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Is Caps Lock Dead? 1206

An anonymous reader asks "Recently I have noticed that I haven't used caps lock other for any purpose other than hitting it by accident. Once upon a time, COBOL was written in all caps, and other languages like BASIC and Fortran were not case sensitive. Capitals were the way to go for writing code. Does the caps lock key serve any purpose any more, and if not, should it be removed, moved, or replaced?"
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Is Caps Lock Dead?

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  • by ClarkEvans ( 102211 ) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @07:27PM (#9346847) Homepage
    especially useful in VIM.
  • Yes. (Score:4, Informative)

    by HenryKoren ( 735064 ) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @07:29PM (#9346868) Homepage
    Naming convention in C++: Constants in ALL CAPS
  • by ivansanchez ( 565775 ) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @07:29PM (#9346883)
    Well, as I am using a mixture of Debian/Sid/Experimental and lots of unstable (and non-official) packages, my system freezes once in a while. However, pressing Caps Lock helps me check if the keyboard driver is still live (so that I can use the MagicSysRq Keys) or I must reboot by hand. Could use NumLock for that matter, but CapsLock is usually nearest to one of my hands. The truly useless key is ScrollLock, BTW...
  • by verbal ( 24849 ) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @07:34PM (#9346943)
    Or actually, just that it should not be another enter key... sorry
  • USN (Score:5, Informative)

    by mysterious_mark ( 577643 ) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @07:35PM (#9346962)
    Actually, in the US Navy and other branches of the service radio messages all always in all caps. These were a pretty routine part of life on ship (for Officers / admin personnel etc) We would compose the messages on a PC w/ word processor, print hard copy, then have approved by CoC. Radio men would send them out encrpyed, hard copies were always kept for paper trail. A ship my send dozens or even hundreds of these a week, so the're quite common. There are a few who may need cap locks who aren't programmers. M
  • Re:Yes (Score:5, Informative)

    by falzer ( 224563 ) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @07:36PM (#9346972)
    Here's how I made capslock an extra control in Windows 2000/XP.

    Go to this path in the registry editor:
    HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE \ SYSTEM \ CurrentControlSet \ Control \ Keyboard Layout

    In that registry path, add a new binary value, like so:
    Name: Scancode Map
    Type: REG_BINARY
    00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00
    02 00 00 00 1D 00 3A 00
    00 00 00 00

    This required a reboot to take effect (for me, anyway).
  • Still Useful (Score:3, Informative)

    by Detritus ( 11846 ) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @07:36PM (#9346974) Homepage
    It's still useful for situations when you need to type something in all-caps with one hand. Take your mind out of the gutter.

    I'm not a touch typist, and I often just use my right hand to type, leaving the other hand free for holding books, documentation, operating equipment, etc. Caps lock is useful when I have to type in hexadecimal constants, or source code that is all in upper-case (FORTRAN, Assembler).

  • no, no!! (Score:3, Informative)

    by big tex ( 15917 ) <torsionality@gm a i> on Saturday June 05, 2004 @07:38PM (#9346992)
    I use caps lock all the time at work.

    I make lots of calculation sheets in excel - text in caps is consistent, easy to read at small print when you shrink big sheets down to size.

    Also, in CAD caps is used pretty much exclusively. Once again, consistently and readability at small sizes.

  • by Limited Vision ( 234684 ) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @07:38PM (#9346993)
    uControl [] is a nice little Mac OS X hack that disables/remaps Caps Lock and other modifier keys on PowerBooks.

    I also used it to remap the "Enter" key to the right of the spacebar on my 15" TiBook to "Command" -- I have no clue why Apple thought that was a good idea, but uControl saved the day.

