Some people hate the CAPS LOCK key

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2005/09/21 00:01 -07:00, original URI: http://blogs.msdn.com/michkap/archive/2005/09/21/471982.aspx


It would seem that I touched a nerve when I talked about various MSKLC Suggestions that had been forwarded to me. Something about the caps lock key, which apparently some people hate like poison, at least since 1989:

I don't know why it hasn't made it to alt.peeves yet, but one of my most cherished and encouraged pet-peeves is the existence of such a useless, stupid, nasty, treacherous and evil menace to the progress of humankind is the CAPS LOCK KEY.

Anyone who has used vi will know that there is no easier way to fuck up a document than to JJJJJ when you meant to jjjjj. And then there's those times whEN YOU ACCIDENTALLY HIT THE SONOFABITCH IN THE MIDDLE OF A SENTENCE. Or if you program in a language other than FORTRAN. Or if you want to type command names in UNIX. Or.....

In my estimation, the only sensible place for a Caps Lock key would be in a fairly deeply recessed hole in the back of the monitor, or, preferably, in another room altogether.

I mean, what the hell is the point of equipping every goddamn keyboard on the planet with a key that is only used deliberately about 1% of the times it gets hit? Why not just a "Fuck Things Up Randomly" key? What kind of stupid moron jackass would sell a piece of equipment with anything so
thoroughly evil right there on the important part? And while I'm in a mood to name names, I think Sun should be shot for not only having this abomination in the sight of the Lord on every keyboard, but it doesn't have tactile-feedback (i.e. click-down/click-up like sensible keyboards), has
no LED to notify the unsuspecting typist of the shit s/he's just gotten him/herself into. Just because they have nice workstations, people are willing to put up with this nonsense. Christ! What the hell kind of twisted mind would perpetrate a crime of such immense proportions on an unsuspecting
public? I suspect Foul Play, and corruption and treachery at very high levels.

Then again, I just tell my Xdesktop to change the keyboard-mapping to return to God's cherished mode in which hitting that stupid little fucker DOES NOTHING AT ALL. SEE HOW NICE IT IS?

-Johnny When-I-want-caps-I'll-hit-the-fucking-Shift-key

Well, I won't say much about Johnny Zweig's rant above (or the subsequent responses) other than to point out that I am very glad to be in here while all of these other people are out there. :-)

But I will say a few things about the CAPS LOCK key:

1) Every typewriter I have ever seen from manual Olympia to most modern has had one. It is great that some people want to ignore history, intuitive usage, backcompat expectations, and reality. But they should likely get over themselves and just disable their own somehow. The rest of us don't need to be deprived....

2) Some languages use the SGCAPS functionality that puts a whole new pair of shift states that one may want to use, presumbly in sequences where having to hold down multiple shift keys would be difficult. This may not be your language; if so, consider yourself lucky and stop trying to deprive others of features that are useful to them. If you look (for example) at the Hebrew keyboard, the SGCAPS feasture allows two things -- (a) the bility to put either punctuation or numbers over the English text, depending on which makes it easiest to type what you want to type, an (b) the points that are sometimes but not often added to Hebrew text. So, can you rech all of those keys without SGCAPS? No. But evn the ones you can reach have better/easier ways to be reached depending on what you are trying to do....

3) Suggesting that a tool like MSKLC lead the irrational charge to get rid of the CAPS LOCK is like asking two ants to start pushing the earth off its axis so it will roll into the sun. Even if I were insane enough to think this was a good idea and the people who I report to were crazy enough to agree, it would have as much actual impact on the CAPS LOCK key as that pair of ants did. The CAPS LOCK key's presence in the world is significantly more tangible than a rubber tree plant....

4) Put another way, have you ever heard of the tail wagging the dog as an expression of trying to get the thing that is acted upon to do the acting? Well, MSKLC controlling the way keyboards work on the platform is like the tail wagging the whole dog kennel! :-)

Anyway, hopefully we can get back to productive now. Anyone who wants to go and use MSKLC to create a keyboard where the CAPS LOCK has no effect is welcome to do so; it is a per-key setting that only influences the keys you want it to. And anyone who wants to convince the myriad of governments and OEMs and hasrdware producers and users who have had a CAPS LOCK where it is also welcome to do that. MSKLC will follow whatever the bulk of the user base is doing, so if you convince everyone, MSKLC will eventually follow. :-)

 

This post brought to you by "۩" (U+06e9, a.k.a. ARABIC PLACE OF SAJDAH)


# Mihai on Wednesday, September 21, 2005 4:01 AM:

I have nothing with the CAPS LOCK.
But I have somethign with a MS "invetion" ignoring "history, intuitive usage, backcompat expectations, and reality" :-)

I am talking about the keys 6 group above the arrows (Ins/Del;Home/End;PhUp/PgDn)
Some designer decided that the MS keyboards can gain 1/3" if these keys are grouped vertically!

