Physical Caps Lock key for mechanical keyboard?
May 12, 2021 10:19 AM   Subscribe

I got myself a mechanical "gamer" keyboard and I like it very much, except for the Caps Lock key. I miss the physical, click-on and click-off caps lock key. It's a Redragon with Outemu Brown switches. Is there a physical caps lock switch that I could swap in?
posted by Tom-B to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Can you describe what you mean by click-on, click-off caps lock key, please? What did your old keyboard do that this one does not?

Do you mean that you don’t like the feel of the mechanical switch specifically for Capslock? Or that the particular layout that you have does not have a dedicated capslock key? The Redragon boards I’m finding have mostly standard layouts, so I’m a bit confused.
posted by Alterscape at 10:34 AM on May 12, 2021

My understanding of the question (please correct me if I'm wrong) is that you want the capslock key to be a mechanical toggle switch that has different amount of travel depending on whether you're engaging or disengaging the casplock function. Like a mechanical typewriter had. But I don't think this is something I've seen on a computer keyboard in decades.

In fact, I don't think that idea is easily compatible with the USB HID model. of how keyboards work. Normally the capslock key just sends a scancode when it's pressed, like any other key, and it's up to the OS to toggle shoutiness in software and/or tell the keyboard to light up that LED. If you had it send a keydown when you pressed it and a keyup when you pressed it a second time to unlock it, that wouldn't toggle it twice. If you found the right kind of mechanical switch, I think you'd still have to hack up your operating system or keyboard firmware to make this work properly.
posted by aubilenon at 10:39 AM on May 12, 2021

Have you asked the nerds at r/mechanicalkeyboards yet?

Past threads there suggest that you want MX Locking Switches, like this:
posted by wenestvedt at 10:51 AM on May 12, 2021 [1 favorite]

You're talking about the fact that some keyboards have a caps lock key that stays partially depressed when in lock mode and comes back to full height when unlocked, right?

My first thought was to check r/mechanicalkeyboards, but it looks like you've done that. :) If there's a way to do it, they'll be the ones to know.

Here's a 5 year old open issue on some random keyboard firmware that might give you a little more info.

Seems like it might be impossible to find one of those locking switches, and then you'd have to get it onto your keyboard, which would almost certainly involve desoldering the existing one and putting the new one in its place, at a minimum.
posted by natabat at 10:57 AM on May 12, 2021

The deskthority link mentioned above says the MX locking switches are no longer available.

If you can find one, you'll need your keyboard's firmware to support it. I know the QMK software that powers most "enthusiast" custom boards supports locking switches, but that excludes prebuilts like your Redragon. (Very few prebuilts run QMK, or can be made to.)

So it's probably doable, but might involve a fair amount of searching and cost. Unless somebody with some Redragon-specific knowledge can contradict me, I don't believe you can swap it in on your current keyboard at all.
posted by Tomorrowful at 10:58 AM on May 12, 2021 [1 favorite]

If you can get your hands on a locking switch, then I'm not sure you would necessarily need to modify the keyboard's firmware. Another option would be to remap the Caps Lock key in your operating system to behave like Shift while it's held down. "Shift Lock" doesn't behave exactly the same as Caps Lock (it also affects numeric and punctuation keys) but maybe it's close enough for your purposes.
posted by teraflop at 11:01 AM on May 12, 2021

Best answer: I work with a lot of antique computer restorers, and locking Caps Lock keys are effectively unobtainium. You'll probably be able to find a used one, but it'll have 30 years of wear and grot on it: plus you'll need to outbid well-heeled collectors who want to complete that perfect computer from their teens. Friends have paid the same for a locking Caps Lock key as the rest of a vintage keyboard.
posted by scruss at 4:32 PM on May 12, 2021 [5 favorites]

It's not available nowadays. Best you can do is live with the status lights.
posted by kschang at 6:19 PM on May 12, 2021

« Older What does one give for a ninetieth birthday?   |   Close quarters at work (You are not my... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.