"Death to Caps Lock":

A new movement, and it's about time -- the Caps Lock key does very little good, and plenty of accidental harm.

pp (mail):
Well if you are lawyer looking for carpal tunnel victims to represent, good idea.
There are still alot of software programs that require typing command names etc in all caps. I can't imagine the contortions required to type all day permanently trying to hold down a shift key.
8.21.2006 8:32pm
K Bennight (mail):
Though I am sympathetic, many lawyers would be unhappy. With typewriters, underlining and ALLCAPS were the only way to set text apart. Now we have italics, bold face, and increased font size, but few people do more than underlining and ALLCAPS. So much for imagination.
8.21.2006 8:46pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
8.21.2006 8:46pm
cirby (mail):
I have to disagree.

Many first-person shooter games really need caps lock for a sticky toggle between walk and run.
8.21.2006 8:53pm
Bruce F. Webster (mail) (www):
I'm not a lawyer, but I do serve from time to time as an expert witness. I just finished a very long expert report that had hundreds of Bates-number citations in the footnotes, e.g., BRAODXE000321401, with not one, not two, but at least a dozen or more different Bates prefixes (in this case, they created a separate Bates sequence [e.g., BRAODXEnnnnnnn] for each different person from whom they collected documents).

Caps Lock is my friend. ..bruce..
8.21.2006 8:56pm
Friedrich Foresight (mail):
> "Users of word processors are forced to retype any text that was entered with Caps Lock accidentally turned on."

Well, not strictly true. You can just select the text then go to CHANGE CASE. So it's only a 3, not a 10, on the Richter scale of annoyance.

For me, I'd rather that round brackets did not require the shift key.
8.21.2006 9:02pm
Brooks Lyman (mail):
Better might be some way (without too much hacking of the OS - I use Mac OS 10.4.7) to require a modifier key to activate Caps Lock. For example, on my Mac keyboard, the combination "Control/Caps Lock is easy to hit deliberately, but not likely to be accidently turned on when fumble-fingers slop a bit on the "A" key(as currently drives me crazy).

Does anyone know a quick hack to do this in Mac OS X?

Such an "activated" (I'm sure there's a proper geek term for it which I don't know) Caps Lock key would be a way to retain the key for those who need it while allowing the rest of us word-processor users to save a lot of typos and time. Perhaps computer OS developers (a business with perhaps half a dozen major practitioners) could get together and make a standard way to allow the user to switch between and "activated" Caps Lock key and the current boobytrap version.
8.21.2006 9:25pm
Can't you just disable capslock (or map it to control) in System Preferences->Keyboard &Mouse->Keyboard->Modifier Keys...? Don't all you attorneys use Macs?
8.21.2006 9:28pm
Daniel Chapman wrote:
Thank you for vividly demonstrating the tragic consequence of such a heavy handed prohibition: an epidemic of fatigued pinkies will unleash the dreaded !1one upon innocents worldwide.

Maybe we should call on the UN to handle the problem.
8.21.2006 9:42pm
Brooks Lyman (mail):
DiversityHire -

Yeah, I did that (turned it off), but now, if I want to use Caps Lock, I have to go to System Prefs, etc., etc. There ought to be a better way.

Also, I'm not a lawyer, but I've seen an awful lot more PCs than Macs in Lawyer's offices (well, nobody ever said all lawyers are smart). I think you mean graphic artists, who still lean heavily on the Mac.
8.21.2006 9:57pm
Greedy Clerk (mail):
Don't all you attorneys use Macs?

No unfortunately. IT departments at law firms, like most other businesses, are still blindly insisting that PC's be used, even though they are so obviously inferior now that it is ridiculous. IT departments are so blind to Macs, they rarely even know how easy it is to network a home Mac computer to a PC network and stupidly recommend that attorneys not buy Macs at home. However, Microsoft itself has a little program called Remote Desktop Connection, which is FREE for the Mac and PC, which lets you seemlessly log into a Windows NT network. All hail OS freedom!
8.21.2006 9:58pm
James Ellis (mail):
I say keep the caps lock for old time's sake. Its disproportionate size is the only remaining throwback to the old typewriter keyboard, now that the carraige return key has been renamed "enter." Remember when "shift" and "caps lock" keys had to be bigger because you were lifting the whole assembly with them?
8.21.2006 9:59pm
Dawnsblood (mail):
Where I work designing bills for utilities and Counties, many of the messages and legal explainations are required to be in all caps and I would hate to hold the shift key down for an hour or two straight. Please let me keep my caps lock key ;)
8.21.2006 10:08pm
blackdoggerel (mail):
The worst design flaw of existing keyboards is not the caps lock key, but the juxtaposition of the "insert" key with the "delete," "home," and "end" keys. How many times have you been typing away and quickly tapped on one of those three keys and resumed typing, without realizing you accidentally hit the "insert" key and have switched to an overwrite cursor? Infuriating, and no good reason for it.
8.21.2006 10:19pm
Randy R. (mail):
Yup, macs are definately better. At my old job at the US Department of Labor, all they had were PCs, but I used a Mac at home. The difference was astounding in terms of ease of use and reliability. The irony was that the Department of Justice sued Microsoft for monopoly, but their operating systems were -- you guessed it.
8.21.2006 10:26pm
Eugene G. Bernat (mail):
I have hit the caps lock on numerous occassions by accident and that has caused me problems. Having said that I still have times that I need it, so perhaps we should not remove the button, but change its location on the keyboard. May be relocate it with the scroll and pause etc.
8.21.2006 10:44pm
Escapee from sublevel 8:
"X does very little good, and plenty of accidental harm."

