This has just occurred to me after being confused about behaviour in vim until I noticed I had Caps Lock on.

On the one hand, <ctrl>+<shift>+<m> (lower case m) is the same as <ctrl>+<M> (upper case m), and it's a specific letter and case (M) that triggers a shortcut.

On the other hand, a shortcut "transcends" (for want of a better word) letters and cases, and is more about keys. So pressing <ctrl>+<shift>+<m> on the keyboard would be expected by a user to produce the same behaviour regardless of whether caps lock is on.

Are there any advantages/disadvantages to each method that you know of?

3 Answers 3


Lightroom is an example of a UX where the caps lock changes behavior of keyboard shortcuts. When caps locked, pressing x or p to flag an image will automatically go to the next image. Without caps lock, it stays on the same image after flagging.

If not for this UX design, users would've ended up constantly pressing the right arrow after flagging a photo. So one might think, ah just add a shift-button feature to flag and go to next photo. Then someone thinks, if I have to hold shift all the time, why not let me just use caps lock? This is a UX where the caps lock distinction makes sense.

I suggest being consistent and deliberate. If you want to have separate functions with caps locked, you should already have some excellent ideas of where you want to use it. The user shouldn't find themselves asking whether it's a bug or a feature.


I think it is best not to link caps lock with the shift key except for very special cases

My understanding is that the proposed use of caps-lock as shift-lock defeat the purpose of having keystroke combinations. The purpose of keystroke combinations is to allow the user to call a specific command based on the context of what he or she is focusing into.

The caps-lock state is usually out of the user focus. Actually is something very difficult to keep track. So much password forms usually warn the user when caps-lock is on to bring its state to the user attention. Many keyboards doesn't have indicator lights of the caps-lock state. Many others have indicator lights far from the attention of the user and mixed with other lights. Also, the caps-lock state can't be set, can only be toggled. This is a problem for people that type without looking for the keyboard like me.

That does not mean it can be used in special cases to toggle the behavior of some keystroke combinations. But those special cases must be handled with caution by the developer. For example, change the color of the background or window to reflect a new context.

  • Actually, many keyboards reflect the capslock state with an LED telltale. My inexpensive Logitec K360 does, for example.
    – MMacD
    Commented Jan 22, 2017 at 19:36
  • Many do and many doesn't. Many that do have are not intuitive because the indicator lights are far from the attention of the user.
    – Lucas
    Commented Jan 23, 2017 at 8:17

In my opinion it shouldn't.

  • Letter when CAPS on types a letter uppercase.
  • SHIFT + letter types a letter uppercase.

Both do the same action but that doesn't mean they are the same.

CAPS on is not a shortcut of pressed-SHIFT. For example, if you have CAPS on and you type a number it will not type the character that would result when pressing SHIFT + number.

  • Also notice how SHIFT + letter with CAPS on types the letter uppercase.
    – Alvaro
    Commented Jan 21, 2017 at 17:13
  • I just tried that on my computer and SHIFT + letter with caps lock on types a lower case letter.
    – thosphor
    Commented Jan 21, 2017 at 18:50
  • @user3087409 really!? Very interesting :) It doesn't in my OSX, what OS is giving you lowercase?
    – Alvaro
    Commented Jan 21, 2017 at 18:53
  • Arch Linux; I just tried it on OS X and it did the same as yours.
    – thosphor
    Commented Jan 21, 2017 at 18:57
  • I think the comparison between CAPS LOCK + number and SHIFT + number was very helpful.
    – thosphor
    Commented Jan 23, 2017 at 10:03

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