And now there a lot of others keyboard makers that think this is a cool idea (or that having a shorter keyboard saves 0.2% manufacturing price).

I have spend weeks looking for a standard keyboard. Damn!
But on the other side I have to thank you Michael. From your site I have found out about "Das Keyboard" and this is what I have now :-)

# Gabe on Wednesday, September 21, 2005 7:24 AM:

I have to agree with the CAPS LOCK haters here: caps lock is craps lock!

Much the way almost any use of the System Locale is actually a bug, almost any use of the caps lock key is also probably a bug.

As far as I can tell, its position of prominence on US keyboards is only to allow people to easily TYPE IN ALL CAPS. SINCE TITLES ARE THE ONLY EXCUSE I CAN THINK OF FOR TYPING IN ALL CAPS, I THINK THAT THE KEY IS OVERRATED. AS A MATTER OF FACT, I'M SO USED TO NOT USING IT THAT RIGHT NOW I'M TYPING WITH MY LEFT PINKY HOLDING DOWN SHIFT!

Old typewriters needed to use ALL CAPS for emphasis because they didn't have bold, italics, different type faces, or other nifty formatting tricks. I can also imagine that computers have needed this functionality for backwards compatibility reasons in the past. However, I cannot think of a single reason to insist on every American keyboard having a caps lock key that is any better than insisting on every computer having floppy disk drives or multiple RS-232 serial ports.

I have seen plenty of recent keyboards that deprecate the Insert key, the ESC key, and ALL OF THE FUNCTION KEYS (that's right, I've had the displeasure of using keyboards that had the function keys DEFAULTing to arbitrary keyboard shortcuts, such that I had to press a function-key-lock button to enable them, and they have no indicator light to tell me that my keyboard is in broken mode)!

Surely somebody can come up with a better use for this oversized key that I only hit when I'm trying to press Tab, right? Considering how often the damn thing gets in the way, I think Windows should make it easy to disable/remap it. I use other people's computers as often as my own, so it is unreasonable to just remove the key on whatever keyboard I'm using, and OS-specific mappings/drivers are out of the question.

DISCLAIMER: I am certainly not asking Michael to do anything about this, nor do I think it's the job of any localization utility. I've never seen anything called SGCAPS, so presumably whatever keyboard layout has such a thing is different from American keyboards anyway -- I don't care if people with those keyboards have SGCAPS keys. I just thought I would rant a little, given this opportunity.


Anyway, I often wonder how keys like Pause and Scroll Lock have managed to stay alive after all these years. I think Excel is the only program I've used in the last 10 years that actually uses that mode, and I only actually used that mode maybe once in the past decade. The Pause key only works in command prompts AFAIK, which most people don't use, and most people don't even know what it does. Quite honestly, people tend to be surprised to find out that it actually pauses things! And what's with the SysRq key? Sure, Print Screen is a useful feature, but the SysRq aspect is only used by a Linux kernel option for when your terminal locks up. Why is it still printed on key caps that way? At least keyboards nowadays still have those keys. I consider myself lucky that some idiot hasn't replaced my Pause key with some useless Instant Messanger key!

# Gustaf Erikson on Wednesday, September 21, 2005 7:34 AM:

I have nothing against the caps-lock key per se, but I wish it was somewhere else.

I usually map the key to CTRL with a registry hack, much nicer.

/g.

# tzagotta on Wednesday, September 21, 2005 8:58 AM:

I also HATE the caps lock key. 99% of the time I hit it, is by accident. I should pry up the keycap and physically destroy the contact. It would be nicer if a feature was added in Windows to force it off. That doesn't seem like a big deal, does it.

I also have to say that I like the "new-style" layout of the navigation keys. Took a little getting used to, after using the "old-style" for many years, but I do think the new style is better.

# AndrewSeven on Wednesday, September 21, 2005 9:07 AM:

There are two keys that I have no use for: CAPS LOCK and Insert.

I pull one or both keys out of the keyboard. You can usualy do it with a pen or some other gadget on your desk.
People might find it strange, but it works quite well.

# Shai on Wednesday, September 21, 2005 9:33 AM:

I'd like to recapitulate some of the points from my previous comments.