    It's very well designed -- if it thinks there's going to be a conflict when booting into an upgraded OS it will disable itself (vs. barfing and causing a system panic...)
  • Happy Hacking (Score:5, Informative)

    by yet another coward ( 510 ) <> on Saturday June 05, 2004 @07:39PM (#9347006)
    Use the Happy Hacking [] keyboard. It has no Caps Lock. Its Control key is in the right place.
  • by icannibal ( 785850 ) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @07:47PM (#9347078)
    Most if not all text in an engineering drawing are in CAPS.
  • by Cerv ( 711134 ) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @07:48PM (#9347086)
    But Num Lock and and Scroll Lock make Caps Lock redundant if that's all you ever use it for.
  • Re:Yes. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Pooua ( 265915 ) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @07:52PM (#9347130) Homepage
    Some people actually know how to type, which means they use all the fingers on both hands to reach the necessary keys. More to the point, it means that holding down the shift key with one finger while trying to touch-type puts an odd strain on the hand and is poor typing posture. The shift key should only be used for at most 3 letters in sequence, and probably should be avoided for more than a single capital letter in a word.

  • Re:Now now young man (Score:3, Informative)

    by prog-guru ( 129751 ) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @07:54PM (#9347159) Homepage
    I use it often when working on hardware, to pause the boot process so I can read where my IRQs are going, what controller my drive is on, etc.
  • Re:Yes (Score:5, Informative)

    by ejdmoo ( 193585 ) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @07:55PM (#9347163)
    It's much easier to download this: aspx?Fa milyID=9d467a69-57ff-4ae7-96ee-b18c4790cffd&Displa yLang=en

    Then that has a nice little thingy called remap.exe. Let's you remap any key to any other. :)
  • by gramernatsi ( 677764 ) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @07:55PM (#9347169)
    Every single day of work, I enter data into an Oracle database window. My company has standardized on ALL CAPS for its data entry, so everything in the database is in caps. It's very eighties; look for it at a corporation near you.

    So yes, I still need the button, but I'd give my left pinky to be rid of it.
  • by moosesocks ( 264553 ) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @07:56PM (#9347177) Homepage
    Apple has done this already.

    It's right above the delete key in place of the infrequently used insert key.

    Unlike the PC makers' latest trend of adding a bajillion buttons to the keyboards that will never be used, apple added four buttons above the numlock pad in place of the "lock" lights (which in place are located directly on their respective keys). The four (incredibly useful!) buttons are:
    Volume Down
    Volume Up
    Eject Disc (less useful than other 3, especially if you have more than one optical drive. Still, since Mac OS requires a software dismount, it's necessary.

    Oh yeah... did I mention that it has a USB hub in it? Why the hell are we still shipping PCs with 12-year-old PS/2 technology?

    I just miss the power button. Even so, apple's relocated it to the monitor (another thing PC makers should have done years ago), which in my mind is the 'proper' place for the system's power button.
  • Re:Yes (Score:3, Informative)

    by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @07:57PM (#9347185) Journal
    tr '[:lower:]' '[:upper:]' from the shell. gUip in vim to uppercase the current paragraph. Any decent text editor will have a similar feature.
  • Re:Yes (Score:5, Informative)

    by Audity ( 600754 ) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @07:57PM (#9347189)
    For those too timid to enter binary codes into the windows registry, there's a program out there called KeyTweak [] for you. Thats for win2k/xp, nearly everyone else can head here [].
  • by Akardam ( 186995 ) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @08:00PM (#9347208)
    I'm a navy reservist, and although the Navy and the other branches of the armed forces are moving towards computerization of almost every aspect of information management, oft times you'll find that because of some arcane requirement for filling out a form or other type of data entry, you're required to use all caps. However, in many cases, the program that was written to replace forms with this requirement won't enforce the capitalization, much less actually automatically capitalize everything. You say it's dumb, I say it's dumb, and all the staff we have say it's dumb. But, in the mean time, they have to live with it, and having the caps lock key makes it all the more bearable.
  • Re:Insert Key (Score:3, Informative)

    by thorgil ( 455385 ) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @08:01PM (#9347217) Homepage
    No way... I use the insert key daily...

    mark text
    Ctrl+Ins = Copy

    Shift+ins = Paste.

    Works in most programs on both windows and linux...