This statement is false when X="private ownership of guns", but true when X="caps lock key"???

I used to have a keyboard with a green LED in the Caps Lock key. Light on, caps. Light off, not caps. It solved the problem perfectly. Let us light an LED rather than curse the darkness.
8.21.2006 10:45pm
JosephSlater (mail):
I strongly second Blackdoggeral's post.
8.21.2006 10:48pm
John Jenkins (mail):
Oh yes, Macs are better. What, with their higher price and smaller software library, I mean, what's not to love? Many attorneys won't use Macs for the simple reason that there is no Mac version of WordPerfect. If you're going to run XP anyway, you may as well not pay the price premium that comes from buying Apple.

The idea that IT pros don't know anything about Macs is just silly. Of course they do, but there are many, many other factors than ease of use (and let's face it, Windows is so easy to use that if you can't use it, you probably shouldn't be doing any job that involves a computer). You get hardware problems and mismatches on the Mac too (USB hard drives come to mind). There are so many more reported incidents with Windows-based PCs because there are so many more of them and because Windows has to work on all kinds of hardware, not just MS approved stuff.

I love how it's all about the MS monopoly when Apple is almost perfectly vertically integrated. Lots of people COULD adopt Apple but don't, and it's not out of ignorance (how could it be with all the cutesy commercials?). They make the choice because the price premium isn't worth it to them.
8.21.2006 10:51pm
Kevin L. Connors (mail) (www):
LOL. I wouldn't find it quite so annoying if i knew how to do a change case.
8.21.2006 11:01pm
Its NICE to know that some folks' LIVES are so pure that the capslock key is high on their LIST of aggravations.
8.21.2006 11:31pm

At my old job at the US Department of Labor, all they had were PCs, but I used a Mac at home. The difference was astounding in terms of ease of use and reliability. The irony was that the Department of Justice sued Microsoft for monopoly, but their operating systems were -- you guessed it.

The actual irony is that the reason PCs and Microsoft became so huge as compared to Apple with its supposedly superior computers, is open architecture (perhaps the wrong word) by....gasp....IBM.

Early in the 1980's, if you wanted things for your home computer, you had to buy them from Apple. IBM, ironically, decided that the way to sell PCs was to publish enough information about the operating system and equipment so that ANYONE could make stuff that would work with the PC.

As a result, for example, when I was typing up a dissertation, I would have liked to buy an Apple computer. But there were only two printers, Apple brand only, that would work with the Apple computer, and they had really crummy type, not the letter quality required. So, I bought an IBM clone, for which I had a choice of many many printers, most not made by IBM.

And that is why Microsoft, the IBM operating system, became what it did - "open, new age" Apple kept its cold dead hands clutched tightly around its operating system, while "secretive, anal retentive" IBM said, come on down and make stuff to work with our stuff.

8.21.2006 11:53pm
Jerry Mimsy (www):
Regarding remapping caps lock on OS X.

Look at:


The first one is for 10.3.something and earlier; the latter is for 10.4 and not nearly as cool.

You can also switch caps lock with any other modifier key by using the system preferences:

Apple Documentation for remapping caps lock

That is, you can make caps-lock act like the control key, and the control key act like caps lock.
8.21.2006 11:56pm
Syd Henderson's Cat (mail):

Eugene G. Bernat (mail):
I have hit the caps lock on numerous occassions by accident and that has caused me problems. Having said that I still have times that I need it, so perhaps we should not remove the button, but change its location on the keyboard. May be relocate it with the scroll and pause etc.

I'm currently using a program that requires entry in ALL CAPS, so I'm very glad for a Caps Lock key. This is a good suggestion. In fact, I'd like a keyboard where the Caps Lock replaces the Scroll Lock, which I've never found a use for.
8.21.2006 11:59pm
Hi Lev, the punchline to your story is that IBM's success with the PC was totally serendipitous, the chess team slapped together a commodity box (with a commode-ity OS) very quickly. The success of the PC "platform" and thus DOS came about because it was just as straightforward for others to slap together such a box (once the BIOS was "cloned") so folks could run 1-2-3 on boxes half the price of IBMs.

