Frequently-Asked Questions

Hey, let's ban [insert random dangerous and/or unloved object here]

The world is full of [insert random dangerous and/or unloved objects here] and people who use or need them. That's OK. The problem with Caps Lock (and it's not a huge problem, like war, disease, or poverty) is that whether we want it or not, it's forced on us, with every new computer, and it's so annoying that there is actually a whole sub-industry in software programs to remap the thing. This is about choice. We want computer vendors to provide CAPSfree keyboards as an option.

What will replace the Caps Lock?

The simple answer is, the Ctrl key. But a more imaginative answer is: don't replace the key, but redesign the left part of the keyboard to be more ergonomic. There are several interesting suggestions. A left Enter key. A programmable key. Two smaller function keys. Move other keys up, and enlarge the space bar.

How about moving the Caps Lock?

Sure. This is a decent compromise solution for manufacturers who don't want to produce two sets of keyboards. Put the Caps Lock up at the top right along with the Num Lock and Scroll Lock.

Are there other so-called useless keys?

There is very strong feeling about some keys. People dislike the NumLock key, and the Windows key in particular. But many people also find the Scroll Lock and SysReq keys to be bizarre hangovers from some bygone era. While we're focussing on Caps Lock because it's such an obvious villain, there is definitely support for a wider keyboard reform.

So, what's the plan?

First, we've defined a quality standard, CAPSfree to help computer buyers explain to vendors what they want. Second, we're getting input from the community as to what they actually want. It's one thing to complain, but quite a different thing to make constructive suggestions. And we need constructive suggestions to make this happen.

How about people who need Caps Lock?

For the disabled, most systems provide 'sticky Shift', which is much nicer to use than Caps Lock. You press Shift, then the key you want, and then continue to type. The Caps Lock function does not have to disappear, it could be replaced by a key combination. For the few people who really need a Caps Lock key for, well, there are literally hundreds of millions of Caps Lock keyboards around. It's hardly going to bother them if new computers don't have this key.

Why does the subject arouse so much emotion?

The keyboard is not something we can live without. Everyone, these days, uses the keyboard more than they write. Any glitch is going to annoy people, and even if it's a low-level annoyance, eventually it becomes too much. Caps Lock is like a small pebble in your shoe. Of course you can keep walking. You can just try to ignore it. But eventually you really have to stop and take your show off. The world is not perfect but many people think it's worthwhile spending a little effort improving it.

Don't you have better things to do?

Oh yes. We did not ask for this war. Look at the feedback, every time the subject is discussed. Caps Lock really upsets people, and at some level, making a million people just a little bit happier is a noble goal. Seriously: this is about taking control over the tools we use. In the olden days, you could choose the exact pen you wanted to write with. Today, we're forced to work with mass-produced keyboards based on old-fashioned standards that just don't make sense anymore.

How much time does this campaign take?

Online campaigns don't take a lot of time and they don't cost much. As much as anything else, CAPSoff is designed to demonstrate how easy it is to start a campaign. All it takes is a clear mission, a blog and a Google group. The rest just happens by itself. Maybe CAPSoff will inspire other people to use the Internet to organise grass roots campaigns.

How about gamers, and other apps that use Caps Lock?

Since Caps Lock (like SysReq and Scroll Lock) are almost useless, of course people have claimed these keys for special purposes. But that does not make them useful. It just demonstrates that some applications need programmable keys. For example one game uses Caps Lock as a "microphone" key so people can chat. But why not use a third mouse button? Or a programmable key?

Why not just redesign the entire keyboard, like DVORAK?

One key at a time. There's no point in being over-ambitious, and besides, most of the keyboard works pretty well. At least, in English. Some foreign language keyboards are pretty horrible, as people have to force large character sets onto a fixed-size keyboard.

Are there keyboards without a Caps Lock key?



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