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  1. Computer Skills
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Computers

How to Make Better Use of the Caps Lock Key

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Difficulty:IntermediateLength:ShortLanguages:

Unless you spend too much time commenting on YouTube videos, you probably don't use your Caps Lock key all that often. Google has even replaced it with a dedicated search key on the Chromebook. The prominence of the Caps Lock key lends itself to something more than just INTERNET SHOUTING.

This tutorial will walk you through using a few free tools to remap your caps lock key to a function you'll use more often such as launching spotlight, activating an app launcher, like Alfred or LaunchBar, opening OmniFocus's quick entry dialogue or even as an additional Delete key.


Software Required

In order to remap your caps lock key you need two free pieces of software from www.pqrs.org.


Installing the Software

Step 1: Downloading the Software

Visit www.pqrs.org to download KeyRemap4MacBook and PCKeyboardHack.

Step 2: Installing KeyRemap4Macbook

In Finder, go to your Downloads folder and open KeyRemap4Macbook.dmg.

Go to your Downloads folder and open KeyRemap4MacBook.dmg
Go to your Downloads folder and open KeyRemap4MacBook.dmg

Double click on KeyRemap4Macbook.pkg to start the installation.

Double click on KeyRemap4MacBook.pkg
Double click on KeyRemap4MacBook.pkg

Depending on your security settings, you may get a warning telling you that you can not install software from unidentified developers. If this is the case, close the notification window, then press the Control key and Click, together, the mouse cursor on the .pkg file and select Open to make a one time exception.

If you get this error, ctrl-click on KeyRemap4MacBook.pkg and select Open
If you get this error, ctrl-click on KeyRemap4MacBook.pkg and select Open

You will get a notification that KeyRemap4Macbook.pkg is from an unidentified developer and given the option to either Open it or Cancel. Click Open to proceed with the installation.

Click open to proceed
Click Open to proceed

Follow the installation prompts that KeyRemap4Macbook provides. You will need to enter your password to allow it to install.

Follow the install prompts
Follow the install prompts
Enter your password when required

Enter your password when required

In order to complete the installation you must restart your computer. Do this now.

Restart your computer to complete the installation
Restart your computer to complete the installation

Step 3: Installing PCKeyboardHack

After your computer restarts, go to your Downloads folder and open PCKeyboardHack.dmg.

Go to your Downloads folder and open PCKeyboardHack.dmg
Go to your Downloads folder and open PCKeyboardHack.dmg

Double click on PCKeyboardHack.pkg to begin the installation. If you got a warning about your security settings when installing KeyRemap4MacBook you will need to Control Click when opening this .pkg file, too.

Click through the installation dialogue boxes as before, entering your password as required.

Again, enter your password when prompted
Again, enter your password when prompted

To finish the installation you will need to restart your computer again. Do this now.

Step 4: Remapping the Caps Lock Key

To remap the caps lock key open PCKeyboardHack from your Applications folder.

Open PCKeyboardHack in your applications folder
Open PCKeyboardHack in your applications folder

Under Caps Lock, check the Change Caps Lock checkbox. The default setting remaps the caps lock key to an additional delete key. If this is what you want, close the preference pane and you are now done!

Check the Change Caps Lock check box

Check the Change Caps Lock checkbox

To do this, double click on the 51 in the keycode column and enter "80", instead.

Enter 80 where it said 51 before
Enter 80 where it said 51 before

You've now remapped your Caps Lock key.

Tip: If you want to use your caps lock key to serve as more than an extra delete key, you must remap it to a key that the operating system recognises. This key can then be used as a trigger for anything you want. In this case, remap it to F19, a key not found on standard Mac keyboards but still recognised by the operating system.

Configuring Applications

Launching Spotlight

Spotlight is the file search program integrated in OS X.

To configure caps lock to launch Spotlight, open System Preferences and navigate to the Keyboard pane.

Open the Keyboards preference pane
Open the Keyboards preference pane

Click on Keyboard Shortcuts,

Select Keyboard Shortcuts
Select Keyboard Shortcuts

and then Spotlight.

spotlight_default
Cmd-space is currently the Spotlight shortcut

Double click where it shows your previous keyboard shortcut and press your, now remapped, caps lock key. F19 will replace whatever was previously in the input box.

F19 is your remapped caps lock key
F19 is your remapped caps lock key

Exit system preferences and you're done.

Launching an App Launcher (Like Alfred)

Application launchers, such as Alfred and LaunchBar, are like supercharged versions of Spotlight. In addition to finding files and launching applications, they can perform many complex tasks.

To configure caps lock to launch Alfred, open Alfred's Preferences panel.

Select Preferences from Alfred's menubar icon
Select Preferences from Alfred's menubar icon

Navigate to the General tab and with the Alfred Hotkey dialogue box highlighted, press your remapped caps lock key.

Select the Alfred Hotkey dialogue box and push the remapped Caps Lock key
Select the Alfred Hotkey dialogue box and push the remapped Caps Lock key

Exit the preference menu and you will be able to trigger Alfred with your caps lock key.

The procedure is similar in both LaunchBar and Quicksilver.

Launching OmniFocus's Quick Entry Dialogue

OmniFocus is a powerful task manager. One of its main features is a quick entry dialogue that allows you to instantly enter tasks from anywhere on your mac.

To configure caps lock to launch OmniFocus's quick entry dialogue, open OmniFocus's Preferences.

Select Preferences from the OmniFocus menu
Select Preferences from the OmniFocus menu

Under the General tab, highlight the Quick Entry Shortcut input and press the remapped Caps Lock key.

Change the Quick Entry Shortcut to your remapped Caps Lock key
Change the Quick Entry Shortcut to your remapped Caps Lock key

Exit Preferences to finish.


Conclusion

With two lightweight pieces of software, KeyRemap4Macbook and PCKeyboardHack, I've successfully turned the caps lock key into a far more useful tool. If none of the applications above catch your interest, you can remap it to many functions in your favourite applications. Play around with it and comment below if you have any great ideas.

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