What are the Function Keys of the Mac for?

If you have recently purchased a Mac, surely, by looking at the keyboard you will have already noticed the function keys at the top. In traditional keyboards, the function keys have the words F1F2F3F4F5F6F7F8F9F10F11F12, even on the Mac this wording is present, but above or next to it you will find another small icon.

Function keys can be used within certain apps in a number of ways, so to know what each key does, you need to check which keyboard shortcuts for the app you are using. But as previously written, the Mac function keys, in addition to the words F1, F2, F3, and so on, have other symbols, the latter represents the functions associated with macOS.

In the next chapter, I show you all the available functions that you will find on both the MacBook and the Magic Keyboard unless you are using a MacBook with Touch Bar or a very dated MacBook.

Mac function keys – that’s what they’re for

Below are the default functions of the function keys within macOS.

  • F1: Decreases the brightness of the screen
  • F2: Increase screen brightness
  • F3: Open Mission Control
  • F4: Open the Launchpad
  • F5: Reduces the brightness of the Macbook keyboard
  • F6: Increase the brightness of the MacBook keyboard
  • F7: Skip back (audio)
  • F8: Pause / Play (audio)
  • F9: Skip forward (audio)
  • F10: Mute
  • F11: Turn down the volume
  • F12: Turn up the volume

Each time you press one of these keys, its default function will be called up.

If you want to use the F1, F2, F3… keys as standard function keys, you will first have to hold down the Fn key (present at the bottom left) and then press the function key.

Changing the behavior of Mac function keys

If you want to change the behavior of the function keys, then use F1, F2, F3 in the standard way … without pressing the Fn key and instead use the default macOS functions by pressing the Fn key. You will need to enable an option within the Preferences of System.

  • Click on the Apple icon, the apple-shaped one at the top left, in the menu bar;
  • Do click on “System Preferences”;
  • Click on “Keyboard”;
  • Check the item “Use the F1, F2, etc. keys. as standard function keys ”.

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