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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 ForestGrump ( 644805 ) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @07:27PM (#9346849) Homepage Journal
    escape and caps lock key switch. m

    bet you tim!
  • by angst7 ( 62954 ) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @07:27PM (#9346850) Homepage
    Mostly for entering product keys.
  • by sycomonkey ( 666153 ) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @07:31PM (#9346909) Homepage
    They still haven't even bothered to get rid of the Scroll Lock button yet... What makes you think Caps Lock is going away any time soon?
  • by Slayk ( 691976 ) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @07:32PM (#9346915)
    Legal docs have quite a few all-caps sections, I believe.

    That's about all I notice when I skim over a license agreement, anyway.
  • We still use it :) (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Ragnarr ( 555058 ) <mads0100&gmail,com> on Saturday June 05, 2004 @07:34PM (#9346945) Homepage
    In the military it is still a popular key. It seems that whenever you're typing official documents (such as order requests, or log books), people like it in black and white. I find myself using it more often than not during the duty day!

  • by ForestGrump ( 644805 ) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @07:40PM (#9347013) Homepage Journal
    But the reason we have both swapped esc and caps lock is because caps lock is so rarely used, while esc is used alot in VI(changing modes) and chat boxes (close window)

    i feel ctrl is fine the way it is (ctrl+x,c,v)
    But i'll give caps/ctrl a try.

  • by rusty0101 ( 565565 ) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @07:41PM (#9347022) Homepage Journal
    Having a predelection towards holding onto and repairing old hardware, I have a couple of old typewriters. (Including ones where to type the number 1, you use the lowercase L key, because there is no '1' key.)

    In most cases the 'Caps Lock' key takes two fingers to engage, and one to disengage. Mostly the two fingers are required because the mechinism is so disused that the key doesn't want to respond, but in any case it is a heavy key to use. To disengage the Caps Lock feature you hit the Shift key.

    I would suggest that the Caps Lock key on it's own be treated as a Meta key, or Escape key, however if you do a 'Shift'-'Caps Lock' combination it engages the caps-lock, and if you hit and release 'Shift' again without another key (or perhaps with only a letter key) it drops the Caps Lock status.

    Granted I suspect that most typists who learned on mechanical and early electric typewriters have adjusted to the computer keyboard, so you probably are not going to 'impress' anyone with the feature, but it would make sense as a result.

    Just a thought....

  • Character Codes (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Detritus ( 11846 ) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @07:50PM (#9347106) Homepage
    Many of the old character codes, such as Baudot (5-bit) and the various 6-bit character codes, were upper-case only. The military used Baudot for many decades. Do they still use it for RTTY links?
  • Re:Yes (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ptbarnett ( 159784 ) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @07:53PM (#9347138)
    Here's how I made capslock an extra control in Windows 2000/XP.

    If you still want a caps-lock for some reason, you can swap them with this binary value:

    00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00
    03 00 00 00 1D 00 3A 00
    3A 00 1D 00 00 00 00 00

    It's the first thing I do when installing Windows on new systems. If a client gives me a computer for use during a project (even a short one), I make the same change and put it back before I leave on the last day.

    However, I'm considering dropping the caps-lock key altogether and making both into control keys. When I swap them, most people have a lot of trouble using my keyboard -- which is either a problem or a feature, depending on your point of view.

  • Engineering Drawings (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pipingguy ( 566974 ) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @07:54PM (#9347152)

    95.84% of all engineering drawings (for bridges, airplanes, refineries, etc.) use all caps. Even though we textually shout at the fabricators/contruction guys, every now and then someone installs a checkvalve backwards or forgets to grout some 10,000# machinery.

