Function Keys in Word 97-2016
General Discussion of Function Keys
In the early days of word processing on computers, the function or F- keys were often the primary way of telling the computer what you wanted done. (An exception was WordStar which predated DOS.) There were originally ten function keys and they were grouped on the left side of the keyboard. Their current assignments spring from this history.
Early programs would come with a template that would fit around them to describe their functions or with stickers that would go on top of the keys. These are still available for many programs. Because the original keyboard came with ten rather than twelve function keys the functions assigned to the F11 and F12 keys are also assigned to (more complex) variations on other keys. Some modern computers have a special Fn key to allow the function keys to be used or to give them additional functions. See below if this is your situation.
The function keys, in some cases, predate the existence of menus.
With this history in mind, let's take a look at the function keys for Word. Each function key can be modified (as can ordinary keys) with the Shift, Ctrl & Alt keys (and combinations of these). Many function keys have keyboard equivalents with the ordinary letter keys in combination with the Ctrl key.
Generally on the Mac the Option key fills the function of the Alt key; the Cmd key fills the function of the Ctrl key.
Some of these keys (like Alt+F4 to close an application) are intended to be universal among Windows programs. Others are peculiar to Word and its functions. These keys are powerful tools.
Troubleshooting Function Keys
Some computers (especially laptops) assign their own functions to the function keys in their BIOS. If the function keys on your keyboard have little symbols on them in addition to the number, chances are good this is the case with your computer. The computer this is being typed on is an HP Envy which does this. It also has an additional special shift key (fn) which lets the user use the original assignments. So, for instance where the Word function key is Ctrl+F9 to insert a field, it would be, instead, Fn+Ctrl+F9 or Fn, followed by Ctrl+F9. It may also be possible to edit the BIOS so that the fn key is used for the special functions assigned by the computer manufacturer, and the ones showing above work without pressing this extra key.
Also, many Windows utilities hijack (appropriate) certain function keys for their own use. One I use is SnagIt, a screen capture utility. SnagIt lets the user control this. I don't know that all such programs do.
More Keyboard Shortcuts than Function Keys
There are far more shortcut keys built into Word than the function keys. You can find them in help, but it is a long list. You can make a written list if you want. See this article for directions. Here is one such list in a web format.
A number of key combinations have no assigned function and could be easily assigned to call macros, AutoText or other Word functions. This is not difficult to do. No function key has the combination of Ctrl+Alt+Shift assigned. The Ctrl+Alt combination is not assigned for the any of the function keys other than F1 and F2.
Adding / Changing Keyboard Shortcuts in Word
Function Key Toolbar in Word 2000-2003
Commandbars("Function Key Display").Visible = True
The following macro would toggle this display:
With Commandbars("Function Key Display")
.Visible = Not .Visible
See Macros and VBA for instructions on inserting this macro into your Normal.dot or other template.
In versions 2007 and later there is no equivalent display, but the help system will show function key use, as will a web search: 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016 - I think these give the same information but am posting all four here because they may be taken down after a time. These show up in a Google search for "keyboard shortcuts Microsoft Word" or "function keys Microsoft Word."
Last updated 14 Mar 2017
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