Apple's survival was just as serendipitous. Apple ][s were *really* open---early ones came with schematics! They achieved great success because they were expandable, programmable, and just "worked". Then good Steve Woz gave way to bad Steve Jobs and we got the $10000 Lisa followed by the closed, unprogrammable*, $2500, 128K Mac with two available printers (dot matrix or daisywheel) and no color. Were it not for the Laserwriter and Aldus, like, two years later, Apple would be sleeping with the VAXes.

Of course the really sad story is the Amiga.
Just kidding.

* To develop for the Mac 128K, you had to buy a Lisa ($10K) or Lisa 2 ($8.5K), install a variant of the UCSD p-system, and code in Pascal, Clascal, or 68K assembler.
8.22.2006 1:06am

Early in the 1980's, if you wanted things for your home computer, you had to buy them from Apple.

Not true at all! Apple II computers could use any printer with a serial connection, and could use daisy-wheel printers if you wanted it to look nicer than dot matrix. There were MANY third-party peripherals and software for the Apple II.
8.22.2006 1:10am
Kevin L. Connors (mail) (www):
Jeeze, I thought somebody would step up to the plate, and tell me how to do change case on this silly thing by now. :)
8.22.2006 1:31am
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
Many attorneys won't use Macs for the simple reason that there is no Mac version of WordPerfect.

They did have a WP for Mac (I still have it) but WP stopped supporting the platform years ago. (To give you some idea, my original WP is on floppies). Personally, I'd prefer WP to Word, but there's no real choice.

But I do think the caps lock key ought to be moved up and away from its current location, where a slip for "shift" or "tab" or "a" can turn the %&$##( on.
8.22.2006 2:19am
Erik R. (mail):

In Word, Change Case is an option listed in the Format menu. To use it you first highlight the text you want to change and then select the Change Case option. It should then give you a list of possible cases to use. (That's how it works on Word for Mac anyway.)

Hope that helps.
8.22.2006 4:29am
JunkYardLawDog (mail):
On Windows 2000 and XP its quite easy to map capslock to a different key location.

Most people who do this swap it with control key or alt key. MS has a free downloadable program that allows anyone to do this quite easily.

I also use a program that sTOPS tHIS from happening by making the shift key work to turn off capslock the way it used to work on old manual IBM typewriters.

Says the "Dog"
8.22.2006 7:30am
Tumbling Dice:
Is it possible for any post with comments enabled to NOT have 30+ comments on this site?
8.22.2006 9:07am
Dantheman (mail):
I actually find caps lock occassionally useful. A typical protocol I use for commenting on another person's language through e-mail (where color changes and fonts may not go through multiple sendings) is additional language in CAPS and deletions in [brackets].
8.22.2006 10:13am
tefta2 (mail):
I use Caps Lock for various things like diagramless crossword puzzles on an Excel grid. On my keyboard Caps Lock is about a third smaller than the Shift key below it. There are lots of keyboards on the market. If the one you're using is a problem, replace it with one that's more compatible.

On second thought, we may on the slippery slope to doing away with caps completely. When I first started using the internet, I was freaked out by things written all in lowercase. Now it looks kinda okay. Pretty soon standard capitalization will start looking quaintly old-fashioned and lower-case will rule supreme. Updating Omar Khayyam, The Moving Finger writes in lowercase; and …
8.22.2006 10:15am
Bill Twist:
I say it is about time. We should get rid of the caplocks, and require every one to use that time honored method, the flintlock:

After all, the flintlock reigned supreme for 200 years, while the caplock lasted barely 50 years. There is a certain romance to using a flintlock that just isn't there with those new-fangled persuction guns. It conjures images of Davey Crockett and Daniel Boone, of simple farmers fighting for the right of self-determination, of the long-hunter spending months in the trackless forest.

Oh, wait a minute, you meant CAPS LOCK. Nevermind...
8.22.2006 10:26am
Ross Levatter (mail):
No one has yet commented on the irony of a post calling for the death of Caps Lock entitled DEATH TO CAPS LOCK...
8.22.2006 10:35am
welcome to ee volokh
8.22.2006 10:36am
Jerry Mimsy (www):
Ross: Copy that title and paste it into something else. It's not typed in all-caps, just displayed in it. The marvels of style sheets. (I discovered this the first time I copied a title so as to link to it in my own blog, and am glad that TPTB did it that way--it makes it that much easier to link to Conspiracy posts.)