    I figure the original forced use of caps on these drawings is (was) to force the draftsmen to raise the writing instrument for each letter, so as to avoid the sloppy penmanship that usually accompanies cursive.
  • Insert Key (Score:2, Interesting)

    by hendot ( 622445 ) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @07:54PM (#9347155)
    I think that damn insert key should go before caps lock.
  • COBOL isnt dead (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Tr0mBoNe- ( 708581 ) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @07:56PM (#9347170) Homepage Journal
    Someone said that COBOL was the only real language to use the lock, and that's almost true. But hey we can all forget FORTRAN, ADA, and even ASM or asembler was first written all in caps.

    My univeristy still teaches a course in COBOL, its the first data processing course and it really was useful. Mainly because most major corperations that have mainframes still use COBOL for their data warehouses.

    COBOL ain't dead... well... it may be. but it's still warm.

    and where would we be without the all caps flame wars of the fark forums and irc??

  • by $$$$$exyGal ( 638164 ) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @07:57PM (#9347186) Homepage Journal
    The caps lock key *is* useful, but it is more trouble than it is worth. Do you know what the #1 tech support answer for everything is?:

    "Ok sir, your password is not working? Ok then, have you tried turning off your caps lock? Yes sir, the caps lock key. That's a key on the left side of the middle of your keyboard. Try pressing it once and then typing in your password again. Working now? Very good sir, have a good day."

    Productivity in the US may increase by 10% if we got rid of the stupid thing. If you *need* to type in all caps, pick a menu-option in your word processor or other application.

  • I definitely use it. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Icephreak1 ( 267199 ) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @07:57PM (#9347190) Journal
    I actually include the capslock key in my touch typing. It's kinda hard juggling left and right shift when typing strings of capital letters.

    - IP
  • Re:Yes (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DanTilkin ( 129681 ) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @08:02PM (#9347224)
    I find it humorous that in showing how to not have a caps lock key, you made a post that could have used the caps lock key.
  • by DrEldarion ( 114072 ) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [0791uhcsm]> on Saturday June 05, 2004 @08:06PM (#9347256)
    Agreed. 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.

    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.

    While you're at it, get rid of SysRq.
  • Re:Yes. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Talking Goat ( 645295 ) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @08:07PM (#9347263)
    And I suppose I'm not supposed to even slightly glance down at the keyboard at any time either? I got enough of this fascism in grade-school, further propagation via /. won't be necessary. Somehow, believe it or not, some of us have managed swimmingly. I think typing-nazi's belong in the same group with instructors at finishing schools and clerks at the DMV, which would also be the first group, coincidentally, against the wall...
  • by Janek Kozicki ( 722688 ) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @08:20PM (#9347351) Journal
    While you're at it, get rid of SysRq.


    Good use for SysRq was introduced long time ago. And still it is *very* useful. Eg. in bleeding-edge 2.6.x kernels

    without sysrq key I could have lost some important documents, I can't see a life without this key.
  • by MillionthMonkey ( 240664 ) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @08:22PM (#9347356)
    The caps lock key *is* useful, but it is more trouble than it is worth. Do you know what the #1 tech support answer for everything is?

    I see no reason why something that is useful to me in my everyday work should be removed just because some idiots call tech support before checking CAPS LOCK when typing passwords.

    You realize, of course, that if CAPS LOCK goes, they'll replace it with ANOTHER WINDOWS KEY. My boss at work has a keyboard designed by a demon- there are FOUR WINDOWS KEYS on it. There are the two in the "standard" places, and two more under Insert and Page Down. It's a damn minefield of Windows keys, each one waiting to steal input focus from the current application. Every time I use his keyboard I hit one by mistake. (He hates it too, but hasn't bothered to get a new one since his typing skills have adapted to the hostile keyboard environment.)

    Productivity in the US may increase by 10% if we got rid of the stupid thing. If you *need* to type in all caps, pick a menu-option in your word processor or other application.

    I doubt your productivity estimate, and I use CAPS LOCK in many different applications. I see no reason why I should have to go around figuring out how to set up macros and key bindings in every application I use just so an AOL call center in Bangalore can lower its call volume.

