The ”  Esc  ” key, located at the top left of most computer keyboards, does not attract attention. However, it does perform some very useful functions. In what follows, we explain what the Esc key is for and which windows it can close. You will also learn about all the important keyboard shortcuts that make use of the escape key.

What is the Esc key?

The escape key abbreviated ”  Esc  ” or ”  Esc  ” on the keyboard, is a control key. Like the function keys and the alt and ctrl keys, it does not generate characters when writing text.

The Esc key first appeared in command line operating systems such as DOS and UNIX. Developed at the same time as the ASCII standard, it was used at the time to enter special characters, known as escape sequences. In current operating systems, however, this function no longer plays any role.

Where is the Esc key on the keyboard?

The Esc key is located in the upper left corner of all keyboards, right next to the function keys. On the Windows virtual keyboard, it is also located at the top left, next to the number keys (since there are no function keys).

The Esc key is located in the upper left corner on the standard Windows keyboard.

Escape key: functions

The main function of the escape key is to cancel an action. It can thus be used to close a dialog box without having to click on the corresponding button with the mouse.

In a browser, the Esc key cancels the loading of a website. In many games, it is also possible to end action in progress by pressing Esc. In the entry boxes, Esc deletes an incorrect entry and clears the entry field. With Esc, a browser or media player operating in full-screen mode returns to normal mode.

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The start menu and pull-down menus of most programs can be closed automatically using the Esc key. This is very useful when the menu has been opened using a keyboard shortcut and not with the mouse. The same applies to contextual menus which can be called by a right-click or by means of the menu key on the keyboard.

For a long time, the Esc key was also one of the main Mac shortcuts and had basically the same functions as in Windows. On new Mac keyboards, the key to quickly close dialog windows, menus, etc. has, however, disappeared.

Which windows can you close using the Esc key?

All Windows dialog boxes with the “Cancel” button can be closed using the Esc key. With a few exceptions, this also applies to dialog boxes of third-party programs that are not supplied by default with Windows systems.

In addition, the Esc key closes the Windows task view, which can be called using the Windows key + tab shortcut, as well as the Windows 10 search window, the action center on the right side of the screen. screen and voice assistant Cortana.

The toolbars and menus that appear by clicking on “Icons” in the information area of the taskbar also disappear when the escape key is pressed.

You can also close many applications allowing you to quickly view files (without editing them) in the same way. This applies in particular to viewing images (with IrfanView ) and previewing files (with the QuickLook file manager ).

Useful keyboard shortcuts with the Esc key

Windows 10 recognizes two keyboard shortcuts with the escape key:

  • The shortcut [Ctrl] + [Esc] opens the Windows start menu (which is the same as pressing the Windows key).
  • [Ctrl] + [Shift] + [Esc] opens the Windows task manager.