Mac OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard): Accidental Caps Lock Defense gone?

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh
October 10th, 2009 • 3:41 pm

A couple of years ago, when the then-new aluminium keyboard came out, Jonathan Rentzsch reported that the keyboard appeared to have a new, undocumented feature, whereby accidentally hitting the Caps Lock key would have no effect because the keyboard had a built-in delay that caused it to wait a fraction of a second before considering the pressing of the key as deliberate.

I noticed that myself, and was quite pleased with the feature, because, like many people, I often hit the Caps Lock key accidentally without meaning to, and I don’t want to have text in all caps that then have to delete and retype it.

Mac OS X has, for a long time, supported an option to disable the Caps Lock key altogether—in Snow Leopard, it is accessed via the “Modifier Keys…” button in the “Keyboard” type of the “Keyboard” preference pane in System Preferences—but I do like to be able to use the key from time to time (admittedly, not very often), so I don’t really want to disable it altogether.

But now, in Snow Leopard, I might have to do so, because it seems to me that the accidental Caps Lock defense feature mentioned by Rentzsch has disappeared altogether. Right now, whenever I press on the Caps Lock key, no matter how quickly I press it, the keyboard registers my keystroke and switches between regular typing and caps lock mode.

This appears to contradict Rentzsch’s assertion that this built-in delay was a hardware feature of the keyboard itself and not a software feature in Mac OS X. Rentzsch hasn’t updated his page about this particular issue since 2007, so I don’t know if he’s noticed the change in Snow Leopard too.

It’s hard to tell why things have changed in Snow Leopard. Did Apple conduct a scientific survey of tens of thousands of Mac typists and determine that the majority didn’t like this feature? Or did they simply remove the feature accidentally without noticing it? Since the feature was never (to my knowledge) properly documented, it’s not like one can report its absence as a bug…

Unfortunately, it was a feature that I found quite useful, and since upgrading to Snow Leopard, I find myself accidentally switching caps lock on far too often. It might just be that keeping it active is not worth the trouble, and I might try disabling it altogether and living without it.

I really wish that Mac OS X offered more flexibility and allowed you, for example, to change the Caps Lock key setting in “Keyboard” so that the caps lock mode comes on only when you press Caps Lock with another modifier key, like Shift or Command. But the only options right now are to disable the key altogether or to turn it into a secondary Control, Command, or Shift key, which I don’t really need

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