    I might add that I used CAPS LOCK six times so far just while typing this post, and if I didn't have one my finger would be aching by now.
  • by jakek101 ( 652878 ) <lechimp AT gmail DOT com> on Saturday June 05, 2004 @08:28PM (#9347396)
    Alt is very useful, Alt+F4 and Alt+Tab being the most common. Scroll lock is useful is you use spreadsheets often, but it really could be done in software. Pause is still used in some games, and I find PgUp, Home and their kin to be useful in word. To tell the truth I think Caps Lock and Num Lock could be eliminated. What was the last time anyone used the function keys that are on the numpad?
  • by sarahbau ( 692647 ) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @08:51PM (#9347524)
    I use caps lock all the time in Photoshop and Illustrator. It toggles between brush size or standard, and precise for the cursor. Precise cursors are more usable than standard (cross hair, vs. bucket or eyedropper for example), and also for the path tool in Illustrator (instead of a pen). Yes, you can set the preference, but there are times when you want to show the tool, or brush size, and caps lock is an easy way to toggle between them.
  • by EvanED ( 569694 ) <evaned@gmail. c o m> on Saturday June 05, 2004 @09:04PM (#9347613)
    Sounds dangerous... with the number of times I've hit caps by accident, I don't think I'd want to hit esc by accident...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 05, 2004 @09:33PM (#9347790)
    Despite your low slashdot ID, you clearly didn't cut your teeth on a Sun mainframe. :)
  • ASSEMBLY PROGRAMMING (Score:3, Interesting)

    by niktesla ( 761443 ) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @09:35PM (#9347799) Homepage
    Caps lock is useful for assembly programming, because it just looks better:
    MOV AX, BX
    ADD CX, DX
    XOR DX, 0x64

    mov ax, bx
    add cx, dx
    xor dx, 0x64

    Maybe I just like shouting at the CPU :)
    I also like doing my HTML tags in caps.

  • by utoddl ( 263055 ) <> on Saturday June 05, 2004 @09:49PM (#9347860) Homepage
    In 1985, I wrote the article eDUCATING THE cAPSlOCK kEY" [] for PC Magazine. In it, I said
    If you've ever forgotten that your CapsLock key is on, then you have probably created phrases like "dEAR sIRS." The only time I encounter the DOS use-the-shift-key-and-get-lower-case-letters feature is when I want an upper-case letter and I've forgotten that the CapsLock is on. So I have to delete, retype, and then recover my train of thought. This is one of those rare cases in which the computer really should have known what I meant.
    The article included a TSR for DOS that would make a shifted letter (1) turn off CapsLock and (2) give you a capital letter. Typewriters worked this way for years, and with that TSR, so did computers running DOS.

    Alas, when Windows came out, the TSR no longer worked, and I've been cUSSING aBOUT IT eVER sINCE.

  • No, but Reagan is. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Sean Clifford ( 322444 ) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @10:07PM (#9347964) Journal
    No, but Reagan is.

    I use the hell out of caps lock; it's my "prone" key in FPS shooters. Others use it for radio, etc. Aside from games though, I don't use it overmuch.

  • by Paleomacus ( 666999 ) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @10:07PM (#9347965)

    I think that's definately a good reason to get rid of caps lock.

    Seriously, I have more trouble reading sql statements that are all caps'd than those written proper or all lower case.
  • by cbreaker ( 561297 ) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @10:08PM (#9347982) Journal

    Yea. I avoid keyboards with windows keys, which is to say I use old keyboards. But they still work, after 8 years, and I love to type on them. I have this old Wang keyboard from where my mother used to work, and it has all these extra keys across the top for when you were using the mainframe terminal emulator. They thing is a tank. It's heavy and it's very comfortable to use.

    I go to my friends house from time to time and use his keyboards, which have windows keys. God, I was hitting them so much that I actually just popped them off the keyboard. I got a little tired of getting disconnected from my game because I tapped the wrong key.

