The Caps Lock key is outdated and mostly useless. Most people will only ever trigger it accidentally. Google replaced the Caps Lock key with a Search key on its Chromebooks, and you can do the same thing on Windows.
There are ways to do this sort of thing with AutoHotkey, but we’ll show you how to do it without needing any third-party software running in the background.
If this doesn’t sound useful to you and you just want to get rid of your Caps Lock key, you could disable the Caps Lock key entirely.
Remap Caps Lock
Even if you were using AutoHotkey to do this, the Caps Lock key won’t work quite right if you associate an event with it. it’s best to remap the Caps Lock key to another key entirely. When you press the Caps Lock key on your keyboard, your computer will behave as if you pressed another key.
You could do this by remapping the key manually in the registry – in fact, we’ve explained just how registry key remapping works. But you can do this faster with a third-party key-remapping utility. We’ll be using SharpKeys, which you can download for free.
Install SharpKeys, open it, and click the Add button to add a new key remapping.
Map the key “Special: Caps Lock” to a key you don’t use. For example, very few people use the F10 key for anything, so we’ll map Caps Lock to “Function: F10”. If you use F10, you may want to select a different F-key you never use.
Click the Write to Registry button and SharpKeys will write the key remapping to the registry, doing the dirty work for you.
You’ll have to log out and log back in (or restart your computer) for your changes to take effect.
Create a Search Shortcut
We’ll now need to create a shortcut we can trigger with the F10 key. This can be on your desktop or in your Start menu – either open your Desktop folder in Windows Explorer or open your Start menu, right-click All Programs, and select Open to open the Start menu’s programs folder in Windows Explorer.
Right-click in the folder, point to New, and select Shortcut.
We’re creating a Chrome OS-style shortcut that searches Google, so we would enter http://google.com/ into the location box.
However, you can enter anything you want here. If you wanted to search Bing or DuckDuckGo, you could enter their website addresses. You could even have the key open a program, a folder on your computer, or another website – it’s up to you.
Name the shortcut whatever you like – this part doesn’t matter. We’ll name it Search Google.
Right-click the shortcut you just created and select Properties.
Click the Shortcut key box and press the Caps Lock key. You’ll see “F10” (or whatever other key you remapped the Caps Lock key to) appear in the box. Click OK to save your changes.
Whenever you press the Caps Lock key, the Google search page will open and you can immediately start typing a search query.
If you would like to undo these changes, you can open SharpKeys, delete the key mapping, and click “Write to Registry.” Your Caps Lock key will behave normally after you log out or restart your computer. You can then delete the shortcut you created.
Image Credit: Carol Rucker on Flickr
Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.
- Published 03/11/13