Function Keys Not Functioning

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Today’s Question: I was trying out some software. The F2 key was supposed to perform some action. When I pressed and held F2 on my Mac, the screen brightened. I’m not what was supposed to happen. My question is whether I have to recalibrate my display, or will the proper calibration occur if I turn the computer off and then on?

Tim’s Quick Answer: On many computers (especially laptops), the function keys perform computer-specific tasks unless you hold a separate key on the keyboard. In the case of changing the display brightness, if you return it to the original setting you’ll be fine. When in doubt, simply re-calibrating the display will resolve the issue.

More Detail: On most computer keyboards you will find a set of “function” keys across the top of the keyboard, typically labeled “F1”, “F2”, and so on. However, in many cases you will find that these function keys perform computer-specific tasks by default, rather than acting as the function keys certain software applications might be expecting.

For example, on Macintosh laptop computers the F1 key serves to darken the display, and the F2 key serves to brighten the display.

In this type of situation, to access the actual function keys you need to hold a special key on the keyboard. With a Macintosh laptop, for example, that key is labeled “fn”. On other computers the key may be similarly labeled.

So, to access the F2 key for specific software functions, for example, you would hold the “fn” key while pressing the “F2” key.

Of course, having unintentionally adjusted the brightness of your display, you will want to make sure you return the brightness to the original value. When calibrating the display it is a good idea to make a note of the specific brightness setting used on your computer. If you’re not sure what setting was used, I do recommend repeating the process of calibrating your display. This will ensure you have an optimal brightness setting for the display, and that the color is as accurate as possible as well.

Once the display is calibrated, I recommend not changing the brightness setting for the display, unless you later return that setting to the value achieved during the calibration process.