    I've never found the windows keys to be useful anyways, even when the computers at work have them. Lately, I've been seeing the windows keys get smaller and smaller, and even dissapear completely on many notebook computers. People just aren't using them.
  • by Atzanteol ( 99067 ) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @10:10PM (#9347989) Homepage
    I've never understood the 'need' people have to capitalize SQL. It's not case sensitive. If one has a decent syntax highlighting editor, then the capital's don't help at all! I think having so many cap's in my code is fugly too. I've been doing SQL for 5 years or so, and I've gotten into many arguments with DBA's over this...
  • by IBitOBear ( 410965 ) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @10:21PM (#9348032) Homepage Journal
    Actually, there are several legal documents (by type) that have sections that *must*, by law, be typed in all caps.

    Ever look at those EULAs? That whole section that disclaims warranty and fitness for any purpose express, or implied. Those sections are always upper case because they must "stand out" in the agreement.

    There are also significant parts of almost any legal document that "must" be typed in all-caps.

    So lots of legal secretaries and the like would be much put out by the disapearance of the caps-lock key.

    Plus, think about how hard it would make it for normal net-trolls to function on the internet if they had to learn to touch-type their troll-text with the off-hand for each keystroke pressing the shift key, sometimes for paragraphs at a time...

    How could the religious extremeists and revisionist racists _function_ on the net without their caps-locks?
  • Re:Yes (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Gabrill ( 556503 ) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @10:40PM (#9348074)
    You guys are forgetting that the caps lock key is older than your silly programming languages. There was and still are uses for all caps sequences in many facets of typing. Caps are more easily readable on envelopes, some database and spreadsheet entries, titles of chapters, and many more writing applications. Sheesh. Newbies.
  • by doom ( 14564 ) <> on Saturday June 05, 2004 @11:24PM (#9348165) Homepage Journal
    jesup wrote:
    Ah. A vi user. If you're an Emacs user, having the capslock key mapped to control is the ONLY way to fly. As others have said, that's the One True Position for the control key.
    That's the traditional position, I agree -- and I've never understood what the moron's were thinking who moved the standard control key location under the shift. But I'm an emacs user who's also using one of the kinesis contoured-model, programmable keyboards, and the Control and Alt keys are already very accessible under the thumbs (my numb-pinky-syndrome went away when I switched to the kinesis, I highly recommend them for heavy emacs abusers).

    There are a few really big flaws in the kinesis layout though, one is the damn Caps Lock next to the A, the other is a tiny chicklet Escape key way up in left field. But the Kinesis layout is easy to re-program, so I tried a few different re-arrangements and evenutally settled on making the key next to A another Escape, just like mister Vim-User recommends.

  • by ( 457832 ) on Sunday June 06, 2004 @12:19AM (#9348388) Homepage
    Great for things like...


    Long live caps lock I say.
  • by Danny Rathjens ( 8471 ) <slashdot2@ra[ ] ['thj' in gap]> on Sunday June 06, 2004 @12:46AM (#9348515)
    For poor typists like myself, an extra backspace is always useful:

    dkr@ur:~% cat .Xmodmap
    remove Lock = Caps_Lock
    keycode 66 = BackSpace

    dkr@ur:~% grep modm .xinitrc
    xmodmap $HOME/.Xmodmap

    dkr@ur:~% cat .consolekeys
    keycode 58 = Delete

    dkr@ur:~% grep -C1 consol .tcshrc
    if ( $TERM == "linux" ) then
    loadkeys ~/.consolekeys
    Note that the keycode for the caps lock key is different in X than console.
  • Re:Yes (Score:3, Interesting)

    by hyc ( 241590 ) on Sunday June 06, 2004 @01:02AM (#9348577) Homepage Journal
    Hm, the last time I dealt with CASS for an automated mailing, the only requirement was a ZIP+4 barcode. Mixed-case address info was fine, the automated routing equipment only cares about the bar code...
  • It's IBM's fault! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by aim2future ( 773846 ) * on Sunday June 06, 2004 @02:42AM (#9348773) Homepage
    Earlier Caps Lock/Cntrl had the correct placement also on "PC", my first "laptop" I got 1988 had it at the right place. It was IBM with their PS2 layout who destroyed the keyboard, and made it necessary to swap the cntrl-keys. Those who designed these keyboard obviously didn't use emacs. The Amiga also had the Cntrl key in the right place.
  • by 1u3hr ( 530656 ) on Sunday June 06, 2004 @02:52AM (#9348808)
    I've never understood what the moron's were thinking who moved the standard control key location under the shift.

