What Do the F1, F2 and F3 Mean on the Computer Keyboard?

By Shannon Keen

The F1 through F12 keys on a computer keyboard are commonly referred to as function keys. The many uses, or functions, of these keys vary based on what programs are open and on the active operating system. Function keys can sometimes be used in conjunction with other keys to perform additional tasks. The other keys used for this purpose are generally ALT and CTRL.


The first of the function keys, numerically speaking, is the F1 key. In almost any program for any operating system, the F1 key also serves as the help key. When pressed, it will open the help menu for the program currently in use. In Microsoft Windows, pressing the F1 key along with the Windows key will open the Microsoft Windows help and support screen. It will open the Microsoft Office task pane if pressed with the CTRL key.


The F2 key has a number of functions unique to Microsoft Windows and its various programs. When an icon or other file is selected, the F2 key will give the user the option to rename it. In Microsoft Word, the F2 key can open a new document when pressed together with ALT and CTRL. The print preview feature of Microsoft Word can be accessed by pressing the F2 key and CTRL.


The F3 key is used in a variety of programs to open a search window. MS-DOS operating system users can use the F3 key to repeat the most recent command. In Microsoft Word, the F3 key used in conjunction with the Shift key can alter capitalization for an entire document. It has the ability to capitalize the entire text, as well as change all uppercase letters to lowercase. It can also capitalize just the first letter of every word.

Other Function Keys

The F4 through F12 keys perform a wide range of tasks as well. The F4 key will open a find window in most programs. The F5 key will refresh the current window in almost any Internet browser. In Microsoft Word, the F7 key will perform a spelling and grammer check and the F12 key will open the Save As menu. The Windows startup menu can be accessed using the F8 key. The F11 key is used to enter full-screen mode.