  • 2nd shift (Score:2, Informative)

    by ( 673283 ) < minus punct> on Saturday June 05, 2004 @08:01PM (#9347221) Homepage
    Ive made mine into a 2nd shift key with the following code in my ~/.Xmodmap:
    remove lock = Caps_Lock
    add shift = Caps_Lock
    Now if I hit it by accident I wont even notice :)

  • Here's the official way of remapping keys in Windows XP and Windows 2003 Server:

    1) Download the Resource Kit Tools [].

    2) Run Remapkey.exe to Remap the Windows Keyboard Layout anyway you want.

    For some very strange reason, this sometimes does not work reliably in a DOS window when using a PS/2 to USB converter for the keyboard. Since the remapping is done at a fundamental level, the failure is difficult to understand.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 05, 2004 @08:05PM (#9347246)
    All typewriters have CAPS LOCK. Thus,CAPS LOCK was not invented for programming, just for typing. Besides, less than 1% of computer users are programmers. This is a tiny minority which is irrelevant. The question is if the majority of computer users want to have it removed. I think the answer is no: Typewriters had CAPS LOCK for over a hundred years, why should it be removed from computers?
  • by Burning1 ( 204959 ) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @08:08PM (#9347271) Homepage
    Because some of us use it on a regular basis.

    My Belkin KVM switch uses syslog to change systems. Linux uses it to pause fast moving console output. BSD uses it to view the console history.
  • Re:Yes (Score:5, Informative)

    by JPriest ( 547211 ) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @08:14PM (#9347311) Homepage
    Fixed link []
    Download is for "Windows Server 2003 Resource Kit"
  • by Xhad ( 746307 ) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @08:14PM (#9347315) Homepage Journal
    "CTRL-Break" was rather useful when programming in BASIC if you were like me as a kid and regularly made infinite loops by mistake. =)
  • by Moridineas ( 213502 ) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @08:18PM (#9347338) Journal
    Some operating systems actually are able to make use of scroll lock! For instance, in FreeBSD you can press scroll lock, and then can scroll up and down (and pgup pgdn) at the console--going back all the way to when it started to boot.

    I miss that when I use linux..makes the console feel much less efficient
  • Architecture (Score:2, Informative)

    by shizke ( 765004 ) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @08:22PM (#9347354)
    i work in architecture, specifically drafting plans. every single portion of text is capitalized. if not for caps lock, then this would prove quite difficult to do.
  • by gad_zuki! ( 70830 ) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @08:27PM (#9347392)
    Theres on here. []

    I disabled mine long ago and haven't looked back.
  • by Viewsonic ( 584922 ) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @08:35PM (#9347429)
    Especially in financial businesses (Banks etc) .. Printing out checks and certain forms will always be done in CAPS so as to not confuse the other parties. I find it a bit silly because one person hasn't used it, it must mean that no one else does. Sure, home users might not find much use out of it, but in the business world it is used everyday. And the business world makes up the majority of PC sales in the world.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 05, 2004 @08:43PM (#9347476)
    Actually, I think it's because ALL CAPS is more readable when low quality copies are made: blueprints/bluelines, faxes or microfilms.

    The smaller features of lower case get muddy faster.

    I use ALL CAPS daily, and wasn't proud of it, until now!
  • by Polarism ( 736984 ) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @08:49PM (#9347509)
    "old school" type documents like chits (such as a leave chit) and most official documents.

    Basically all databases i've ever worked with use all caps as well.
  • by Lehk228 ( 705449 ) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @09:00PM (#9347593) Journal
    no, it's a low level windows fault, when the keyboard drivers are no longer functioning it is windows which has crashed
  • by EvanED ( 569694 ) <> on Saturday June 05, 2004 @09:15PM (#9347668)
    "Now, I'm not saying that it's NEVER used by ANYONE, because I'm sure someone will reply and tell me that it does some obscure function in some obscure program."

