How to Use the F Keys on a Mac

Take advantage of your Mac's function keys

What To Know

  • To enable standard function keys, go to System Preferences > Keyboard, and enable Use F1, F2, etc. keys as standard...
  • Mac function keys are different than function keys on Windows and Linux.
  • Each key performs a unique function to control your Mac.

This article explains how to use the function keys on your Mac. Located at the top of your Mac keyboard is a collection of keys that feature an F followed by a number, 1-12. These keys, known as Mac function keys, enable you to change certain settings and reach Mac features quickly, with the press of a couple of keys.

A woman sitting in front of her computer typing using a keyboard.
Kohei Hara / Getty Images

Why Use Mac Function Keys?

If you've ever used a keyboard shortcut, you know how simple and fast it is. The time it takes to move your hand to your mouse or trackpad and navigate to the action you wish to take is cut short thanks to the shortcut. The function keys work the same exact way, saving you time as you work, surf the internet, or game.

Some apps allow you to customize the function keys to fit your preferences. You can also change your function keys to match your own shortcuts by remapping them. If there's an action you take often using your Mac, the functions key can help.

Do you have a MacBook Pro (15-inch, 2016 and later) or a MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2016, Four Thunderbolt 3 Ports and later)? If so, your physical function keys are replaced by the Touch Bar, which changes automatically based on the apps you're using.

The Function of Each F Key

Mac Function Keys
F1 Reduce the screen's brightness
F2 Increase the screen's brightness
F3 Activates Expose view, which shows you every app that's running
F4 Showcases your apps or opens the dashboard for access to widgets
F5 For back lit keyboards, F5 decreases the keyboard's brightness
F6 For back lit keyboards, F6 increases the keyboard's brightness
F7 Restarts a music track or jumps to the previous track
F8 Plays or pauses a music track or other content
F9 Skip a music track or fast forward
F10 Mute
F11 Reduces volume
F12 Increases volume

How to Use the Mac Function Keys

By default, the function keys are ready to use without any other keystrokes. Simply press the key to activate the function you need to perform. The function will automatically activate.

You can also use other shortcuts such as modifier keys to save even more time as you work and play.

However, if you wish to change this, you can use System Preferences to enable standard function keys.

How to Enable Standard Function Keys

  1. On your Mac, click Launchpad > System Preferences.

    System preferences on Mac
  2. From there, click Keyboard, then click Use F1, F2, etc. keys as standard function keys.

    Keyboard preferences inside System Preferences on Mac
  3. Now, you'll need to press the Fn key in the lower left corner of your keyboard plus the corresponding function key to complete an action.

  • How do I change the function keys on my Mac?

    Open the Apple menu and select System Preferences > Keyboard > Keyboard > Modifier Keys. Choose a function key and use the pop-up menu to designate an action for it. If you ever want to change the function keys back to what they were originally, select Restore Defaults.

  • How do I use function keys if my Mac has a Touch Bar?

    Press and hold the Function (fn) key on your keyboard to display the function keys in the Touch Bar. Then press the function key you want as it appears in the Touch Bar.

Was this page helpful?