What does Alt+F4 do?

This is one of those jokes people play on each other -- it's in the same category with squirting flowers and exploding cigars. This joke works on machines running the Windows operating system because Windows happens to define certain keystrokes that work the same way in all applications. Just about everyone knows that Alt+Ctrl+Del interrupts the operating system, but most people don't know that Alt+F4 closes the current window. So if you had pressed Alt+F4 while playing a game, the game window would have closed.

It turns out there are several other handy keystrokes like that built into Windows. For example, Ctrl+Esc will pop up the Start menu, Alt+Esc will bring the next window to the foreground, and Alt+Tab or Alt+Shift+Tab will let you cycle through all available windows and jump to the one you select.

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­ On keyboards that have the little "Windows" key (let's call it WK here) down near the space bar, you probably know that you can press that key to open the Start menu. You can also use that key with other keys like you use the shift key. For example:

  • WK+e - starts the Windows Explorer
  • WK+f - starts the Find in Files dialog
  • WK+Ctrl+f - starts the Find a Computer on the Network dialog
  • WK+M - minimizes all the windows to clear the desktop
  • WK+Shift+M - restores all the minimized windows
  • WK+r - starts the Run dialog
  • WK+F1 - starts Windows Help
  • WK+Pause - starts System Properties

The last keyboard trick that every Windows user should be aware of is MouseKeys. If you go to the Accessibility Options icon in the Control Panel, you can go to the Mouse section and turn on MouseKeys. This feature allows you to use the numeric keypad in addition to the mouse to move the cursor. It's handy if you are on a bumpy airplane ride or if your mouse is acting up. Another neat feature in Accessibility Options is the ability to turn on a beeper that beeps when you press the Caps Lock key -- great if you are the sort of person who hits it accidentally!

See the next page for more information.

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Originally Published: Apr 1, 2000

Alt F4 FAQ

What do Alt and F4 do?
Pressing the Alt and F4 keys together is a keyboard shortcut to close the currently active window. For example, if you press this keyboard shortcut while playing a game, the game window will close immediately.
Does Alt F4 work on Windows 10?
The Alt and F4 keys work on Windows 10 and all other editions of Windows. Additionally, this keyboard shortcut works with most applications to close the active window.
What do you do when Alt F4 doesn't work?
If the Alt F4 shortcut doesn't work, then the best way to close the active window is through Task Manager. For this, you need to press “Ctrl + Alt + Delete” and click Task Manager. Alternatively, you can also press “Ctrl + Shift + Esc” to go straight to the Task Manager. You can also right-click the program you are having trouble with and click “End task.”
Why is Alt F4 not working?
If Alt F4 is not working, it is probably because you are using a laptop computer or a multi-function keyboard. On multi-function keyboards, the function keys usually have special functions like adjusting screen brightness or volume. In such cases, the Fn key on your keyboard can be used to activate the secondary function of the key. So, press the Alt+Fn+F4 shortcut to close the active window.
What is the difference between Alt F4 and Ctrl F4?
The main function of Alt+F4 is to close the application while Ctrl+F4 just closes the current window. If an application uses a full window for each document, then both the shortcuts will function in the same way. For example, in Microsoft Word, Ctrl+F4 will close the current document after prompting you to save changes. However, Alt+F4 will exit Microsoft Word all together after closing all open documents.

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