    Only if you consider *nix an obscure program. Scroll lock in those (at least those that I've tried it in, which means a couple different flavors of Linux and FreeBSD) stops the screen from scrolling so you can read it. FreeBSD will even let you scroll up with the arrow keys so you can see text that has scrolled off the screen. It's actually quite useful. (For instance, you're maknig something with dependencies and a message comes up that you should actually read but it starts to compile the next thing, you can still read it. Also removes a lot of the benefit of piping stuff to more or less.) I would imagine there's a way to set this up under Linux too, but I haven't yet seen a distribution that has it working out of the box and I don't know how to configure it.
  • Re:Dear Slashdot (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 05, 2004 @09:24PM (#9347723)
    In any sane shell, 'cd' without any arguments is equivalent to 'cd ~'.
  • by Soul-Burn666 ( 574119 ) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @09:24PM (#9347726) Journal
    Microsoft excel. With no scroll lock, it moves the current selection cursor. With scroll lock, it moves the whole sheet (as if u used the scrollbar) and doesn't move the selection.
  • by Alrua ( 704865 ) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @09:25PM (#9347733)
  • by LS ( 57954 ) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @09:28PM (#9347751) Homepage
    I understand your pain when it comes to moving your hands away from the home row. But there's another way to escape that doesn't involve remapping the caps-lock: it's ctrl-[

  • by ChuckieMac ( 756495 ) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @09:38PM (#9347812)
    My company uses and resells a backoffice application called SouthWare []. It's used by hundreds of companies throughout the United States on both *nix and Windows. The Acucobol source code (which our company has licensed for modifications) is written in all caps, and the software itself requires all caps for operation.

    It's roots date back to 1984 when COBOL source code was always written in caps, and to change it would require rewriting almost 2,000 object files.

    So the need for a caps lock is still very much alive...

  • by tlianza ( 454820 ) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @09:55PM (#9347894) Homepage
    If you're going to get rid of a key, maybe scroll lock would be a better one. I don't think I've ever actually seen anyone use it for anything besides playing with the pretty lights.

    I use it every day - it's a common shortcut key for KVM switches (Belkin, at least). Scroll Lock - Scroll Lock - Machine #.

    That's still somewhat a testament to it's uselessness though. I'm fairly sure the KVM makers thought to themselves "we need a shortcut key on the keyboard... one that is almost never used for anything else..."

  • by scotty1024 ( 584849 ) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @09:56PM (#9347900)
    The capslock key is used by some non-English input methods to switch back and forth between English entry and the other language. I found out about this when I kept noticing that my fiancee left the caps lock key on for me when I would use her laptop. In Traditional Chinese entry mode the caps lock being on puts you back into English entry mode. So I very much doubt, since the Chinese make um what 99.99% of all keyboards, that they will be removing the capslock key. :-)
  • by BJH ( 11355 ) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @10:10PM (#9347988)
    Scroll lock works in the Linux console, but there's a better thing for stopping scrolling - Ctrl-S/Ctrl-Q, which works in any normal terminal. Shift-PageUp/Shift-PageDown move up and down through the buffer.
  • by jrockway ( 229604 ) * <> on Saturday June 05, 2004 @10:32PM (#9348060) Homepage Journal
    Not really. Once you master C-a, C-e, C-v, M-v, etc, THEN you'll never use a mouse again. Home and its friends are just too far away from the home row to be really useful. Thank God for emacs keybindings :)
  • by runderwo ( 609077 ) <<gro.niw.liam> <ta> <owrednur>> on Saturday June 05, 2004 @10:47PM (#9348090)
    Oh yeah... did I mention that it has a USB hub in it? Why the hell are we still shipping PCs with 12-year-old PS/2 technology?
    Easy. Because USB is not a perfect replacement for PS/2 input devices.
    • There is a large amount of latency on the USB bus as well as software latency incurred due to processing the USB packets. There is practically no wire latency with PS/2 and the protocol is dead simple to parse. You can create a little microcontroller project to interface almost any simple device to a PS/2 port. With USB, you need a separate ASIC to even begin to get anything done.
    • USB controllers typically share interrupt levels with other PCI devices. On systems without an IO-APIC, this translates into increased software overhead on every interrupt, because the interrupt handler for every device sitting on that interrupt is invoked. Whereas with PS/2 devices, you have an IRQ reserved for the keyboard and an IRQ reserved for the mouse. Since they are edge triggered ISA interrupt lines, there is no possible way for them to be shared even if you wanted to. Therefore the correct interrupt handler (and ONLY the correct one) is invoked in response to a PS/2 event.

