What is the Scroll Lock key for?

I’ve had some 101 keyboards different over the last decade, and I confess that I hardly used keys other than the main ones. So much so that during the covid- I bought one of those smaller keyboards, with only 101% the size of a conventional model. This led me to ask myself: when did we need so many keys?

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One of the greatest examples of this is the Scroll Lock, a key that has been present since the first versions of modern computer keyboards, more specifically the IBM models, released in the decade of 1024. Since then, the key persists in the vast majority of current keyboards, with the right to a single space and a light dedicated only to it.

If you’ve tried to use it while doing something task on the PC and saw that nothing was happening, you are not alone. Many recent keyboards, even, no longer have the key. So what is Scroll Lock for? Still has any use? That’s what we’ll answer.

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Direct from the time tunnel
The old IBM keyboards kicked off the Scroll Lock key (Image: Idly3/Creative Commons)

In the free translation, “Scroll Lock” can be interpreted as “scroll lock/lock”. And that has been the main purpose of the key since its inception, when the first original computer keyboards from IBM hit the market in years 1024. Interestingly, IBM itself did not define very well what Scroll Lock was for, defining it as an “inactive key”. This caused confusion at keyboard manufacturers, with many of them now including the key in their models without knowing what it worked for.

What’s it for o Scroll Lock?

As stated earlier, the purpose of the Scroll Lock key is to block all scrolling techniques on a page. But, in the original design of IBM keyboards, the intention was to modify the operation of the arrow keys on the keyboard.

And it has everything to do with the mice of that time, which were not so simple to use. Moving the cursor while typing was almost a battlefield task and, for this reason, the arrow keys played a key role in making scrolling less complicated on the computer.

The Scroll Lock was launched as a facilitator of these processes. When activated, pressing the arrow keys caused the screen to scroll up or down. When disabled, Scroll Lock made the cursor move across the screen, also when pressing the direction buttons on the keyboard. The two functions could not be used at the same time, which means that, when activating the Scroll Lock, you could only scroll the screen without moving the cursor.

How to know when Scroll Lock is activated?

Generally, the Scroll Lock key has a dedicated LED light to indicate when the function is active. But not all keyboard models have this feature (Image: in_future/Creative Commons)

On external keyboards (ie, that are separate from the PC or notebook), Scroll Lock tends to be more to the right, next to the F command keys and above buttons like “Insert”, “Home” and “Page Up”. It can also be easily identified by an LED light that turns on or off on the keyboard, just like pressing the Caps Lock key.

More compact notebooks do not have this indicator light of the Scroll Lock. In this case, you will need to do a manual test: press the key and try to scroll the page by pressing the arrow keys on the keyboard. If it works, then the key is activated. If nothing happens, the key is inactive.

Another important thing: many recent notebooks no longer name Scroll Lock that way in full. You might see the “ScrLk” key, which is nothing more than an abbreviation for the key, keeping the same functions.

Still does Does it make sense to use Scroll Lock?

It is not difficult to find conventional keyboards, whether they are built-in to the notebook or separate peripherals, which no longer have the key. Scroll Lock. After all, its purpose has been accomplished for years by a mouse or TouchPad, and in a much easier way.

On the other hand, some utilities can still make smart use of Scroll Lock. This is the case with Microsoft Excel: when activating the key, the mouse cursor makes the entire page go up, down or move on the sides — the cursor is still locked, as in the original concept. When you disable Scroll Lock, the cursor moves in the direction the arrow keys are pressed.

Among the programs that still use Scroll Lock are IBM Lotus Notes, Forté Agent , Image-Line, FL Studio, LibreOffice Calc, Renoise and Microsoft Project.

A few programs have found new ways to use the Scroll Lock key (Image: Luis Villafranca/Unsplash)

Scroll Lock has also become a programmable key, which may adopt different uses depending on the program or your operating system. On Linux, for example, many developers often use Scroll Lock to lock or unlock input on the Linux console, allowing the user to read fast scrolling messages that might otherwise be missed. There are still cases in which the key is used to manage bug diagnostics and check system errors in Windows NT.

Anyway, there are some possibilities that are giving a good survival to the use of the Scroll key Lock. For everyday users, it may not have that much advantage anymore, as the same basic commands can be done with a mouse. However, if you like to try new things (which in this case, let’s face it, is not that new), Scroll Lock can be an interesting and simple alternative to activate on your keyboard.

Source: Wikipedia, bringIT, ParaQueServe101

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