Function Key


A Function Key is a special key on a computer keyboard, usually labeled with an “F” followed by a number (e.g., F1, F2, F3). These keys are designed to perform specific tasks or shortcuts within an operating system or software application. The action performed by a function key can vary depending on the context or program being used.


The phonetic pronunciation of the keyword “Function Key” is /ˈfʌŋkʃən ki/.

Key Takeaways

  1. Function keys are special keys on a computer keyboard that perform specific functions, often in combination with other keys like ‘Ctrl’ or ‘Alt’. They are typically labeled as “F1” to “F12”.
  2. Function keys help simplify repetitive tasks and improve efficiency, as they can be used for quick access to common features or commands within an application like saving a document, refreshing a page, or searching for a term.
  3. Usage of function keys varies across different software and operating systems; their specific functions depend on the context and application in which they are used. Users may need to reference the software documentation or user guide to determine the appropriate use of function keys within a particular program.


The term Function Key is important in the realm of technology because these keys, specifically known as F1 through F12, are designated primarily to perform specific pre-defined tasks, enabling users to access various functionalities and shortcuts with a single keypress.

They facilitate efficiency and productivity by allowing users to streamline their workflows, eliminate multiple and repetitive steps, and ultimately save time.

Function keys are integrated into hardware and software applications across various industries, adding versatility and practicality for computer users and programmers alike.

By simplifying complicated commands, they assist in enhancing the overall user experience while interacting with software and hardware systems.


Function keys, often abbreviated as “F-keys,” serve the primary purpose of providing shortcuts for commonly used operations and tasks on computers and electronic devices. Typically appearing across the top row of a computer keyboard, these keys, labeled F1 through F12, were first introduced in the 1960’s and have since evolved to enhance user experience and to ensure compatibility with a wide array of software. Due to their adaptable nature, function keys streamline processes in various applications and operating systems, enabling users to improve productivity and complete tasks more efficiently.

For instance, in many word processing programs, the F7 key invokes a spelling and grammar check, while F5 generally refreshes the content displayed on a web page. In addition to their software-specific roles, function keys also play an essential part in the execution of system-level commands. These keys come into play when combined with modifier keys such as “Ctrl,” “Alt,” or the “Windows” button, giving users the convenience to adjust screen brightness, volume, or even triggering sleep mode on a device.

Function key usage is not limited to personal computers and laptops. In fact, other electronic devices, such as smartphones and tablets, have also come to rely on virtual or customizable function keys to provide users with a more efficient interaction experience. Ultimately, the purpose of function keys is to simplify the user experience, whether through software shortcuts or by controlling device functionality.

Examples of Function Key

Function keys, also known as “F keys,” are special keys often found on computer keyboards that serve various purposes depending on the application being used. Here are three real-world examples of how function keys can be used in different contexts:

Microsoft Office: In Microsoft Office applications, function keys have numerous uses. For example, pressing F1 opens the Help menu, F7 initiates the spell-checking feature in Word, and F12 helps you save your document under a new file name or let you save your document in a specific format.

In Web Browsers: Function keys are also used in web browsers to help with navigation and other tasks. For instance, pressing F5 refreshes the current webpage, F11 toggles full-screen mode, and F6 moves the cursor to the address bar for easier access.

In Operating Systems: Function keys also have various uses in operating systems like Windows and macOS. In Windows, pressing F2 allows you to rename a selected file, while F10 activates the menu bar of the active window. In macOS, F3 activates the “Expose” feature, showing all open windows, and F4 opens the “Launchpad” for easy access to installed apps.

Function Key FAQ

What are function keys?

Function keys are a set of keys on a computer keyboard labeled F1 through F12, which are used to perform specific tasks and shortcuts within the operating system or an application.

What functions do the function keys perform?

The specific tasks performed by function keys vary depending on the operating system, application, and context. Some common functions include accessing help menus, refreshing pages, and controlling audio volume.

How do I use function keys on a laptop?

On a laptop, you may need to hold down the Fn key (usually located near the bottom left corner of the keyboard) while pressing the desired function key to access its specific function.

Is it possible to customize the function keys on my keyboard?

Yes, some operating systems and applications allow you to customize the function keys’ actions. You can often change their default functions by accessing the related software’s settings or using third-party keyboard customization tools.

Why doesn’t the function key work as expected in some applications?

If the function key doesn’t work as expected, the application may not support the function key’s specific action, or it may conflict with another keyboard shortcut. You may have to consult the application’s documentation or help menu to determine the correct way to use function keys within the application.

Related Technology Terms

  • Keyboard Shortcut
  • Hotkey
  • System Command
  • Accessibility Feature
  • Program Function

Sources for More Information


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