A special key or media key is a keyboard key that performs a special function not included with the traditional 104-key keyboard. For example, in the picture to the right of a Logitech keyboard, you can see that the first four buttons shown control the volume of the speakers and the computer's brightness.
Tip: Special keys are found on keyboards often referred to as multimedia keyboards.
Some keyboards may also have special keys that perform more than one function with the use of an FN key. With the second four buttons shown in the picture above, you can see that they are the function keys F9 to F12. However, they also have orange icons that perform the special functions of controlling music. To use special keys that have a dual purpose like these keys, press the FN key and a special key at the same time. For example, if you wanted to press F12, you would press the F12 key. If you wanted to skip an audio track, you would press the FN key and F12 key at the same time.
Tip: Toggle keys like the Print Screen and Scroll Lock key are not special keys because they are on all keyboards.
Because these keys are special, they require software and drivers that typically are included with the keyboard. The included software may also allow you to choose how these keys function on your keyboard. For example, if you have an e-mail special key, you may want the key to open Mozilla Thunderbird instead of Microsoft Outlook. If you have an OEM computer, such as a Hewlett Packard or Dell, and the keyboard came with the computer, the software and drivers are available on the computer company's website. Otherwise, visit the keyboard manufacturer's website for software and drivers.
Other examples of special keys
Below is a list of some of the special keys and the functions they are intended to perform. Most special keyboards also allow you to program keys to perform other various actions.
- Application - Open applications such as the calculator, Excel, or Word.
- Audio controls - Turn up and down the volume, mute, and open a media player and control it using play, pause, and skip tracks.
- Folder control - Open folders like the My Documents folder and My Pictures folder.
- Internet controls - Open Internet browser, homepage, e-mail, favorites, or search.
- Window control - Show open windows, cascade windows, or switch between windows.
How many special keys are on a keyboard?
No standard dictates how many special keys are on a keyboard, but they usually range between 12 and 20.