Despite all the battles fought between Mac OS and Windows for operating system supremacy over the years, for users it's now largely a matter of personal preference (not to mention budget). There are areas where each excels and where each lags.

However, if there is one fall-down, fatal, unbelievably horrible aspect of Windows that would be easy to fix and would leave no one wanting the old way of working, this is it.


But wait, there's another surprise in store.

Obviously, Windows has inherited many bad habits from its past since people tend to get annoyed when features are changed or removed, no matter how outdated and useless that feature might be. (Think "paint bucket tool" in Photoshop.) "Modern" operating systems have the option (and even obligation) to do away with such nonsense.

Yet, the inverted-caps paragraph above wasn't even typed on a Windows machine nor was it typed on a Mac. It was typed on a Chromebook.

That's right, the newest member of the laptop world running the bleeding-edge of operating systems emulates the bad behavior of an old one.

There may be a reason they chose to emulate it, but I can't think of one. Anyone?

P.S. I know someone is bound to mention that Ctrl-Alt-Del is THE worst usability choice in all of Windows and certainly the most famous, but it is highly unlikely you would discover it accidentally.


Keep these coming. Send them to us via Twitter or Facebook using the hastag #wtfUX or email them to: with "#wtfUX" in the subject line. Include as much context as you can, so we get a full understanding of what the f%*k went wrong.

Article No. 1 446 | June 3, 2015
Article No. 1 440 | May 20, 2015
Article No. 1 426 | April 15, 2015


As stated the concept of WRITING A SENTENCE aND oNLY hITTING THE shift key with the caps lock on makes for a hard to read sentance. But if you move away from the idea of writting sentance but rather a string of government agencies it makes a lot of since.  Example:

So over time he worked at the NSA, CIA, FBI, and KGB.

I held the shift key to type out the "and" instead of holding the shift key to type out all the acronyms.

What Chromebook are you using? Most (until today, I thought ALL) Chrombooks omit the caps-lock key. If you found a manufacturer that felt the need to include the caps-lock key, then you found a manufacturer that felt the need to emulate Windows to attract PC users. It's no wonder that it behaves the way Windows behaves.

Here's the official Chromebook page about the "special keys":

What is your source that nobody has ever foudnd it useful? What else would the shift button do when caps lock was activated? Why is it an issue at all?

My source is purely arbitrary but stems from right about 40 years of using the English language (with no small amount of that time being a type nerd, grammar police, and sticker for punctuation.) If you can demonstrate to me a single, practical use for iNVERTED cAPITALIZATION, I will print and eat a page of YouTube comments.As for what the shift key should do when caps lock is enabled, it should do NOTHING.

I've used it quite a lot. For example when inputting tables where most cells consist of acronyms in uppercase and others few short words in lowercase. I know I've used it on other occasions as well, just don't remember them.It's not the most useful feature but it certainly not completely useless. I've used it much more than strikethrough text, subscript or text effects.

You mean "grammar policeman" and "stickler" right? ;)

Ignoring the language-switching role Caps Lock is used for in non-English configurations (which is a whole different can of uxworms) isn't the better solution eliminating the Caps Lock altogether - it's not as though we're still holding spring-loaded machinery in place with our little fingers while we type any more.

Daniel, Windows full of such usability problems. Looks like in MS nobody cares about it and thanks for Apple we have alternative — Mac with perfection in every small areas like this CAPS button. As you said "it should do NOTHING" — that's how it works on the Macs. 

The shift key might as well do something though.... right? Even if the use case is slim, why not? Why make it do nothing when it could do something? It is still required for punctuation anyway. 

"The shift key might as well do something though.... right?"

Why? I had to double check what site I was on, as that's not a comment I'd expect from a UX designer!


I actually use the CAPS + Shift combo!I think the purpose is that while in caps you can acess the number key symbols when pressing shift. Instead of HELLO1 I can type HELLO! - thanks Windows! 

Unless you have a keyboard I've never heard of, I think you'll find that the number keys work even when caps lock is on. It is a CAPS lock, not a shift lock.

Daniel, now I don't get what your problem is.  You seem to be aware of the difference between a caps lock and shift lock, yet you don't understand why the shift key should not turn of the caps lock. 

Type in HELLO_WORLD.  Because caps lock only influences letters, I always need to press the shift key to access the underscore.

Now if the shift key does not turn off the caps lock, then I can type this in without any issue:


If the shift key does turn off the caps lock, then this happens:


Huh? Why did the SHIFT+_ turn off the caps lock while caps lock is letters only, and I wasn't even using the shift key for a letter !!