    The (conspiracy) theory I've heard is that both Gates and Jobs were trying to kill off all the old DOS wordprocessors that used control keys extensively in the late 80s, particularly WordStar. So hardly any control keys were used in early Windows apps (mostly ALTs if anything), and Gates "encouraged" keyboard manufacturers to follow his layout that made Control less convenient. After the DOS apps were well and truly dead he allowed control keys to be used more. Perosonally I have CAPSLOCK and CONTROL swapped.

    Here's an interesting article [] excerpt:

    Ctrl-Z/X/C/V for Undo/Cut/Copy/Paste did not exist in the x86 world until IBM moved Ctrl out of the home row and Microsoft started moving its Mac applications to Windows. Through version 2.03, the applications bundled with Windows used Del for Cut, Ins for Paste, and F2 for Copy. Alt worked as it does today, and Ctrl sat there dead as a doornail. Check out
    Windows: the official guide to Microsoft's operating environment copyright 1986 by Nancy Andrews (Microsoft Press, ISBN 0-914845-70-5). It wasn't enough to have a (minimally) consistent interface; just like Jobs's (minimally) consistent interface, it had to be as inconsistent as possible with any other system folks might come across.
  • by Fo0eY ( 546716 ) on Sunday June 06, 2004 @03:39AM (#9348907)
    i can't use a keyboard with out a windows key =\

    i'm addicted to win-e to open explorer
    and win-r to open run, plus the ever useful win-d to minimize everything

    plus it's really nice when you combine it with a program that lets you define hotkeys
    like my win-q to open explorer, win-i to open IE etc, never have to worry about conflicts with app hotkeys that way

    but i'm just a keyboard junkie and hate using my mouse whenever possible
  • by RatRagout ( 756522 ) on Sunday June 06, 2004 @05:02AM (#9349119)
    It's rather common, and also considered good pratice, to do final variables in all caps. Also all caps are frequently used for #-defines in C and C++
  • Article is a troll? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by EJB ( 9167 ) on Sunday June 06, 2004 @05:11AM (#9349143) Homepage
    If the article isn't a troll, then I don't understand.
    Your average keyboard nowadays is loaded with a gazillion of useless keys.
    To start, there is F1 to F12, which are only used by, say, 20% of users.

    How many times in the past 5 years have you used Scroll Lock? Couldn't 'print screen' and 'break' be on one key? (Oh wait, sys req is actually used by linux kernel debuggers, I forgot)

    But that's just a start. What about the "Internet keyboards" of this age. Where I live, most (or all) shops don't sell non-Internet keyboards, so you're stuck with these keys:
    E-mail, Shopping, Search, My Home, Media, Volume (+/-), Mute, Play, Stop, Previous, Next, Favorites, Community, My Sites, Finance, Sleep, Back, Go.

    Oh, I almost forgot the Windows key and the 'right-mouse-button' key, which are completely unnecessary for Windows, and a complete waste for other OS-es.

    So you're complaining about Caps Lock, a key that has been on every keyboard for ages, and that most people use, although infrequently, and more so for documents than for source code nowadays, while nowadays there are over 20 completely useless keys that are forced on you by keyboard producers like Logitech and Microsoft??

    Get serious.

