Escape Key

The Escape key is located in the upper-left corner of a computer keyboard. It typically resides to the left of the Function keys (F1, F2, F3, etc.) and above the tilde (~) key. Most often, is is labeled with the abbreviation "esc."

The Escape key has many purposes, which have evolved over time. Most uses share the common action of exiting or "escaping" an operation. The Escape key is often used to quit, cancel, or abort a process that is running on a computer.

Some specific examples of Escape key functions include:

  1. Closing a pop-up menu - You can press Escape to collapse the Windows Start Menu or the File menu in macOS.
  2. Selecting "Cancel" in a dialog box - When prompted with options such as "OK" and "Cancel," the Enter key is often used to select "OK," while the Escape key selects "Cancel."
  3. Reverting changes to a filename - If you are in the middle of changing the name of a file or folder, pressing Escape instead of Enter will revert to the unedited name.
  4. Exiting full screen mode - Watching a full screen YouTube video on your computer? Press Escape to return to the webpage view.
  5. Ending a presentation - Similar to exiting full-screen mode, pressing Escape will immediately end a presentation in programs like PowerPoint and Keynote.
  6. Pausing a game - Escape is the default pause button in several video games. Pressing Escape may bring up the in-game menu as well.
  7. Hiding the cursor - Several programs, as well as macOS, make the cursor disappear when you press Escape

While most applications don't require the use of the Escape (esc) key, it can be a handy shortcut for stopping or canceling operations on your computer.

Updated May 25, 2017

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