The shift lock tends to work differently indeed.  Since it shifts all keys, also the top row, I feel it makes more sense to release the shift lock when pressing the shift key.  But it's also a pain in the ass when you type A-LOT-OF-CAPITALS-WITH-SOME-NON-SHIFT-LOCKED-SYMBOL-IN-BETWEEN: I constantly need to relock the shift lock everytime I pressed the shift key.  Actually, it's such a PITA that I tend to ignore the shift lock all togher and just hold down the shift key with my little pink!  With some really weird finger ballet as a consequence.

But ... the shift-key-releases-shift-lock behaviour has or course the benefit that it's more modeless: hit the shift key, and you know that the shift lock will be off, regardless of what state it was in. Not so much with the caps lock. But I would only find that a selling point on this particular keyboard I'm currently typing on, because it has no LED to show the caps lock status. Now I need to rely on an widget that displays it on screen.

Here's my stance on it:

  • Caps lock behaviour is more logical and speedier, once you realize it only applies to letters, but requires tracking its mode. Is it on or off? 
  • Shift lock behaviour has the no-brains advantage of being able to always hit the shift key to reset the shift lock.  But it's very annoying to mix shift-locked with non-shift locked keys, to a point that it's easier to just hold down the shift key and not bother with the shift lock.
  • So ... either (a) have a caps lock where the shift key does not turn off caps; or (b) get rid of the caps/shift lock all together, and just hold on the shift key.

But a caps lock with a shift key that turns off the caps lock?  That's the worst of both worlds!  It's annoying, inconsistent and redundant.

BTW, you've noticed that on AZERTY keyboards the top row is organized differently?  You need the shift key to access the digits.  I wonder if that has anything to do with the shift lock behaviour.

Disclaimer: there may of course be AZERTY keyboards with caps locks or with different top row layouts, or QWERTY keyboards with shift locks.  But in my experience AZERTY keyboards tend to go with shift locks and QWERTY keyboards with caps locks.  I live in a AZERTY world, but I'm mainly a QWERTY user.  So I'm experienced with both, and I prefer the caps lock behaviour.

Thanks for your detailed response!

I think we're actually saying the same thing though I may not be doing it quite clearly:

• Caps lock and Shift Lock do two different things (There are instances where typing a series of words in all caps is helpful but, unless you type a lot of substitutes for curse words - (i.e. !@$^% #$^$) - then Shift Lock is of minimal use and is a holdover from the days of typewriters. (If you've ever typed on a typewriter, score yourself bonus points now. If you've ever typed on a MANUAL typewriter, double the number of points.)

I think we may have hit upon another issue - the potential difference in behavior between QWERTY and AZERTY keyboards.

On a US Keyboard Mac, CAPS LOCK only shifts the case of letters. It has no influence over any of the other keys and the Shift key does not "unshift" (temporarily disable) the Caps Lock key. On Windows (and on Chromebooks to date - despite them having eliminated the caps lock key), the Shift key temporarily cancels the shift lock key. (Inverts its behavior is a technical way of saying that I suppose.)

Symbols aside, I still have yet to hear a case for when iNVERTING THE cASE OF A sENTENCE IS A bENEFIT.


Not the number keys, but the number key symbols, i.e. 1 = !, 2 = @, 3 = #, 4 = $. 5 = %, 6 = ^ etc 

Yeah, again, you may be confusing caps lock shift lock. Caps lock doesn't affect the behavior of the number keys / punctuation marks. If so,  I'd be curious to know what kind of keyboard / layout you're using. 

Wow, I will try and spell it out for you. Turn on CAPS, type 'hello', type a dollar sign/symbol (e.g. $) - What? You can't?!?!? It just outputs '4' OH! How about you use the shift key! HELLO4 becomes HELLO$, Amazing... 

You're getting angry, unfortunately you're also confused.

The action you're describing isn't effected by the Caps Lock. Whether it's activated or not the numbers and their shift state remain the same.

The author is talking about the shift key uncapitilising characters when the caps lock is on, not physically disabling the use of the shift key.

More clear now?

James, I know what Daniel was talking about, and I understand what he is saying. However, he asked for an explicit reason why Windows would do this - and I simply tried to give him one. 

Windows bashing. Passtime of a Mac user.

And whatever you call this ^^ is apparently the passtime of a Windows user. Being defensive?

Both OSX and Windows have some of their own UX pitfalls. Pointing one out doesn't make anyone a fanboy, put your pitchfork away.