Understanding Your Keyboard's Function Keys

Function keys are that row of keys along the top of your keyboard labeled F1 through F10 (or F12, depending on the keyboard). These keys have flexible definitions and can be redefined by an application or operating system. Function keys typically carry out popular or repetitive tasks, saving you from having to type (or remember) several commands or keystrokes.

The Function Keys And You
In Microsoft Windows, key functions vary from application to application. There is, however, some common functionality between programs. Common function key tasks include:

  • F1: The F1 key is almost universally used to access help files. By pressing WINDOWS KEY + F1, you can access the Windows help and support center.
  • F2: The F2 key is used to rename the selected file or object.
  • F3: The F3 key is often used to access the search function of an application. On the desktop, F3 will call up the detailed Search Results window.
  • F4: Typing ALT + F4 will close the currently active program.
  • F5: This key will refresh the contents of a dialog box (e.g., Save As). In most browsers, F5 will refresh the currently displayed Web page.
  • F7: Sometimes used to call the Spell Check function of an application. Microsoft Word and Open Office both support this command.
  • F10: The F10 key makes a program's Menu Bar active. SHIFT + F10 will display an item's shortcut menu-the equivalent of right clicking on an item.
  • F11: This key is used in most browser programs to switch into full-screen mode

A Trick with Windows Function Keys 
Windows doesn't use all of the function keys. You can take advantage of this by assigning a program to an "empty" function key. F8, F9 and F12 are good candidates. To assign a function key, follow these steps:

  • Right click on the program's shortcut, either on the desktop or in the Start menu.
  • Click on the Shortcut tab.
  • Click on the Shortcut Key text box.
  • Press the function key you want to assign to the program. The function key name will appear in the text box.
  • Click Apply or Ok and close the dialog box.
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