  • Pressing the F8 key opens the Replace window in TextPad.


  • Refresh document in Microsoft Word.
  • Send and receive e-mail in Microsoft Outlook.
  • Opens the Measurements toolbar in Quark 5.0.
  • Using the Fn key and F9 at the same time opens Mission Control on an Apple computer running the macOS X operating system.


  • In most Microsoft Windows programs, by default, F10 activates the menu bar or Ribbon of an open application.
  • Shift+F10 is the same as right-clicking a highlighted icon, file, or Internet link.
  • Access the hidden recovery partition on Compaq, HP, and Sony computers.
  • Enter BIOS setup as the computer is booting.
  • With macOS 10.3 or later, shows all open Windows for the active program.


  • Enter and exit fullscreen mode in all modern Internet browsers.
  • Ctrl+F11 as the computer is starting to access the hidden recovery partition on many Dell computers.
  • Pressing F11 by itself accesses the hidden recovery partition on eMachines, Gateway, and Lenovo computers.
  • With macOS 10.4 or later, hides all open windows and shows the desktop.


  • Open the Save as window in Microsoft Word.
  • Ctrl+F12 opens a document in Word.
  • Shift+F12 saves the Microsoft Word document.
  • Ctrl+Shift+F12 prints a document in Microsoft Word.
  • Open Firebug, Chrome Developer Tools, or other browsers debug tool.
  • With an Apple running macOS 10.4 or later, F12 shows or hides the Dashboard.
  • Preview a page in Microsoft Expression Web.
  • Access the list of bootable devices on a computer at startup, allowing you to select a different device to boot from (e.g., hard drive, CD or DVD drive, floppy drive, USB drive, and network).

ClickAway provides computer training in all our Bay Area computer stores. Stop by or call us today. We have been a opens in a new windowDiamond Certified computer repair and computer sales business for the past 18 years.

Category: Computer Training