Alt + F4: The Windows keyboard shortcut for closing applications, explained

hands typing on laptop keyboard PC
Keyboard shortcuts, like Alt + F4, are a fast way to accomplish tasks quickly on Windows.

  • Alt + F4 is a Windows keyboard shortcut that completely closes the application you’re using.
  • It differs slightly from Ctrl + F4, which closes the current window of the application you’re viewing.
  • Laptop users may need to press the Fn key in addition to Alt + F4 to use this shortcut.
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Alt + F4 is a handy keyboard shortcut for Windows that closes the current application on your computer.

In this guide, we’ll go over what Alt + F4 is, how it differs from Ctrl + F4 (a similar shortcut with a slight difference), and what to do when Alt + F4 doesn’t work.

What is Alt + F4?

Alt + F4 is a keyboard shortcut that completely closes the application you’re currently using on your computer.

Alt + F4 differs slightly from Ctrl + F4, which closes the current tab or window of the program you’re currently using. For example, if you were on a web browser and had multiple tabs open, Alt + F4 would close the browser entirely while Ctrl + F4 would only close the open tab you were viewing.

Alt + F4 works on Windows 10 and all other Windows editions.

To use this command, press the Alt key and the F4 key at the same time. Alternatively, press and hold the Alt key, then, while still holding down the Alt key, press the F4 key.

What to do when Alt + F4 doesn’t work

If Alt + F4 doesn’t work, you can close an active application using Task Manager. To do this, press Ctrl + Alt + Delete, then click Task Manager. Alternatively, press Ctrl + Shift + Esc to open Task Manager or right-click on the program you’re trying to close and click “End task.”

It’s common for this command to not work on laptops or multifunction keyboards. This is because on these types of keyboards, the function keys have additional functions like adjusting the brightness of your screen or playback volume. To use the Alt + F4 shortcut on these types of keyboards, press the Fn key at the same time (Alt + Fn + F4).

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MacBook Touch Bar: The special touchscreens built into MacBook Pro models, explained

MacBook Pro Touch Bar
The Touch Bar is only available on the high-end MacBook Pro models.

  • The MacBook Touch Bar is a thin touchscreen above the number keys on MacBook Pro keyboards that offers versatile functionality.
  • To use a Mac’s Touch Bar and its library of digital icons, you can tap, swipe, and slide along the bar. 
  • Some Touch Bar buttons change depending on the app you’re using, while others remain constant.
  • You can open your Mac’s System Preferences menu to change some of the Touch Bar’s settings.
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Introduced to MacBooks in 2016, the Touch Bar is a small touchscreen located above the number keys on MacBook Pro keyboards.

The Touch Bar was built to replace the function keys – the numbered F1 through F12 keys that come standard on most keyboards. Despite this, the Touch Bar actually has a variety of features and tools that change depending on what app you’re using.

As of this writing, the Touch Bar is only available on 13- and 15-inch MacBook Pro models. However, this might change in the future.

How to use a MacBook Touch Bar

As its name suggests, Apple’s Touch Bar is activated by touch, and as such responds to gestures like tapping, swiping, and sliding. You can use these gestures to adjust the brightness and volume, activate Siri, access function keys, and more depending on the app you’re using.

For example, if you’re checking your email, you’ll see actions to reply or flag emails on the Touch Bar. Image editing apps might let you trip or crop with a touch. And a calculator will display the standard adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing symbols.

Try using different apps and watch how the Touch Bar changes to match them.

This Apple Support page shows which buttons pop up when you select a file in Finder (including Preview and Share) and when you view a picture in the Photos app (including Rotate and a slider to quickly navigate through photos).

apple macbook pro touch bar
Apps have specific Touch Bar commands.

An advantage of the Touch Bar is its ability to customize which buttons appear. For app-specific functions, you can customize the buttons to include commonly used tasks. To change your Touch Bar’s settings, open System Preferences, select “Keyboard” and the “Keyboard” submenu afterward, then choose and adjust among the variety of customizable options available for the Touch Bar.

And if something appears on the Touch Bar that you want to save for later, you can take a screenshot of just the Touch Bar.

The Control Strip

While the buttons located in the center of the Touch Bar will change depending on the app you’re using, the Control Strip, which is located on the right side, doesn’t change. Here, you’ll find buttons to activate Siri and adjust settings like brightness and volume. To expand the Control Strip, tap the left facing arrow button.

In the expanded view of the Control Strip, you can also adjust keyboard brightness, control video or music playback (with pause, play, rewind, and fast forward buttons), and more. 

Macbook Pro with touch bar
Once you get used to it, the Touch Bar is easy to use.

The function keys

Function keys (F1 to F12) are standard on most keyboards, meaning that you’ll likely still need them.

For Macs with a Touch Bar, the function keys are accessed via the Touch Bar. To find them, press and hold the Fn key or Globe key (whichever one you have) on your keyboard.

If this doesn’t work, go to your Mac’s keyboard preferences to ensure this shortcut is enabled. You can find your keyboard preferences in the “System Preferences” app.

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