Function Key

What Does Function Key Mean?

A function key refers to one of the twelve keys present on the top row of a common PC keyboard. Labeled from F1–F12, these function keys are responsible for performing shortcut tasks like printing or saving files. Different operating systems, for example Windows and Mac OS, have separate uses for function keys.


A function key is also known as a soft key.

Techopedia Explains Function Key

Function keys are present on all modern Mac and Windows keyboards. On some laptop keyboards, however, they are not separate keys but are sub-functions of other keys and can be activated with the help of a separate key, usually the Fn key. In the top row of a regular keyboard, function keys help with the performance of various functions; for example, Microsoft Windows users can press ALT + F4 to close the program currently active. Apple computers did not have function keys in earlier models, but current keyboards feature the function keys on the top row similar to the standard PC keyboard.


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Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.