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What are the function keys at the top of my keyboard for?

Answer: The function keys, also called the F-keys or Fn keys, are located in the top row of nearly all computer keyboards. They typically contain at least F1 through F12, but may include to F16 on some keyboards. The function that each key provides depends on what program is currently running, and certain keys may provide no function at all.

Many Windows programs, for example, use the F1 key to open a Help window. When you highlight a file or folder in an open window, pressing the F2 key will allow you to rename it. The F5 key is commonly used to refresh or update the content of a desktop window or a webpage in Internet Explorer. The Alt+F4 keyboard combination is typically used for closing a window.

In Mac OS X 10.3 and later, F9 through F11 are used to activate the Exposé feature. F9 shows all open windows, F10 shows all open windows in the current program, and F11 hides all open windows and shows the desktop. In Mac OS X 10.4 and later, F12 brings up and hides the Dashboard.

Other programs use the function keys as well. For example, Adobe Photoshop allows you to assign function keys to certain actions, which may be used to perform repetitive editing tasks on images. In Microsoft Word, you can automate certain commands by pressing the function keys along with modifier keys, such as Control, Alt, and, Shift.

For a list of other keyboard shortcuts available in Mac OS X and Windows XP, view the resources below:

  1. Mac Keyboard Shortcuts
  2. Windows Keyboard Shortcuts

Published: July 7, 2006   —   Updated: July 25, 2013 — by Per Christensson

Answer from the PC Help Center