    In short, there is no possible way on any but the fastest of current machines for a USB mouse to approximate the responsivity of a PS/2 port mouse being sampled at 200Hz (the maximum rate the port will tolerate).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 05, 2004 @11:31PM (#9348198)
    The behaviour of the caps lock key on ADB keyboards (like those built in to all apple laptops) is a bit broken, as it does not send a normal key release signal to the keyboard handler. This means that considerable trickery is required to correctly map caps lock to a modifier key.

    uControl [] is the only utility that can correctly remap the caps lock key on all OS X based computers.

  • Re:Yes (Score:5, Informative)

    by Frobnicator ( 565869 ) on Sunday June 06, 2004 @12:33AM (#9348448) Journal
    Caps are more easily readable on envelopes, some database and spreadsheet entries, titles of chapters, and many more writing applications.
    I work with several different databases. All of our database data is stored in caps. Why? In decreasing order of significance:
    • Postal Service Discount Requirements [] - Unless you like spending lots of money on mailings, use one of the discount mail formats, such as automatable mail. Automatable mail means CASS cerification, which means using all caps. Otherwise, the best bet is using an all-caps, 8-18 point sans serif, uniform stroke width font, 3/4 to 3 point space between characters. We found that 10 or 12 point ariel fits the requirements. If you use bulk mailing and you don't fit the requirements, the mail can be thrown out, not returned, so you wouldn't know that your mixed-case address had problems.
    • Compression size - Your compressor should notice that almost all the data are of about 30 values {0-9, the common A-Z values, space}, and a few other symbols for the database system. That tiny alphabet, and considering the rarity of certain alphabet letters, will make dynamic huffman VERY happy. Mixed case would at least double the size of the compressed alphabet, meaning larger backups. If you do backups (you do, don't you?) it helps. If you have to distribute the database to different sites, it really helps. In one example I encountered recently, the client had about 6 GB of compressed data and wanted to send it to all of their stores nightly. Each store is equipped with a dedicated high-speed line, but 6GB daily (over 9 hours on dedicated T1) is too much for a nightly transfer. After looking at their data, simply converting everything to caps let it compress to just over 1 GB of data (under 2 hours over a T1 network).
    • Uniform - It's easier to search for names that some people like to have different capitalization rules on (Shrudili/ShruDili/ShruDiLi, MacKay/Mackay, etc) Yes, you can do a case insensitive match (you insensitive clod) but it takes more CPU work; That's bad when a batch run already takes a long time for simple case sensitive matches.
    • Readability - It's much easier to read names and addresses on the screen when they aren't mixed case.

    The first one will save you lots of money in mailing. If your company is in to saving money, then your mailing lists already do that. Compressability of data is *very* important for large-scale systems, and can have significant improvements with an ALL CAPS DATABASE. The last two just help reduce system load and operator error; both are good things to reduce.


  • Also, one thing I'd like to see is a mouse where, instead of a scroll wheel (or two wheels), there was a mini-trackball, that could be used to scroll both vertically and horizontally. I'm surprised no-one has come up with this yet (at least I've never seen one).
    Some models of Microsoft mice allow you to rock the scroll wheel left or right to scroll in the appropriate direction. Weird, but useful.
  • Happy Hacker (Score:3, Informative)

