Google Is Abandoning Caps Lock

Innovation, the Internet, gadgets, and more.
Dec. 16 2010 1:39 PM

GOOD RIDDANCE

The long-overdue movement to abandon Caps Lock.

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Nor is Caps Lock the only key deserving of criticism. The function keys (F1 to F12) are useless to the average user. Scroll Lock dates back to DOS, when you needed to use the arrow keys to scroll up and down a screen. The Pause and Break keys, vestiges of the days of teletype, are used almost exclusively by programmers. Even Google's new Search button could get annoying. At least when you accidentally hit Caps Lock, it merely changes the text. If you hit Search by mistake, it opens a whole new browser tab.

Will scrapping Caps Lock really increase civility on the Web, as one Google employee told Business Insider? Doubtful. If someone wants to blast out their reaction to a YouTube video in all caps, they still can. (The easiest way is to highlight any normal text and hit Shift-F3. So, I guess those function keys aren't entirely useless.) Plus, you can also say nasty things in lowercase.

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More likely, Google's decision to ditch the pesky key is one more step in the decline of casing itself. As e-mail and texting have become primary forms of communication, expectations of proper spelling and grammar have diminished. Capital letters aren't necessary to get your point across—why bother with Shift, let alone Caps Lock?

"perhaps the day will come when caps will be out of favor and will be mere embellishments," writes former George Mason University technology professor Virginia Montecino in a caps-less e-mail. "i see an overall simplification of text, in a world in which more people communicate in a written form than any previous generation, crossing boundaries of age, gender, nationality, geographic borders, ideologies."

Google eliminated Caps Lock in order to simplify the keyboard. They may be simplifying the language, too. Does Google intend to overhaul English itself? The keyboard on the new Cr-48 notebook offers a hint: The letters are all in lowercase.

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Christopher Beam is a writer living in Beijing.