What Do the Function Keys Do on Windows 10?

The function keys have almost been around as long as the keyboard itself. They\’re widely thought to have made their debut on the IBM 3270 back in 1972, and have been a mainstay on PCs and laptops ever since. 

However, despite their long history, the F1-F12 keys remain a mystery to many of us. Most laptop manufacturers have combined them with commonly used functions like volume and brightness adjustments – in this scenario, you\’ll need to hold down the \’Fn\’ key to get the original function. But without the same space constraints on external keyboards, they often remain unused. The one big exception here is gaming, where they\’re often used for specific controls. 

The F-keys have a wide variety of functions by default, so we\’ll just explore some of the most common ones in this article. 

F1

The F1 key\’s most popular use is as a request for help, which applies on almost every device. This may just be the Settings menu, or a web page with support. Similarly, holding down the Windows key while you press F1 usually opens Windows\’ help and support center.

In Microsoft Excel, the F1 can be combined with Alt and Shift keys to create a new worksheet tab.

F2

The F2 key is used to rename a highlighted icon, file or folder across all recent versions of Windows. If you have Microsoft Excel open, it will edit the active cell, while combining it with Alt and Ctrl displays the \’Open Document\’ screen in Microsoft Word. In the same program, using just Ctrl and F2 displays the print preview window.

F3

The F3 key has a wide variety of functions. Perhaps the most commonly used one is for selecting the search bar when on the desktop. It can also open the search function from the File Explorer and repeat the last command in the Command Prompt window. 

Ctrl + F3 turns any highlighted text lower case in Microsoft Word, while Shift + F3 alternates between upper and lower case – this can also be customised to add a capital letter at the start of every word. 

F4

The F4 opens the address bar in the File Explorer and most browsers, including Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge. Alt + F4 closes the currently active window, while Ctrl + F4 closes the specific tab instead.

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