Die, NumLock, Die!

Why do we still have this stupid NumLock key on modern keyboards? Who still uses it with all of the unlocked keys duplicated about half a centimeter to the left? Hello? Keyboard designers? Please get rid of it now. Everybody hates seeing the cursor go crazy when all they wanted to do was to type a number.
Now, the people who design keyboards at Microsoft have recently come up with a new way to torture us: the F Lock key. They've decided that we needed new fixed function keys for common tasks such as save or print. This is all very well and I'm sure that having access to these functions with just one keystroke and without having to know complex ctrl key combinations is very useful to disabled persons. But why did they have to put these on our function keys?? Just add new keys, but don't replace useful keys that we're used to. Of course, the new key meanings are on by default and you need to hit F Lock to restore the old F keys. And naturally, every time you reboot, you have to hit it again.
Die, F Lock, die!
Actually, why not make these lock keys real switches if you really want to keep them? After all, they're a matter of personal preference that you just want to set once and forget about. So they could be real switches that you can't accidentally hit. That would be so much better, and it would get rid of the stupid problem that wireless keyboards have which is that they can't display the status of these keys for power consumption reasons.
Well, in fact, they could also be software settings in the keyboard drivers for all I know.
Finally, what's with the PrtScn key? Whenever I want to do a screen copy, I have to figure out some strange combination of F Lock, Ctrl, Alt and Shift to get the right result. And what does SysRq mean? Does any application still react to ScrLk?
Last minute: To get your F keys back, try this: http://www.mvps.org/jtsang/flock.html


  • Because it is usefull

  • Well said! Well said! I particularly HATE the F Lock key!

  • WOW I am having the exact same problem with 'PrintScrn'


  • Jack: I'm really genuinely interested. What is the Num Lock key useful for?

  • I hate it too, but its useful for users who don't know the shortcut keys Ctrl + P is print.

  • my issue is why doesnt Print Screen actually PRINT THE SCREEN...

    I dont see a key on my keyboard that says COPY SCREEN TO CLIPBOARD SO YOU HAVE TO PASTE IN PAINT THEN YOU CAN PRINT SCREEN key...

    I dont even think they could fit all that onto a half inch square key...

    Die, F Lock!

  • What's with the new delete key, too? Why can't you get a normal keyboard anymore?

  • Death to the F key. My keyboard has this and I hate it with a passion. If it wasn't off by default I would hate it a little less but the hate would still be there... Anyone know of a good non-MS natural keyboard?

  • I strongly dislike the way that many keyboards do not have the same placement of important keys, such as the backslash, which can either be placed above or below the return key, or the delete and insert keys which can either be placed above the cursor keys or at the top-right-hand corner of the keyboard on many laptops... At least use the same general layout!

    On laptops, the NumLock key is important because they don't have number pads, so it allows you to use certain keys on the main keyboard as a number pad... but because of the way many laptop keyboards are laid out, this is not always useful either.


  • Keys I have never seen any use for are the Scroll Lock key and the Pause / Break key.

    Has anyone ever had anything useful happen by pressing those keys?

    Anyhow, this is about the NumLock key. I use it. Most times it is turned off, because I tend to use the keypad for navigation. I will occaisonaly turn it on if I need to do extended number entry.


  • James: of course it's useful on laptops, and should be kept on these devices, but on ordinary large keyboards that have a real numeric pad, it's totally useless. By the way, Num Lock on a laptop does not have the exact same meaning as the numeric pad is not separated and thus the keys it replaces are not the same.

    In other words, Num Lock on desktop duplicates keys that we already have (and is off by default, although Windows now retains its state on reboots) whereas on laptops, it replaces other unique keys.

  • John: I think this is really interesting. I'd like to understand why you use the numeric pad for navigation instead of the dedicated arrow keys just next to it?

  • The only key I really hated (that's past tense indeed) was the caps lock key. I used a keyboard remapper tool to map it to cntrl :) I'm not sure but perhaps you can remap numlock as well :)

  • you think that's annoying? try working regularly with a keyboard that doesn't have a keypad (instead uses the mjkluio789 keys for 0123456789 respectively), and which supports multiple servers - switching between screens using a KVM switch can often leave you wondering why the hell your account is getting locked out when you *know* you've got the password right - all because the numlock status varies from server to server! I fail to see why this needs to happen when there is a perfectly serviceable numeric row at the top of the keyboard. Thank god for registry settings.

  • Scroll Lock can be used in Excel. Try it and arrow around on the spreadsheet :)

  • I use the numeric keypad for number entry and for navigation, frobbing NumLock as required.

    I do this because I've been doing it for the last twenty years, because it works for me, and because I have better things to do with my time than retrain my brain to use this week's arrow-key-location fad.

  • If you use the numeric pad for one feature and only occasionaly switch to the other you can just use the Shift key (i.e. if your Numlock is off then num keys with Shift will type in numbers).

