What Are the Function Keys on the Computer Keyboard?

Function keys on a keyboard run from F1 to F12 and accomplish specific purposes depending on the current operating system and the program running on the computer. A user can use each of the function keys independently, trigger a second function by pressing the FN key, or use them in combination with the ALT or CTRL key.

Some keyboard layouts might not come with a row of function keys. Such keyboards integrate the role of the function keys in other keys as secondary functions. This is common with laptop keyboards that have limited space.

The FN key triggers a second role on function keys. The function key may trigger secondary roles such as speaker volume or screen brightness, depending on the model of the computer in use. For instance, holding down the FN key and pressing the F6 key lowers the computer volume, while holding down the FN key while pressing F7 increases the volume on some laptops.

Each function key performs a specific role. Pressing F1 opens the Help document on Windows in some computers. A user can press CTRL + F11 on startup to access the hidden recovery partition on eMachines, Lenovo, Dell and Gateway computers. Pressing this combination on computers running Mac OS 10.4 or later, however, minimizes all the open documents to show the desktop.