An Explanation of the “F” Keys

Along the top of most computer keyboards are a series of function keys. They are numbered from F1 to F12, and go from left to right.  But do you know what they actually do?

Most of the function keys are pre-assigned to perform certain actions when they are pressed.  These are usually called shortcut keys. This holds true primarily for function keys F1 through F7. Other keys, such as F8 through F12, are typically not assigned for regular computer use, but instead have more programming related functions.

While each key typically has a universal function, there may be some variation as to what each key does on a user’s computer. Below are the functions that each of these keys are generally assigned to (on a Windows-based computer).

  • F1 – Opens Windows help.
  • F2 – Opens the title line of folder so it can be renamed.
  • F3 – Search function.
  • F4 – Shows address bar list display for Windows Explorer or My Computer.
  • F5 – Refresh the active program.
  • F6 – Runs through items on desktop or window.
  • F7 – Runs the Spell and Grammar check in the open program.
  • F8 – Runs Windows in Safe Mode.
  • F9 – Break point debugging use when used with the Shift key. On some programs, it has no assigned use.
  • F10 – Opens the File menu for the active program.
  • F11 – Shows full screen view in Internet Explorer.
  • F12 – Bypass debugger – Command prompt access.  On some programs, it has no assigned use.

The source for this article was “What Do the F Keys on a Computer Do?” written by Nina Nixon, originally published on