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Can someone please explain what this F1 hotkey does? On pressing fn+F1, I get a blank (dark) screen for 1 second and then it goes back to normal (displays what was there before). It doesn't seem to be doing anything at all, at least in Ubuntu!

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Can someone please explain what this F1 hotkey does?

It switches to Presentation mode. I would assume the Presentation mode only supports Windows and/or you don't have another monitor connected to your device.

Switch to another display mode when an external display is connected.

HP PCs - Keyboard Shortcuts, Hotkeys, and Special Keys (Windows)

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That key is used to switch between connected displays to the PC. I think the symptom you explained of black screen is because you do not have any external display connected to your pc.
Reference: Support HP Check the section titled Keys with icons or symbols.
Presentation mode

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