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Toggle Keys Explained

Harry from Minnesota writes:

What the heck is a toggle key?

Harry, I’m really glad you asked this one! I ignored the word toggle during the first 5 years of using my computer because I had no idea what it was and was too embarrassed to admit it.

In the computer world, the word ‘toggle’ comes up a lot. Basically to toggle means to switch from one setting to another. You can toggle between screens on your computer. There are toggle tools that let you enable and disable Adobe Flash while you are browsing the internet. A toggle key allows you to toggle (ya think?) – or switch – between key functions.

In Windows, there are three toggle keys.


Caps Lock: You can toggle between capitals and lower-case letters.

Num Lock: You can toggle between numbers and no numbers. When the Num Lock is off, then you can use the other functions on the keys instead, i.e. the arrows, Home, End, etc (see chart below).


Scroll Lock: This key isn’t used for much toggling of anything anymore (I personally have never used it). Modern software doesn’t usually support Scroll Lock, but there are exceptions, such as Microsoft Excel. In Excel when the Scroll Lock is off, you go from cell to cell with your arrow keys. With Scroll Lock on, you can scroll the whole page with the arrow keys on the number pad; the cells stay in the same place and don’t scroll with you. You can even turn Scroll Lock on and off from within Excel. Thus, if you happen to find software that works with Scroll lock, you can turn it on and pause what’s on the screen while you scroll, or when it’s off, just scroll normally.

Standard Keyboard:


There you go; toggle keys in a nut shell.

One added note: Sometimes toggle keys can accidentally get turned on (especially the Caps Lock key). If you would like a handy tip on how to be notified as soon as these keys are hit by accident, then click here [1].

Thanks for writing, Harry!

~ Lori Cline