What are the F1 through F12 keys?

Updated: 12/31/2020 by Computer Hope
Keyboard 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.

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 functions of the F-keys (F1 - F12) for Windows and macOS.

F1

  • 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.
Tip

See our F1 page for further information on this key and its possible secondary functions.

F2

Tip

See our F2 page for further information on this key and its possible secondary functions.

F3

  • 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.
Tip

See our F3 page for further information on this key and its possible secondary functions.

F4

Tip

See our F4 page for further information on this key and its possible secondary functions.

F5

  • 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.
Tip

See our F5 page for further information on this key and its possible secondary functions.

F6

Tip

See our F6 page for further information on this key and its possible secondary functions.

F7

Tip

See our F7 page for further information on this key and its possible secondary functions.

F8

  • 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.
Tip

See our F8 page for further information on this key and its possible secondary functions.

F9

Tip

See our F9 page for further information on this key and its possible secondary functions.

F10

  • 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.
Tip

See our F10 page for further information on this key and its possible secondary functions.

F11

Tip

See our F11 page for further information on this key and its possible secondary functions.

F12

Tip

See our F12 page for further information on this key and its possible secondary functions.

F13 - F15

F16 - F19

  • On newer Apple keyboards, the F16, F17, F18, and F19 keys are above the number pad.

F13 - F24

  • Early IBM computers also had keyboards with F13 through F24 keys. However, because these keyboards are no longer used, they are not listed on this page.