* MSKLC is a tool used by power users. Many power users would like to have the ability to remap the Caps-Lock key and there's no good reason to prevent them doing so.
* The limitation of not being able to remap the Caps-Lock in MSKLC is an arbitrary limitation and not a technical limitation of Windows or the keyboard DLL files. There are 3rd party tools that can do it.
* Remapping Caps-Lock to the backspace key can reduce finger movement distance (therefore RSI) by a whopping 20% (Dvorak layout).
* SGCaps are not used by most languages. Nobody uses the SGCaps mode in Hebrew, and AFAIK there's no other language that requires it. Again, even it if is used by some languages, it shouldn't disallow remapping it for languages that don't.
* Nobody's saying that Caps-Lock should be remapped by default, just that users who choose to do, should be able to do it via MSKLC.
* Windows is the only OS that uses executable binaries for keyboard layouts, so it requires a tool like MSKLC. All other modern OS have plain text file for keyboard layouts, and they don't place any arbitrary limits on what keys can be remapped.

Michael already responded, but we didn't reach an agreement. See the discussion here: http://blogs.msdn.com/michkap/archive/2005/09/15/467594.aspx

# Jeremy D on Wednesday, September 21, 2005 9:58 AM:

I'm with Gustaf. Swapping the caps and left ctrl keys is one of the first things I do when getting settled into a machine.

# Travis Owens on Wednesday, September 21, 2005 10:05 AM:

The suggestion of having the key click down when used, and click up (normal state) when not used.

This would provide a type of tactile feedback that is appropriate for the key. I'm not for removing it, but since the key performs a different action than most other keys it should click down.

I guess the same should be said of the Number Lock and the Scroll Lock (I don't even know what this key does anymore).

# smelliot on Wednesday, September 21, 2005 11:05 AM:

I use it so rarely that I make a habit of yelling it out to anyone within earshot- "I just used the capslock! (On purpose...)"

Must like when I code a do/while...

# Maurits on Wednesday, September 21, 2005 11:31 AM:

Scroll Lock has at least two uses I've ACTUALLY USED.

Some KVM switches use two quick hits on the Scroll Lock key as a signal to intercept the next few keystrokes as a KVM command.

In Excel, the arrow keys normally move you one cell in the appropriate direction. With Scroll Lock on, the arrow keys scroll the worksheet without moving the focus to other cells.

Num Lock, of course, changes the function of the numeric keypad to act as a bigger set of arrow keys. With the addition of real arrow keys, this is somewhat less useful than it used to be.

Insert is necessary for switching between "overwrite" mode and "insert" mode. Del (or Delete) in many text applications not only deletes a character, but throws the app into "overwrite" mode. Insert does not re-insert the last deleted character, but does revert the application to the normal "insert" mode.

SysRq: good point!

My Print Screen/SysRq button says:

PrtScn/SysRq

To me, PrtScn expands to Port Scan rather than Print Screen. Maybe it's just me. ;)

# Jeff D. on Wednesday, September 21, 2005 12:24 PM:

I detest the CAPS LOCK key. As does most of the (English-typing?) computing world, except for AOL users. Michael listed several cases (edge cases?) where there is a very defendable need for the CAPS LOCK key. But I despise the thing, myself.

Do I want to remap the CAPS LOCK key to something else, or to remap some other key to be my infrequently-used CAPS LOCK key? Nope, definitely not. Why? Because the moment that I sit down at a keyboard that is not my own that keyboard is a stranger.

So yeah, I'm with AndrewSeven, above, who simply pops the CAPS LOCK key off his keyboard (I use a small knife to pry it off). I can't accidentally hit CAPS LOCK, and I can still deliberately hit the key using a pen or other small pointy implement.

The other solution I've used is to simply change the cancellation of CAPS LOCK to be done with the Shift key instead. sO THAT i CAN'T ACCIDENTALLY DO THIS.

Control Panel | Regional and Language Options applet | Languages tab | Details button, which gets you to the "Text Services and Input Languages" dialog.

On that page "Add" a second input language (you don't have to make it the default). The two (or more) I usually have installed are "English (Canada) - US" and "English (United States) - US". Once you've got more than one input language installed, the "Key Settings..." button becomes enabled: click it. That opens the "Advanced Key Settings" dialog. Right at the top you'll see:

To turn off CAPS LOCK: [ ] Press the CAPS LOCK key [x] Press the SHIFT key

Voila! Now if you have accidentally hit the CAPS LOCK key, as soon as you start typing the next sentence, which presumably starts with a capital letter, you'll cancel the CAPS LOCK immediately.