    You can use the Pause/Break key to pause some games and if you hold down the Win key and hit Pause/Break you will get System Properties (which I use to start Device Manager when I need it).

  • Absolutely agree !!! Moreover, it's impossible to unlock F keys on starting even with the keyboard driver (Natural Multimedia keyboard). Otherwise, i'm lucky my numpad is always unlocked :).

  • I learnt how to type on an Amstrad keyboard that had no directional keys, and I had to joystick. So I learnt how to use directional keys on the numeric keyboard. If I want numbers I type them using the number keys.

    I agree about F lock though. I keep meaning to search for a way to permanently leave it on.

  • It'd be nice if the Numlock status could be based on which usb-based keyboard you have attached. On my tablet PC having numlock on with the detachable keyboard remaps part of the alphabet, so I can't type my password in, but when it is attached to the docking station I use a full size keyboard with a numeric keypad and I like numlock to be on all the time since I use it to enter IP addresses etc.

    Basically I want numlock ON when I have a numeric keypad available and OFF when I don't.

    The only thing I use the Break key for is when running VB6 programs through the IDE. Pressing CTRL-BREAK causes it to break straight away.

    I have an optical desktop elite so I have the dreaded F-Lock key. It truely is useless and annoying, it wouldn't be so bad if it could be controlled through software like num-lock, but since it is not a real key and merely a hardware setting you always have to remember to turn it off every time you start up the computer.

    I've never used scroll-lock for anything, except now it is the same key as break I keep pressing it when I don't know if F-Lock is on or not.

  • Ah numlock. What a pain on notebooks, when Windows decides that it's a good idea to have numlock on after boot. When you don't notice. And get locked out of your account because you have a letter in your password that corresponds to the numeric keypad embedded in your laptop keyboard.

    Note that you can fix this, with a registry edit

    If you go to HKEY_USERS\.DEFAULT\Control Panel\Keyboard the flags in IntialKeyboardIndicators control the intial state of num lock, caps lock and scroll lock after boot.

    0 - All off

    1 - Caps Lock on

    2 - Num Lock on

    3 - Caps Lock on and Num Lock on

    4 - Scroll Lock on

    5 - Caps Lock on and Scroll Lock on

    6 - Num Lock on and Scroll Lock on

    7 - Caps Lock on, Num Lock on, and Scroll Lock on

  • DEATH TO THE FLOCK KEY Just to chime in, god I hate that thanks though to the links to keep them permanently off.

    No one has seemed to mention my other absolute hate The one I hate so much anytime I see a keyboard with it I take it apart and inject silicon in between the contacts under the rubber mat. A Shut down key. Seen these stupid things a key on your keyboard you press and your computer starts shutting down right away. After the 3rd time I lost a crap load of work by accidentally hitting the shut down key is when I started using silicon to completely disable that key permanently. I mean do people really need a shut down to be a simple keypress they can't click Start and shutdown, what it takes too much time?

  • What all of this feedback seems to indicate (other than the universal hate for the F Lock key) is that we need a harware or software switch to permanently set the state of some of the keys (namely, F Lock, Num Lock and shut down/sleep).

    Oh, by the way, who hates sticky keys too?

  • I could live very well with a keyboard without the arrow keys and the other keys between main part of the keyboard and the number pad ;-) I prefer navigation on the number pad; when I rest my middle finger on the "5" key, I can reach all the keys I need by moving only my fingers.

    If I use the arrow keys and the 6 keys above, I have to move the whole hand, which is much less efficient when editing text (or am I just using the keys the wrong way?) And when using the numeric keypad, I can use more fingers of my right hand (e.g. thumb, small finger). Also, I have a couple of macros for expanding/collapsing regions assigned to the numeric + and - keys.

    I must admit that I never use the number pad for actually entering numbers. Maybe it's because I rarely need to enter numbers, or maybe because the key layout is different from that of a phone.

  • One thing I had not thought about and that could explain why I use the numeric pad so much, and why native english speakers don't is that on french keyboards, you have to use shift to access the numbers on the main part of the keyboard. It makes the numeric pad a necessity much more than on a qwerty keyboard.

    I guess that makes the num lock key much more annoying for people who have learned to type on azerty and similar keyboards.

  • I had a natural keyboard knock off once, it had all remapped arrow/home/etc keys -- and right beside the left ctrl key was the sleep button. No kidding. So I actually one day unplugged this and smashed it against the floor, repeatedly. In my hunt for a new natural keyboard (I was overseas and couldn't get an ms or logitec one) I found a second brand. It had all normal mappings it seemed, however when I checked for the 'sleep beside undo' problem I noticed, and this is no joke, I may still have a photo -- the power off key.

