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Hacking the Caps Lock Key Part 1

Configuring shortcuts to switch between applications using the caps lock key – e.g. Opening Skype with “Caps lock + S”

capslock_kind_like_that

I’ve learned about and adopted many productivity hacks ever since I started working here at Jana. Today I’d like to share one of my favorite and most heavily used hack. If you aren’t a Mac user, this blog post unfortunately won’t be of much use unless you’re thinking of finally making the long overdue switch :p

Before I adopted this hack, I never used the caps lock key. Why do keyboards still come with the caps lock key? Who uses the caps lock key? I’ve yet to find answers to these questions.

However, pretty much useless as it may be, the caps lock key does occupy prime keyboard real estate. Why waste a key with so much potential?

Disabling caps lock and mapping it to F19 with Seil

  • https://pqrs.org/osx/karabiner/seil.html.en
  • Download and install Seil (formerly PCKeyboardHack)
  • Check the “Change the caps lock key” option and set the keycode to 80seil
  • Make sure you follow the instructions in orange and change the caps lock key to “No Action” in the Mac keyboard settings
  • The caps lock key is now mapped to the F19 key (keycode 80) which doesn’t exist on your keyboard

Mapping F19 to “Hyper” with Karabiner

  • https://pqrs.org/osx/karabiner/
  • Download and install Karabiner (formerly KeyRemap4MacBook)
  • Open Karabiner, click “Misc & Uninstall”, and open private.xmlkarabiner
  • Edit and save the xml file so it looks like the following

  • Open Karabiner, click “Change Key”, reload the XML, and select the new “F19 to F19” option we just added
  • f19_to_f19
  • The caps lock key (F19) is now configured so that it is the same as holding down Control+Shift+Command+Option (aka the “Hyper” key) when used with another key, and behaves the same way as the Escape key when used on its own

Configuring “Hyper+character” shortcuts with Quicksilver

  • https://qsapp.com/download.php
  • Download and install Quicksilver
  • Select “Triggers” from the Quicksilver menu
  • quicksilver
  • Click the “+” button at the bottom and select “Hot Key”
  • Type in the name of the application you want to create a shortcut for and leave the Action as “Open”
  • slack_setting
  • Double click on where it says “None” under “Trigger” for your applicationslack_hotkey
  • Hold down the caps lock key and enter the character you want to use for the shortcut (I’m using “Hyper(caps lock)+S” for my Slack example)
  • slack_hotkey_setting
  • Now you should be able to open and switch to your application with the new shortcut!
  • Here is what my shortcuts look like:yohei_shortcuts

Conclusion

I’m sure a lot of people already utilize shortcuts and have their own hacks. Even for switching between applications, Mac already comes with Command+Tab and Spotlight. I’ve never tried it, but I’ve also heard of paid productivity applications like Alfred that are widely used. However, I just wanted to share this free alternative that has helped me save many many hours. Even if it’s half a second faster than using Spotlight, these half seconds add up and become minutes, hours, and even days. I hope people find this useful and please let me know of any other useful productivity hacks!

Most of the material in this post was taken from and inspired by Brett Terpstra’s blog post and Steve Losh’s post.

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  1. Hacking the Caps Lock Key Part 2 | Jana Technology