New to the Mac world (from PC) but really like it so far. In wanting to understand the operation of the laptop, I was reading about the function keys. One book listed the "MacBook Pro's Default Function keys. Went something like this:

  • F1 Descreases display brightness
  • F2. Increases display brightness . . .
  • F11 Decreases volume
  • F12 Increases volume

I've omitted some of the F numbers.

My issue is that none of these work for me. Zero. When I press the "fn" key the F1 thru F12 show up in the Touch Bar and when I press F1 - F10 nothing happens. When I press F11 the browser screen minimizes, and when I press F12 I go to the dashboard (I actually like this).

In the Touch Bar I notice that I have by default a volume up and volume soft key.

My question is, why doesn't pressing F4 (fn key and the F4 key that shows up in the Touch Bar) open the launchpad (I think this is the default )? Why doesn't F3 open the Mission Control?

I'm just trying to fully understand this machine and this is a hole in my understanding.

I'm using MacOS 10.14. Mojave. and it says Kernel version Darwin 18.6.0 (whatever that means).

BTW, I have, under system preferences, keyboard, press fn key to "show F1, F2...".

I have also gone to system preferences an keyboard shortcuts and pressed the restore defaults.

Can anyone assist with what I'm doing wrong here to not be able to get the default function keys to do their default functions.

  • Hey Michael, welcome to Apple.SE! Can you mention whether the settings under System Preferences-> Keyboard-> keyboard tab, Use F keys as standard function keys? Also pardon if that's not an option on touch bar models.
    – anki
    Commented Jul 27, 2019 at 20:22
  • Under system preferences, keyboard, the only option I see (and I think this is what is there for Touch Bar models) is "Press Fn key to: -expand control strip, - show F1, F2, etc, - show quick actions. I have it set for show F1, F2, etc. Commented Jul 27, 2019 at 21:37
  • When I hold down my fn key, all of the function keys F1 - F12 show in the Touch Bar.. It's just only 2 of them do anything, as I mentioned in the original post. Commented Jul 27, 2019 at 21:39
  • 1
    How old is this book you're referencing? Older MacBook Pros (pre-touchbar) had media keys and Function keys sharing the same physical key by default, toggled by holding down Fn. If you held down Fn and hit the F4 (physical key), you invoked F4. If you didn't, you opened Launchpad. It wasn't that F4 opened Launchpad, but that they put the default media key for Launchpad on same physical key. With the Touch Bar, F4 is F4 -- unless you specifically bound the shortcut action in System Preferences -> Keyboard -> Shortcuts -> Launchpad & Dock -> Show Launchpad to F4.
    – vykor
    Commented Jul 27, 2019 at 22:52
  • According to Apple Support on Touch Bar, do you see the < icon which you can tap to expand new icons? support.apple.com/en-in/guide/mac-help/mchlbfd5b039/mac
    – anki
    Commented Jul 28, 2019 at 8:24

2 Answers 2


I believe you are misunderstanding the information you read.

On older MacBook Pros, the top row of function keys double as system settings keys just as they do on PCs, but with one important difference: On a PC, the top row keys act as function keys primarily, and you use the Fn key to use the secondary setting. Macs default to the exact opposite of this. The top row of keys act as settings keys primarily, and you use the Fn to use them as regular function keys. This can be confusing to newcomers at first.

This also adds ambiguity into the documentation you found. It says that F1/F2 adjust the screen brightness, but F1 and F2 don't actually do anything. The screen brightness controls are just ON the F1/F2 keys. The documentation knows that the primary and secondary functionality of the function keys is reversed on Macs, so that's why it said to use just F1/F2.

Lastly, I said in my first paragraph that older MacBook pros act this way. Newer MacBook Pros with the Touch Bar do not have a row of function keys. The Touch Bar always displays whatever function will happen when you touch it. When you press the Fn key, it shows the function keys because that's how older models would behave.

Just remember, you're not actually after the F-keys. You're after the functions that used to be on those keys when there was an actual row of function keys instead of a touch bar.

Make sense?


The first thing I would do is reset your NVRAM.

Resetting the NVRAM

Older Macs had what's called Parameter RAM (PRAM), newer Macs use Non-Volatile Random-Access Memory (NVRAM). To reset the NVRAM on your MacBook Pro model follow these steps:

  1. Shut down your machine. Yes, a full shut down, so go to Apple > Shut Down so you’re not just logging out.
  2. Press the power button (in your case this is the Touch ID button) and then immediately press the commandoptionpr keys.
  3. Keep these keys pressed down for at least 20 seconds!
  4. Let go of the keys and let your Mac reboot normally.

Note: When you log back in you may need to readjust some of your system preferences (e.g. speaker volume, screen resolution, startup disk selection, time zone information, etc).

If resetting the NVRAM doesn't resolve this, let's try the on-screen keyboard.

Use the on-screen keyboard

For troubleshooting purposes (not as a solution) let's see what happens if you use the on-screen keyboard to access function keys instead.

  1. Go to Apple > System Preferences
  2. Click on the Keyboard pane
  3. Tick the “Show Keyboard, Emoji and symbol viewers in menu bar” box (Note: The exact phrase will differ slightly depending on version of macOS).
  4. Choose the viewer icon in the menu bar (see below for how the icon looks)

enter image description here

  1. Choose Show Keyboard Viewer.
  2. When the on-screen keyboard appears, click on the function keys to see what happens.

Let me know how you go and we'll progress further if needed.

Display function keys by default for specific apps

In case it's of interest to you, you can set your Touch Bar to show the function keys as its default display on an app by app basis.

To do this:

  1. Go to Apple > System Preferences
  2. Select the Keyboard preference pane
  3. Click on the Shortcuts tab
  4. In the left sidebar, select the Function Keys option
  5. On the right-hand side click on the plus + button
  6. Select the app you want to have the function keys displayed for in the Touch Bar by default
  7. Add the app

Now, whenever you are using that app, the Touch Bar should display all the function keys.

  • Thank you for taking the time to answer. I have tried the method with the keyboard viewer. It behaves exactly as the regular keyboard does. I get no response except for F11 and F12. I get the distinct feeling that there is nothing wrong with the laptop but that it's a setting that is not set properly. Everything I read suggests to select the box that says to use F keys as standard keys, but I don't have this option since it's a Touch Bar version. Commented Jul 27, 2019 at 23:25
  • to do the memory reset option, do I hold down all 5 keys for 20 seconds? Including the power key? Commented Jul 27, 2019 at 23:27
  • No, just the keys for 20 seconds.
    – Monomeeth
    Commented Jul 27, 2019 at 23:37
  • I just realized that this MacBook Pro has NO power button. You turn it off from the apple menu and you turn it on by pressing any key. Commented Jul 27, 2019 at 23:47
  • I’ve just updated my answer to clarify things a little.
    – Monomeeth
    Commented Jul 28, 2019 at 0:02

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