What is the name of the concept or type of key used in shifting characters on a mobile device?

Many common virtual keyboards used in cellphones and advanced mobile devices use a certain paradigm for dealing with shifted characters:

  1. Hitting shift once results in it being depressed for one character - i.e. until the next regular keypress
  2. Hitting shift a second time locks the shift key indefinitely through multiple keypresses, as with Caps Lock.
  3. Hitting shift a third time undoes the lock from the second press.

What is it called when the shift key is used this way? Is it called both "Shift" and "Caps Lock" at the same time? It has some similarities to the StickyKeys system used by Windows - is it called a "sticky" system of some sort? Is it a "Shift Lock" or a "Sticky Lock?"

  • I would say it's just a context-sensitive key. The "first" time you hit the key could be defined as #1="No context", in which case it turns Caps on for the next keypress. The other two possibilities are #2="Waiting for single capitalisable keypress" and #3="In Caps Lock mode". Commented Apr 24, 2014 at 22:21
  • I would still call it a shift key. It is not all that uncommon for a key to have a different function if double-clicked than if single-clicked. After all, the shift key on most virtual keyboards does not just react to a second click when activated: it reacts to a double click specifically. If you wait too long and the double-click time limit is exceeded, the second click just deactivates the 'normal' shift key without caps lock ever even entering the picture. Commented Apr 25, 2014 at 0:20

2 Answers 2


It is a toggle rather than a key. Keys and buttons rebound on their own, toggles do not, they flip to the other state.


I believe what you are describing is vary similar to sticky keys. I don't believe it has a specific name, however. So I would call it sticky keys.

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