    Obviously that keyboard designer has moved up in the world, and now we have FLock. The worst part of that is the logic probably went, "if we allow people to disable it, then everyone will and no one will get used to my wonderful feature". If it was for the sake of new users, I hope they convinced the software side to rewrite all the help docs that say "press F1 for Help", etc. Terminally stupid.

  • Scroll lock is often used in unix to scroll up the console.

    Print Screen is a good key to have, hit printscreen, go into photoshop and ctrl+v. Instant screenshot.

    I'm not sure why some of these people are having trouble with PrtScn... you press the key... ooooh tough. No key combo required.

  • Cathartik: from memory, how do you take a screenshot of the current window? Anyway, you missed the point: on these newer keyboards with the ridiculous F-key, just hitting the print screen key does not work, you need a key combination to get it to work. Please don't make fun of people unless you're sure you understood what they were talking about (thank you so much for teaching me what the print screen key is for).

  • I really really... really really hate f-lock. I use the print screen key often and have one of these stupid keyboards. I can't get the print screen key to work at all, what is this combination.

    To make things worse the knockoff keyboard I have doesn't let you turn on f-lock until windows is booting for some reason... so you guessed it, I need a different keyboard to get bios or safe mode, yay!

    About the num-lock key, I used those numbers frequently and I hate it when I turn numlock off and instead of typing my cursor flies all over the screen. I need to disable that...

    I've also been a victim of the sleep and power down keys, instead of silicon I just took them out and crushed them.

    The last annoying thing has already been mentioned, the forward slash under enter and to the right of shift, arrrrrrrg! Not much fun when you trying to create html and type in a URL. Although, I did learn ninja fast speeds at hitting delete to remove mistaken slashes and carriage returns.

  • F##k! I'm going crazy! I bought a new microsoft wireless keyboard (700), finally without the damned F-BLOCK key, but now, I can't use combos with CTRL+ALT+SHIFT, so I lost many shortcuts, such as the "save for web" on photoshop [ctrl+alt+shift+s] or I can't write the "{" anymore [ctrl+alt+shif+è]... Die microsoft, DIE!

  • Do you guys want some cheese with that whine?

  • Keyboard: Microsoft Ergonomic 4000

    I thought F-lock would be an issue but it really is not – it stays on and the light at the bottom of the keyboard is both visible and unobstrusive. But what to make of the key functions themselves?

    “Close” – F6 – is a ctrl-F4, not an alt-F4. The ergonomic layout now makes either of these combinations ergonomically painful, so I mapped one of my 5 “favorite” buttons to do alt-F4, and occasionally turn the F-lock off if I need repeated ctrl-F4’s.

    “Send” – F9 – does not “send/receive” in Outlook. F9 does. Which F-key? Why, it’s the one with “Send/F9” written on it. So I get the benefit of the new function without actually resorting to that function.

    I have yet to figure any rational purpose for the other “alternate” functions. Why was is it so hard to use ctrl-Z, ctrl-P, ctrl-S, that they had to give them their own keys?

    Thanks for the tip on Excel and Scrlk.

    Thanks for the original rant, too. PrtScn,Sysrq,Scrlk,Pause,Break have always been a mystery. Num-lock drives my coworkers nuts.

  • Not to be stupid but, what is the exact combo for getting the print screen (PrtScn) button to work with the microsoft wireless optical desktop 4000? I have been trying every combination for an hour now and I am getting really frustrated?

    I used to use that button constantly back when it was truly just "one button"

  • Don't ask me...

  • To use PrtScn, press 'F Lock' to turn it off, then hit CTRL-PrtScn, and the picture will have been copied to the clipboard.

    (This works on my keyboard anyway)


  • AM: err, thanks. I think you're missing my point here but thanks.

  • Just break the damn keyboard on your desk like I do.

  • Couple of comments:
    I have a different problem with numlock. Some of the older VMS editors used that key (called the GOLD key) extensively in editing. I plan to rework my editing options (I don't use that editor much any more, but occasionally it is useful) to make the keyboard / into the gold key instead, since the numlock key always toggles numlock, in addition to passing the escape sequence into the Alpha.
    There is a nice freeware utility I use (printkey) which I have configured so that when I hit printscreen (alone) it is possible to drag-select a rectangular portion of the screen to import into printkey. It can then be copied to clipboard, printed , saved as a gif, and modified (e.g. interchange black and white). Very useful.

  • , thanks Josh! Maybe because you go writing comments you should figure out how to read a post.

  • I just got told that the SysRq-key in kombination with Alt and a letter key is used i Linux OS to make some qiuck commands

  • Does anyone know where the num key is that is used for visual studio along with "-" to collapse all tree. I have an hp pavilion laptop and I can't figure out how to do it!

  • Part of the problem is that there are just far too many hotkeys in programs. One minor slip of the finger and you can easily set off some command that you never intended.

  • I agree, i type numbers all day at my work, and it would be so much better to replace that bastard num lock key with a second backspace key. I think about it every day.

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