But yeah, the easiest solution for CAPS LOCK detractors is to simply yank the key off the keyboard.

# Centaur on Wednesday, September 21, 2005 12:57 PM:

I used to hate Caps Lock. Had a thumbtack pushed under it so that I couldn’t press it.

I also used to be looking for a keyboard layout switcher to replace the one bundled in Windows.

I had two problems with it.

* First, it requires me to press two keys when I want to switch layouts — Ctrl+Shift or Alt+Shift. Since a programmer in Russia wants to switch layouts fairly often, I want to be able to do that with just one key.

* Second, when I have more than two layouts installed (and I do — US, Russian and Japanese), left Ctrl+Shift switches them in one direction and right Ctrl+Shift in the opposite. That would be okay if I used them in circular order; but I mainly use US and Russian and switch to Japanese only very rarely. So I have to remember which way I should switch.

But then I found MSKLC with its SGCAPS customization feature.

My first thought was, “What will break if I put Cyrillic letters in SGCAPS and leave Latin in normal mode?”

And so I did. And nothing broke, except that Word now thinks all my text is in Russian (or English, depending on what language I tie this layout to). But that’s no big deal.

And, as a bonus, I now have a more visible layout indicator than the default white-on-blue EN/RU on the taskbar.

# Adrian on Wednesday, September 21, 2005 2:06 PM:

"Every typewriter I have ever seen from manual Olympia to most modern has had [a Caps Lock key]."

False.

Typewriters have a Shift Lock key, which behaves differently (and less surprisingly) than Caps Lock. And you could release Shift Lock by pressing it again, or by using the Shift key.

In fact, Caps Lock doesn't do what it says. It's really a Alphabetic Case Toggle.

And who moved it to home row where the frickin' Ctrl key belongs? ;-)

# Mike Dunn on Wednesday, September 21, 2005 10:50 PM:

Guys, turn on ToggleKeys, then the computer will beep at you when you hit Caps Lock (or either of the other Lock keys).

The Japanese IME actually uses Alt/Shift/Ctrl+Caps Lock to switch among script types.

# Tony Lee on Friday, September 23, 2005 12:54 PM:

Only one person seems to remember the real caps lock battle was when it was permanently switched with the ctrl key on PC keyboards. <http://www.sysinternals.com/Utilities/Ctrl2Cap.html> fixes this problem for those who can't or don't want to adjust.

# Tanveer Badar on Sunday, December 30, 2007 11:05 AM:

NUM LOCK has one additional use, making numeric pad keys as mouse keys. I occasionally have problem with my mouse or don't want to use it (yeah, I know that sounds weird), so I switch to mouse keys mode and viola, it works in off mode.

# Tom on Friday, August 22, 2008 12:50 PM:

Or you can just take a toothpick and use it to jam a piece of paper towel under the Caps Lock key itself. Works like a charm!

# Chen on Saturday, October 25, 2008 1:19 AM:

I have no strong feeling of hatred towards the CAPS lock key although I guess up until 2 minutes ago I can't say I've ever seriously considered my level of affection towards any key on my keyboard.

Since I'm not a programmer or developer I must say: "You exaggerate, let the CAPS LK key be and watch your fingers".

The only time I found it annoying was when chatting in capital to some poor soul who mistook the capitals as a sign of anger (even if the sentence written was by all accounts gentle and loving like- "I CAN'T F*CKING BELIEVE YOU DID THIS TO ME! YOU A**HOLE!").

Also I must add that if you really want to talk endlessly about some random feature can we please discuss that random key combo that flips your screen display around. This is the one I hit by accident and spent a good 20 minutes holding my lap top upside down in order to google up what the hell I did and feeling incredibly stupid that after 5 minutes I was ready to chuck the laptop off a tall building in the hopes it lands on the IT support guy that told me to restart the computer! I used to call my boss up in fits of anger on a weekly basis begging for a new better super laptop, if only so that I may reboot faster. Now that I got one (after destroying my old one using all the means at my disposal) I can't say it's any better or faster. It is however much heavier then my previous one so I got screwed there...

# Joe Krahn on Wednesday, November 12, 2008 10:54 PM:

I hate CapLock, but it can help on the rare occasion of writing a word or sentence in all-caps. Also, people missing a hand or fingers probably need it. Why not add a feature for a time-delay so it works, but not by an accidental mis-type.

A quick fix for CapsLock haters is to just pry the key off of your keyboard.


referenced by

2006/10/06 If you hate the CAPS LOCK key, please read this!

2005/09/21 How to turn off the CAPS LOCK key

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