A computer or laptop keyboard has groups of keys, each of which performs a different task. Function keys F1-F12 can be programmed for certain actions, so they are convenient to use when working with the system and software. Each user in one way or another makes use of these opportunities and the more knowledge about the existing functions, the easier it is to interact with the computer.


The use of buttons and variations of their combination greatly speeds up the workflow. Combined with dedicated keys or the Fn control (a button available on laptop keyboards and on some plug-in PC keyboards), F1-F12 offer even more functionality that can be accessed instantly instead of performing a few mouse clicks.

By and large, full control of a computer is possible without using a mouse , using only the keyboard, but since this method is unusual for an ordinary user, it is used only in certain cases, for example, as a temporary solution in the absence of a manipulator. At the same time, it is better to memorize and use existing functions more often, since the more keys and their combinations are involved in processes, the faster and easier it is to work at the computer.

Assigning function keys

Consider how many function keys are on a modern keyboard, how they are located and what actions they can be responsible for.

The number of F-keys is usually standard – 12, but on new Apple keyboards, their number reaches 19. So, after the F1-F12 buttons located in the top row, there are F13-F19 next, replacing Print Screen , Pause and others. Any tasks can be assigned to them. The ancestors of modern keyboards, devices for IBM-compatible computers also had a considerable arsenal of function keys – 24. Today, finding such a “dinosaur” is no longer easy.

On laptop keyboards from different manufacturers, the F1-F12 keys can be programmed for various functions:

  • Turn on / off Wi-Fi.
  • Sleep mode.
  • Connecting / disconnecting an external monitor.
  • Adjusts the brightness of the screen.
  • Enable / disable Touch Pad (built-in mouse for laptops).
  • Sound control, mute and other options.

Which specific key will be responsible for this or that function depends on the manufacturer of the device . No standards are followed here.

In different programs, the purpose of each button will also differ, usually software developers assign the most requested tasks to the function keys in order to facilitate the work with the application. However, for Windows, each key has a default value. By applying in addition to F1-F12 special keys located on the sides of the alphanumeric keys, as well as Fn, which is found on every keyboard of a modern laptop, you can significantly expand the range of software capabilities. Combinations can open various system services without having to search for them all over the computer, as well as execute commands and perform other actions in the system or applications.

Let’s look at several tasks that F-keys can perform in the operating system and some programs.


  • Calling up help information in most software products.
  • Win + F1 brings up Windows Help and Support, regardless of the presence of active windows.
  • The key combination Ctrl + F1 in Windows hides or expands the toolbar in the active software window.
  • Pressing F1 when loading the OS allows you to go to the low-level CMOS Setup settings (not relevant for all BIOS versions, you can also use F1, Del, or other keys and combinations).


  • In the standard Windows file manager, by selecting an object and pressing the F2 button, you can rename it.
  • Press Ctrl + F2 to open a print preview in Microsoft Word.
  • In Excel, the F2 key will open the selected cell for editing.
  • The Alt + Ctrl + F2 combination brings up the “Open” window in Microsoft Office software products.
  • For certain BIOS versions, it allows you to go to change the CMOS settings.


  • In Windows and standard OS applications, as well as in some third-party programs, it opens a search window.
  • Outlook F3 + Win opens advanced search.
  • Together with the Shift key, it allows you to change the case of the selected text in a text editor.
  • On MS-DOS or Windows Command Prompt, duplicates the last step.


  • Moves the cursor to the address bar in Explorer and the standard Explorer browser.
  • In Microsoft Word, repeats the previous step.
  • Alt + F4 closes the active window of various software, pressing the same combination of buttons on the computer desktop opens the OS shutdown window.
  • Pressing Ctrl + F4 simultaneously – closes active windows.


  • Refresh open pages in browsers.
  • Ctrl + F5 will clear the page cache and refresh it.
  • In Word, opens the Find and Replace window.
  • The Power Point launches a slide show.
  • Copy option in Total Commander.


  • Move the cursor to the address bar of most browsers.
  • Move option in Total Commander file manager.
  • Fast save in games.