I do the same in Word. If I absolutely need all-caps, I still type it normally and apply a style which includes the all-caps (or small-caps) font effect. Makes it easier to change my mind later when I discover good taste: I just have to modify that style.
8.22.2006 10:55am
Dustin (mail):
All these examples... of video games using caps lock for something- to people complaining about not being able to write something in allcaps... you're not seeing this clearly.

Those games could use another key. Try scroll lock maybe! or tab. Whatever.

And if all caps is a good way to set text apart, word processors should enable you to highlight text and switch it back and forth instead of retyping. As an obvious design issue (and word does allow this, but it's not as simple as underlining and perhaps it should be)

Why not make ctrl+shift+c cap highlighted text (and turn on all caps?) caps lock is in fact an inconvienient key to accidentally strike.

Of course, Prof. Volokh, you can remap that key to something else (like Mute volume) if you do a little research).
8.22.2006 11:07am
David Krinsky (mail):
All the commenters who think caps lock should be abolished have clearly not spent much time typing




at the top of pleadings or opinions. I never used caps lock when I was in the software business, but I use it a lot more now that I'm an attorney.
8.22.2006 11:22am
Sj (mail):
Caps lock is very useful in some applications, use once in a great while by most of us, and very often by a few of us. The problem isn't its function, the problem is its location. Moving it to the function bar would solve the problem.
8.22.2006 11:42am
Dustin (mail):
actually, SJ, yeah that would seem like a good solution

Remap your scroll lock to be caps lock.

That seems like a good call.
8.22.2006 12:17pm
Bill Harshaw (mail) (www):
Apparently a big justification for ALL CAPS is legal work (see Dawnsblood and David Krinsky). Of course, centuries of development of typefaces have proved that text in ALL CAPS is much harder to read than upper and lower case, and that proportional spaced text is easier than monospaced. (Using ALL CAPS for explanations seems on a par with oxymorons.) Lawyers could improve their productivity by moving into the modern age. But we have only to look at British wigs to see that ALL CAPS in legal work will outlive us all.
8.22.2006 1:52pm
Kierkegaard (mail):
Can someone explain why all limitation on liabilities are all in CAPS? I hate reading them for that reason!
8.22.2006 4:08pm
cmn (mail) (www):
Kierkegaard: They're trying to make sure you can't say you didn't see that provision. When a clause in a form contract calls for you to waive certain types of rights, there are courts that won't enforce it unless it stands out from the rest of the boilerplate so they know it didn't just sneak by your attention. Ironically, as your post points out, this particular way of bringing it to your attention may actually make it less likely you'll actually read it.
8.22.2006 5:15pm
markm (mail):
"Apparently a big justification for ALL CAPS is legal work (see Dawnsblood and David Krinsky). Of course, centuries of development of typefaces have proved that text in ALL CAPS is much harder to read than upper and lower case, and that proportional spaced text is easier than monospaced."

Perhaps to too many practicing lawyers, "much harder to read" is a feature, not a bug.
8.22.2006 5:17pm
Kierkegaard (mail):
cmn, very interesting, thanks! When I worked at the Kings County DA's office, often the work required preparing reports for the arraignment ADAs that would be in all caps. This was nothing official, and had no singular purpose whatsoever, except making everything very difficult to read.
8.22.2006 5:56pm
Allen Garvin:
There's a really great keyboard called the Happy Hacker keyboard, based on the sun3 keyboard layout:

Happy Hacker keyboard

Plus, there's a blank version available. Someday I'll get one. For now I just use a PC keyboard with all the keys popped out and rearranged randomly.
8.22.2006 6:32pm
Tom952 (mail):
Google for "Caps Lock Disable" and you will find several free downloadable regedit scripts that will disable caps lock, or turn it into something else like a shift or control key. All of the scripts are completely reversable so you can put the caps lock back if you decide to.
8.22.2006 6:46pm
David W. Hess (mail):
I have a brief post on this subject at slashdot.

The caps lock key only swapped positions with the control key to the left of the A on computer keyboards after they became ubiquitous for word processing in office environments. There was a period of time after the release of the PC AT where keyboards could be configured either way. For those who learned to touch type using the WordStar and other similar command sets, there really is no substitute for the old cursor movement commands since you can maneuver and edit within a document while touch typing. No arrow keys, editing keys, or mouse are needed.

This is also the period of time when Word Perfect became dominant in legal and other offices. It was not designed to take advantage of the old control key editing system (keyboards now had separate function and arrow keys) so swapping control and caps lock would not have incurred any disadvantage while making the keyboard more typewriter like.

Even now, I either use terminal style keyboards (control to the left of the A and caps lock in the lower left corner) or software emulation and reconfigure my various text editors when possible to use the WordStar control key commands. This often serves to keep those who should not be using my computer away from it with occasionally humorous results.
8.23.2006 11:01am