Disable Caps Lock

Disable Caps Lock
Mac Tip #392, 08 July 2009

Gilbert wrote to me:

I’m a terrible typist and often hit the caps lock key when attempting to hit the “A” key. Since I tend to look at the keyboard I am surprised when I see these sentences in all caps. So far, the only thing that I can do is to erase the full sentence and retype.

I’m a terrible typist too and have also occasionally hit the Caps Lock key while aiming for something else. And on those extremely rare occasions where I actually want a run of Upper Case letters I seldom think to use Caps Lock, preferring to keep my finger on the Shift key instead.

This was an interesting problem, whose answer I discovered in Kill Caps Lock at Mac Geekery.

Disable Caps Lock in System Prefs

Disable Caps Lock to prevent problems.

Disable Caps Lock to prevent problems.

[In the depths of System Preferences lies an easily overlooked option: to change what happens when you press a modifier key.

  1. Open System Preferences.
  2. Go to the Keyboard and Mouse Preference Pane.
  3. Make sure you’re on the Keyboard tab.
  4. Click the Modifier Keys… button. A window appears where you can change what happens when you press the various modifier keys.
  5. From the drop-down menu beside the Caps Lock key choose No Action.
  6. Click OK. The new setting is saved.
  7. If you wish, close the System Preferences window.

Now when you type the Caps Lock key nothing happens. It’s just a dead key.

This one’s not for me

I experimented briefly with setting the Caps Lock key to instead act like the Command (⌘) key, but without changing how the Command key worked. This simply seemed to confuse both me and my Mac.

I actually didn’t like setting Caps Lock to be a dead key. I saw enormous potential for forgetting I’d done this and then spending ages troubleshooting if and when I noticed its lack of capability. I set mine back to its old behaviour.

I offer this as an educational Tip though.

Remember to watch the video:


What about you? Do you have this Caps Lock problem? Did you solve it another way? Have you tried this technique of disabling Caps Lock? How did that work out for you?

Add your comments below.

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  1. Miraz Jordan said:

    Ramon emailed: “The external keyboard for the mac mini. Very sleek, low profile, aluminum keyboard.”

    I say: Yup, sounds like the keyboard’s faulty.

  2. Miraz Jordan said:

    Ramon emailed:

    “External Apple branded keyboard. No other USB devices except mouse plugged in. No hub. Other Apple keyboard does not have same problem.”

    I say: sounds like the keyboard is faulty and it needs to be repaired.

  3. Ramon said:

    ….darn keyboard. I disabled the “caps lock” because it activated the “a” key. As I was saying, the tilde “~” key activates the 1 key and the 1 key activates ` so these pairs of keys all work when one of the other is pressed. How do I disassemble the keyboard to see what is inside?

    • Miraz Jordan said:

      That sounds annoying! I’m afraid I can’t help re taking the keyboard to bits.

      Is it the built-in keyboard on a laptop, or an external keyboard? Do you have any other devices connected that might affect it? Is it an Apple brand keyboard? Can it be plugged in to a different port? Is it going through a hub? Could you plug in a different keyboard and see if that has the same problem?

      I’d suggest ruling out other possible causes of problems before taking the keyboard to bits.



  4. Ramon said:

    The ~ key, tab key, caps lock key all activate the key to their right. So pressing ~ eq

  5. Donald E. Payne said:

    Good tip. If you’re afraid that you’ll forget about the dead key, you might label the key. If you don’t want to _deface_ it, you could use a small piece of sticky note paper.

  6. uwe jansch said:

    Hi, I have the opposite problem. My cap lock is always off again after restart ??
    I am running in the latest OS Leopard.

  7. Miraz Jordan said:

    Thanks Dae. That’s an interesting way to make Caps Lock more useful.

    I write only in English – it hadn’t occurred to me that some people may want to change their keyboard layout routinely in the way you describe.

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  9. Kevin Perera said:

    Thank You! I wish I had known about this ability to turn this key off years ago. I have been constantly running into this problem. Now I can just let my fingers fly!

  10. Miraz Jordan said:

    Thanks so much for this useful feedback Pat.

    “PS The videos are great, but they go fast and I’m still examining an image when it disappears. Is it possible to make them a bit slower?”

    Good point. I just rewatched the latest video (the one for this Tip) and can see what you mean. It’s probably a matter of me imagining I have you sitting beside me watching and learning. That should slow me down a bit.

    I’ll see what I can do for the next one.

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  12. Pat Rosier said:

    I didn’t like creating a ‘dead’ key either.
    My technique, for what it’s worth, when I find I have typed a row of caps I don’t want, is a quick swipe backwards with the mouse, selecting the unwanted caps and a retype. Works for me, takes less than a second I think.
    PS The videos are great, but they go fast and I’m still examining an image when it disappears. Is it possible to make them a bit slower? Or should I be stopping them when I look – just thought of this as i type.
    I’ve loved mactips for years, and still do, especially as I’ve bought an ipod touch, which is my new best (in the non-human world anyway) friend.

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