First of all I wanted to say thanks to everyone who entered the “Selfie competition” a couple of weeks ago – we’ve just drawn the winning entry out of a hat and have already sent an email to the winner to ask which free, signed book they’d like – but thank you to everyone who entered, whether you won or not!
Last time I wrote a bit about the Function keys – the F keys across the top of the keyboard.
I was talking about how using them on laptops can be a bit confusing and why. And I mentioned that in most programs, pressing F1 brings up a help screen and in a web browser F5 refreshes the page.
Afterward, I heard from several people asking if I could go over what some of the other function keys do, which seemed like a good question to me – so I thought I’d write about it today.
I should say, though, that in theory they can do different things in every program, depending on what the people who made that program decided. In practice, they do tend to give them similar uses in different programs, so it’s not too confusing.
So here’s a list of what they usually do – don’t feel you need to learn them all, though. I don’t use all of them myself, and I tend to use lots of keyboard shortcuts! But it’s worth having a look through the list and seeing what might be useful to you, then trying those out.
F1 – brings up the program’s built in help screen. In some programs, if you press it with some text selected, it’ll give you help based on that – and in fact in some programs it’ll try to bring up help relevant to what you’re doing, rather than just the main help contents screen for that program.
F2 – If you’re in file explorer or something similar and you’ve got a particular file, photo or whatever selected, pressing F2 lets you rename it. It’s the same as right clicking on the file and choosing rename (but slightly quicker).
F3 – This usually brings up a search box. If you don’t have a program running it’ll bring up a box that lets you search your PC, if you’re in a word processor it’ll let you search for a particular bit of text in the document and if you’re browsing the web it’ll let you search the current webpage for a particular word or phrase – not searching the whole web for it.
F4 – doesn’t have many uses but in Internet Explorer it’ll take you straight to the address bar, ready to type in a web address, saving you from having to click in it. (But have a look at F6 below before you use it.)
F5 – this refreshes the web page you’re on. Useful if it hasn’t loaded properly or if it’s a page of fast changing news and you want to see if it’s been updated. It can also be useful if your computer is remembering an old version of the page instead of getting the new one – PCs do that to save time and usually it’s helpful but occasionally it means you haven’t got the latest version of a webpage. If you’re having trouble with a web page not working, it’s usually a good idea to try pressing F5 to see if refreshing it helps.
F6 – does much the same as F4, but works in other web browsers as well. If you want to use a shortcut like this I’d use this instead of F4 so you’re learning one that works if you swap to a different browser.
F7 – in some Microsoft programs (and probably some others), runs a spellcheck. A lot of programs check the spelling as you go, underlining suspect words in red, but this makes it go through the whole thing and warn you about any words it thinks might be misspelled.
F8 – In some spreadsheet programs this lets you edit the cell you currently have selected, instead of clicking in the box at the top where you can edit it.
F9 – doesn’t have any common features.
F10 – If you’re using Internet Explorer and the menu bar (the one with File, Edit and so on) is hidden, this makes it appear.
F11 – If you’re browsing the web, this puts you into full screen mode, where all the menus and so on disappear to give you more room for the webpage. It can be nicer if you’re reading a page full of text, to get rid of the distractions. And if you don’t have a very big monitor and there’s a lot of text, full screen mode can fit more on at a reasonably size. Press F11 again to get back to normal mode. There’s no harm in giving it a try and seeing if you like it – just don’t forget that it’s F11 to get back to normal.
F12 – In some Microsoft programs, brings up the “save as” window, that lets you give the document a new name and save it.
Phew – that’s enough to be going on with, but there are also some key combinations that use the function keys, where you hold down shift or Alt or ctrl (or more than one of them) while you tap a particular function key. I’ll talk about some of those next time – including one that I used to recommend everyone should know. It’s not quite as crucial as it used to be, but it’s still worth knowing.