    - Erwin

  • by plaa ( 29967 ) <sampo@niskanen.iki@fi> on Sunday June 06, 2004 @07:38AM (#9349505) Homepage
    I guess a rather large number of Linux users have mapped their Caps Lock to some other function, the most common probably being Control or Esc.

    I've mapped it to Enter instead, for a purely ergonomic reason: On the Finnish keyboard, the keys have been rearranged to allow for the letters ä, ö and å, and there are two keys between my right little finger and the enter key (from my right hand: j, k, l, ö, ä, ', Enter). When I started using IRC more, my right little finger started getting really sore from hitting enter. I added the Caps Lock enter, and the hurting stopped immediately. Now I'm not even sure which one I use more - it just comes naturally.

    Of course, my big brother complains about this every time he uses my computer (not very often). He has his Caps Lock mapped to Control, and every time he tries to cancel some command using Ctrl-C, something awful happens... ;)
  • by Matthew Aaron ( 593585 ) on Sunday June 06, 2004 @08:44AM (#9349682) Homepage
    A great way to replace the capslock key would be to tap shift key twice to enact full capitalization.
  • On my Spanish keyboard it's Alt Gr (Right Alt)+the key left to the 1. Used to be a pain under Windows. But / is just slighty easier, it's Shift+7. At least Shift is used more often.

    The absolute worst is ~ for home, since under windows I had to type ALT+NUMPAD1,2,3 at lest on old ones (ASCII code) and you know those 8-letterized filenames under DOS. Now under linux AltGr+4 is much easier (it works under Windows but it's treated as an accent i.e. you need to type a space after it, for example typing ~n makes ñ) but still, it's annoying when you type # or ½ due to missing the 4.

    Spanish keybords are, IMHO, a complete mess symbols-wise. What's more important, or #? Well they've got mapped to shift+3 and # mapped to altgr+3.

    I just learned that AltGr+7,8,9,0 is {[]}. They're usually AltGr+the keys left to Enter (so there are 2 possible ways of typing them). What a mess. '=' is also wretched, you need shift. Backticks are a grave-accent and thus need space.

    I'd remap them, but I'm too used to standard keyboard and I wouldn't be able to type on others, let aside the fact that I don't know how to type without looking every once in a while, and having keys do something other than printed would be a mess.
  • Anyone remember (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Julian Morrison ( 5575 ) on Sunday June 06, 2004 @10:54AM (#9350346)
    ...the latching shift-lock that some early-80s home computers had? If you pressed it, it literally latched down until you pressed it again, and it behaved exactly like a held shift key. Now that would be infinitely more useful, both for the ability to physically feel it latch down (and thus avoid accidental pressing) and for the fact it affects more than just cap letters, it affects anything shifted.
  • by The Hobo ( 783784 ) on Sunday June 06, 2004 @11:38AM (#9350586)
    The question of removing keybaord keys has come up before somewhere else, and people asked why Scroll Lock is still there, and one response was that it would be more expensive to take it out and change the keyboard layout than it would be to leave it there. As far as CAPS LOCK is concerned, I imagine a similar argument applies, as well as the valid arguments for keeping it that have already been posted
  • by tunah ( 530328 ) < minus cat> on Sunday June 06, 2004 @07:26PM (#9353111) Homepage
    Windows key is _really_ useful for me in X. It's a modifier that no applications check for, so I can use it for global shortcuts, exactly the ones I want: win+arrow to change virtual desktops, win+d for desktop and win+r for run (XP got this right IMO) and a few for frequently used apps.
  • by tommy ( 12973 ) on Monday June 07, 2004 @11:23PM (#9362441) Homepage
    You didn't even read all of my post, did you? First, the example I used was taken from the comment I replied to. I don't think that person was trying to show off his skillz by selecting * and using bad alias names, but I especially don't think you should be jumping me over it.

    Now that that's done, see my follow-up post where the formatting of my example query showed up properly.

    I used to have this same argument regarding HTML. XHTML won that one for me.

Help! I'm trapped in a PDP 11/70!