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What Can I Do with the F Keys on My Mac?

written by: •edited by: Michael Dougherty•updated: 4/19/2011

The row of keys labelled F1-F12 on your MacBook are provided to allow you to perform quick shortcuts to lots of common tasks, such as changing your computer's volume and launching Expose...

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    Get The Most From Your Mac Keyboard

    We all know how to use keyboards – or do we? Surely it’s just a case of tapping away at the right keys in the right order with an end result of creating a sentence or adding numbers to a spreadsheet?

    Actually, no; most of us don’t know how to use keyboards – not to their most effective level, certainly. For beyond the realm of caps locks and number locks there are various additional keys and functions.

    Take the Apple MacBook, for instance, with its compact keyboard and row of F keys. If you gave one of these to a standard QWERTY keyboard user without any warning, they would be surprised by the compressed nature of the keyboard. They might also notice that although the keyboard takes up so little space compared with a desktop device, almost all of the same controls are available…

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    Where are the F Keys?

    On all Apple MacBook keyboards, you will find the F keys in a row above the numbers, a third of the size of a standard key.

    They are positioned here for ease, positioned between the Esc and Eject keys on the left and right of the keyboard. As with these two keys, the F keys are rarely used, and this is the beauty of the QWERTY keyboard – it organizes keys according to how regularly they are used.

    Looking at the F keys, you will notice that they are labelled F1-F12, as well as featuring a selection of interesting symbols.

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    Using the MacBook Keyboard F Keys

    There are various ways you can use the F keys. The most obvious is as their main intention, keys for performing certain functions in applications such as Word or to save your progress in a game.

    In addition to this, the F keys have a set of specific functions that can be accessed by holding down the Fn key in the lower-left corner of your keyboard. This special key acts in conjunction with the function keys to offer a separate set of functions, similar to those that you might find on a typical desktop keyboard.

    For instance, you might use the F keys in conjunction with the Fn key to alter the brightness of your MacBook display.

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    MacBook Keyboard Fn Key Functions

    Here is a list of the full set of Fn key functions that you can expect to see on your MacBook.

    F1 – decrease brightness

    F2 – increase brightness

    F3 – launch Expose

    F4 – launch Dashboard

    F5 – no other function

    F6 – no other function

    F7 – previous track (for use mainly in iTunes or another media player)

    F8 – play/pause

    F9 – next track

    F10 – mute speaker

    F11 – decrease volume

    F12 – increase volume

    (Note that some models may differ.)

    Getting the Most out of Macbook Keyboard F Keys Each of these functions are available by default by pressing the equivalent key in some cases, but you can toggle how Mac OS X treats these keys and the Fn combination in System Preferences > Keyboard & Mouse > Keyboard. The Use all F1, F2, etc., keys as standard function keys option, when checked, will require you to use the Fn button to use these functions.

    As you can see, there are plenty of things that you can do with the MacBook keyboard F keys; tasks that might require a few mouse clicks can be quickly achieved via these shortcuts!

    (Image credit: apple.com)

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    References

    Author's own experience