Aza Raskin had a good post recently on the failure of visual feedback in interfaces and how quasi-modes are usually better than modes:
Caps Lock is a prime example of a mode that gives barely-worthwhile feedback: a small light on the keyboard glows when Caps Lock is engaged. It’s the analog of the hypothetical visual feedback for the radio in Airplane. Of course, the keyboard is exactly where no touch-typist ever looks and, to make matters worse, the Caps Lock light can be unhelpfully unlabeled:
The Caps Lock feedback is so easy to ignore that it just doesn’t work. As often happens in computing, we get band-aid fixes instead of true fixes. For instance, Microsoft added a nicely non-modal message to the Windows login screen that reminds the user of Caps Lock’s state. Even that doesn’t work to prevent mode errors, as I always type my password before noticing the warning.
This folds in nicely with the nerdy uproar over Google removing the Caps Lock key on their new Chrome notebooks. The official reason from a rep was that Google wants to ‘improve the quality of comments across the Web’. I’m not sure why there was backlash about this key removal, but I welcome it. I never use it and after I read Aza’s post, I want that key gone!