    by UnifiedTechs ( 100743 ) on Sunday June 06, 2004 @03:11AM (#9348847) Homepage
    Keyboards still have a Cap Locks Key? I bought a keyboard without one years ago. Never gonna go back.
  • by Z4rd0Z ( 211373 ) <joseph at mammalia dot net> on Sunday June 06, 2004 @04:02AM (#9348970) Homepage
    I remap caps lock to ctrl, and use 'ctrl-[' instead of escape. I thought abouting remapping caps lock to esc, but realized I need ctrl a lot too. I get the best of both worlds this way.
  • by LittleBigLui ( 304739 ) on Sunday June 06, 2004 @04:49AM (#9349085) Homepage Journal
    Counter theory: The only mechanical typewriter i've ever played with (was a kid at that time, so played is the right term) also had caps-lock right above shift. (Not to mention that shift lifted a big and heavy part of that typewriter around half a centimeter, so caps lock saved your pinky if you had to write more than one or two letters caps.)
  • by efti ( 568624 ) on Sunday June 06, 2004 @05:11AM (#9349144)

    The Windows key is a better candidate for this as it's not used for anything on a Linux system anyway.

    Adding the following to your ~/.bashrc or similar will turn your left Windows key into another escape key:

    xmodmap -e 'keysym Super_L = Escape'
  • by ( 551216 ) on Sunday June 06, 2004 @05:54AM (#9349263) Homepage
    You might want to join the Anticapslock [] community :-)
  • Re:Yes (Score:3, Informative)

    by odie_q ( 130040 ) on Sunday June 06, 2004 @06:15AM (#9349312)
    "Readability - It's much easier to read names and addresses on the screen when they aren't mixed case."

    This puts you in the minority. I have worked with readability (mostly related to layout, contrast and fonts), and to the overwhelming majority of us all caps text is significantly more difficult to read than mixed or even lower case text.

    And if your compression algorithm compresses all caps text twice as much as mixed case, your compression algorithm sucks. Text is not random characters, it contains a lot of compressable repetitions, the very small portion of these that are affected by mixed case is negligible.

    Consider this example:
    $ ls -l
    total 2196
    -rw-r--r-- 1 odie users 922449 Jun 6 12:03 ALL_CHAPTERS.TXT
    -rw-r--r-- 1 odie users 177417 Jun 6 12:05 ALL_CHAPTERS.TXT.bz2
    -rw-r--r-- 1 odie users 922449 Jun 6 12:01 all_chapters.txt
    -rw-r--r-- 1 odie users 182350 Jun 6 12:05 all_chapters.txt.bz2
  • Internationalization (Score:2, Informative)

    by Kirth ( 183 ) on Sunday June 06, 2004 @06:16AM (#9349316) Homepage
    Yes, dear slashdot-readers, contrary to your assumptions there are some parts of the world in which other languages than english are written.

    I for one have a keyboard featuring keys labelled ö/é, ä/à and ü/è for writing german and french. And of course, the only way to get Ö/É, Ä/À or Ü/È is capslock.

    Even better, with my capslock turned on I get a load of special characters like this:


    Cool eh?
  • by anothy ( 83176 ) on Sunday June 06, 2004 @07:21AM (#9349455) Homepage
    you want an old Sun keyboard. they had two columns of five (six?) keys on the left hand side. i don't remember all of them, but they included at least cut, copy, paste, select, and help.

    so, somebody has thought of this. the issue was that less and less apps could be bothered supporting them over time, in the face of the fact that not everyone had one of these keyboards and everyone had key-combination shortcuts. there's also a good reason why they were alternately called the Sun Battleship Keyboard or Sun Aircraft Carrier Keyboard - they were friggin' huge.
  • by ToSeek ( 529348 ) on Sunday June 06, 2004 @11:29AM (#9350552)
    Typing in British and Canadian postal codes is about the only time I can think of that I use the caps lock key. British codes look like:

    LN6 2QJ

    while Canadian ones look like:

    N2M 5E5

    The caps lock key has the avantage over the shift key in that it doesn't affect numbers. If I use the shift key, I tend to end up with something like:


    unless I'm very careful.

"You can have my Unix system when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers." -- Cal Keegan