What are the keys labelled F1 through F12 on my keyboard?

Every computer I’ve had has these F keys at the top of the keyboard. What are these and what are they used for?


Commonly known as “function keys”, F1 through F12 may have a variety of different uses or no use at all. Depending on the operating system installed on your desktop computers and the software program currently open will change how each of these keys operate. A program is capable of not only using each of the function keys, but also combining the function keys with the ALT or CTRL key, for example, Microsoft Windows users can press ALT + F4 to close the program currently active.

Below is a short-listing of some of the common functions of the functions keys on computers running Microsoft Windows. As mentioned above not all programs support function keys and may perform different tasks then those mentioned below.

F1: Almost always used as the help key, almost every program will open the help screen when this key is pressed.
F2: In Windows commonly used to rename a highlighted icon or file.
F3: Often opens a search feature for many programs including Microsoft Windows.
F4: Alt + F4 will close the program currently active in Microsoft Windows.
F5: In all modern Internet browsers pressing F5 will refresh or reload the page or document window.
F7: Shift + F7 runs a Thesaurus check on the word highlighted in Microsoft Word.
F10: In Microsoft Windows activates the menu bar of an open application.

Earlier IBM computers also had F13 – F24 on the keyboards, but you don’t tend to find these on modern keyboards.

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