  • Check spelling in MS Office documents.
  • Creating a new folder in Total Commander.


  • Activation of the Windows boot menu, through which you can select the boot mode.
  • Selection option in MS Office documents.
  • Removing objects in Total Commander.


  • In Outlook, starts sending and receiving correspondence from mailboxes.
  • Updating a Microsoft Word document.
  • Loading the last save in games.


  • Activation of keyboard control for open programs.
  • Shift + F10 brings up a context menu for objects (by analogy with RMB).
  • Brings up the menu of many applications.
  • For some assemblies, pressing F10 while turning on the device allows you to go to low-level settings.


  • Full screen mode in browsers.
  • Go to low-level settings on certain branded builds.


  • Calls the “Save” window in MS Word, Shift + F12 saves the open document.
  • The combination Ctrl + Shift + F12 will open a window for printing the current Word document.
  • Ctrl + F12 in Word brings up the document opening window.
  • Calling the extended menu in applications.
  • Opens debug in many internet browsers.

This is just a small part of the functionality of the function keys, there are many uses for them in every program, and on laptops, when combined with Fn, the functionality of F-keys will be even higher.

How to enable F1-F12 keys

The block of function keys is used both on a laptop and on many keyboards connected to a computer as an execution of the main functions F1-F12, as well as multimedia. The Fn button is used to control mode switching.

Fn key on keyboard

Using the Fn key on a laptop keyboard

So, in most cases, the function keys are configured by default to act exactly F1-F12. To perform alternative functions, that is, so that you can use them to control the display brightness , sound and other parameters, you also need to press Fn together with the desired F-key.

At the same time, on some laptop models (HP, etc.), the function keys are configured as multimedia by default, and you can use them in the usual mode of performing F1-F12 actions when pressed simultaneously with Fn.

Not all users can appreciate the creativity of the manufacturers, as many prefer to mainly use the primary F-key options, rather than multimedia. For example, when playing computer games where reaction speed is important, or when working with special software, for convenience I most often use some buttons from the F1-F12 series. It is not entirely comfortable to constantly press Fn for the required response, when it would be more expedient to turn off the imposed multimedia mode and use the necessary keys immediately for their intended purpose. To change the priority, the function keys on a laptop are configured in the BIOS , where one parameter needs to be changed. To do this, do the following:

  • We go to the BIOS. We hold down the desired key or combination when turning on the laptop, which specific buttons to press depends on the device model. If you need to use a function key, pressing Fn is not required here, since the keys already perform basic functions before the OS starts.
  • Let’s move on to the System Configuration section.
  • Here we are looking for the Action Keys Mode parameter, press Enter, the value from “Enabled” must be changed to “Disabled”. 
    BIOS Key Mode

    Changes to Function Key Mode in BIOS

  • On different device models, the parameter may be called differently (Hotkey Mode, Function Keys Mode, etc.) For Dell laptops, go to the Advanced – Function Key Behavior section and change the value to Function Key. 
    Dell BIOS Key Mode

    Changing the Key Mode in Dell BIOS

  • Press F10, save the change (Yes) and reboot.

The F1-F12 buttons will now function normally, and Fn will be required to use the multimedia options.

How to disable F1-F12 buttons on a laptop

In some cases, when users do not want to use the functions assigned to the F1-F12 keys, but, on the contrary, want to switch to multimedia mode so that the buttons perform a second action without pressing Fn, you can also change the purpose of primary and secondary actions by referring to the BIOS settings. So, in the System Configuration section, go to the Action Keys Mode parameter. If the value “Disabled” is opposite it, then the buttons of the top row F1-F12 perform their usual actions, that is, the option disables direct access by these keys to extended functions, but they can also be performed in combination with Fn.


The value “Enabled” assumes the priority of using multimedia capabilities, so if we are engaged in disabling the function keys, we set this value. In essence, the setting changes the mode of operation of the top F1-F12 buttons from one to another, and you can set the parameter in a way that suits you convenient to work with the keyboard, and not adapt to the default settings.

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