Why Do Keyboards Have Two Shift Keys?

Regardless of the type of keyboard you’re using, there’ll always be two shift keys, one on the left and the other on the right side. However, many people only use one Shift key when typing. So, why do keyboards have two shift keys?

Keyboards have two shift keys because it keeps you from breaking your hand placement when typing. You can press the left shift key to capitalize the letters or use symbols on the right side of the keyboard. Since you’re using both hands to type, having two shift keys will help you type faster.

If you’re only using one of the shift keys on your keyboard, your typing speed has a lot of room for improvement.

We’ll talk about the advantages of using both shift keys when typing. Keep reading to learn more about the shift keys and why keyboards always have two shift keys.

A standard computer keyboard top view.

Double Shift Keys Make It Easier To Type

The main reason there are two shift keys on a keyboard is that it helps make typing easier and more natural.

When typing on a keyboard, you use an imaginary line in the middle of the keyboard to determine which hand to use to press the keys. 

Your left hand shouldn’t extend to the right to press P, and you shouldn’t use your right hand to press Q. Doing so would not only make typing an uncomfortable task but also drastically reduce your typing speed.

During typing, you can go one of two ways to capitalize a letter

  • Type that letter while the CAPS LOCK is on. 
  • Type that letter while holding down the shift key. 

If the letters or symbols you want to capitalize are on the right side of the keyboard, you should use the left shift key.

If the key is on the left, holding down the right shift key will help you be more fluid and type faster because your hands stay within their comfortable positions.

By doing this, you don’t have to break the position of your hands when typing.

It’s easier to press the right shift key with your right pinky finger and the Q key with your left index or pinky finger (depending on how you trained to type) than to use your left pinky and left index to press both keys.

It’ll help you save a lot of time when typing because you won’t have to look at the keyboard just to bring your fingers back on the home keys.

This is especially true if you’re touch typing — a typing style where you press the keys without looking at the keyboard.

Improper use of the shift keys can lead to increased chances of typographical errors that can affect your output.

Aside from this, improper use of shift keys can also increase your chances of developing repetitive strain injury (RSI) caused by an unnatural typing position.

Extending your hand to the other side of the keyboard adds unnecessary strain to your wrists. Pressing keys that are close together can also strain your wrist. The longer you type, the more stress your wrist experiences, which can lead to developing RSI.

It’s already a prevalent issue for typists and programmers who spend long hours typing on a keyboard, even with proper positioning.

So improper typing can only increase the risk even further. That’s why using both shift keys when typing is highly recommended.

Should You Really Use Both Shift Keys When Typing?

Using both shift keys is not a prerequisite to becoming a faster typist. Many people type just as fast without using both shift keys.

However, computer keyboards were designed to make typing as fluid as possible without adding unnecessary stress to a user’s fingers or wrists.

If you’ve been using a computer keyboard for years, you’ve already trained yourself on a specific typing style. 

Suppose you’ve only noticed that you’re only using one of the shift keys to type and would want to teach yourself how to use both.

In that case, you’d have to exert a lot of effort to untrain yourself and retrain your muscles and fingers to ensure they’re always in their proper position.

Although there’ll be some advantages to retraining yourself, you can do it if you feel like exerting additional effort will be worth it to improve your typing speed.

However, if you’re learning to type, you should learn the proper way to make it easier to use a keyboard.

It’s much easier to learn the proper typing position earlier than to retrain yourself later. Once you’ve gotten used to typing a certain way, going against your muscle memory is an uphill task.

Remember, the main goal is to make typing as comfortable and fluid as possible. Being able to type faster is only one of the benefits that you can get from proper finger positioning.

As mentioned, some self-taught typists are just as efficient when typing, even without using both shift keys.

So even if using both shift keys is recommended to help you type faster, it’s not a prerequisite.

After all, if you’re already comfortable with your typing style and feel like your typing speed is good enough for your tasks, you’re already getting the most out of your computer keyboard.

Proper Finger Placement When Typing

When using a keyboard, there’s an imaginary line down the middle of the keyboard, which helps you determine which hand should press a key.

That line sits between the 5, T, G, and B keys and the 6, Y, H, and N keys.

You should type the keys to the left of this imaginary line with your left hand and those to the right with your right hand. It’s not a prerequisite to fast typing because some people can type fast without using this imaginary line. 

However, if you can train yourself to follow this technique, your tasks will be much easier and more comfortable.

You can also use this imaginary line to determine which shift key you should use when typing.

If you need to use the shift key for any of the keys before the 5, T, G, and B keys, use the right key to avoid breaking the position of your fingers. Pressing the left shift key is recommended if you are pressing one of the keys that follow the 6, Y, H, and N keys.

Another tip that you can follow to improve your typing speed is to train yourself to always bring your fingers back to the home keys. Learning how to do it may take more effort because you’ll have to rely on subtle differences on the keyboard.

However, being comfortable with the home key technique will drastically improve your typing speed.

Here are the “home keys” for both your hands:

Left FingersLeft Home KeysRight FingersRight Home Keys
IndexFIndexJ
MiddleDMiddleK
RingSRingL
PinkyAPinky;

When looking at these keys, you’ll notice that the F and J keys have subtle bumps that aren’t present on any other keys.

These are called “assistive keys” that make it easy for people to bring their fingers back to the home keys without looking at the keyboard.

Touch typing refers to a style where you use your “touch” to determine the position of the keys on the keyboard. The assistive keys make it easier for you to do so without looking at the keyboard. 

Again, this is more of a “best practice” when typing and not something you must master to type efficiently.

Following these basic tips when using a keyboard makes it easier to understand the importance of having two shift keys.

The things we’ve discussed so far only make having two shift keys more important for many people.

Other Functions of Shift Keys

Aside from helping you be more comfortable and fluid when typing, shift keys have many other functions that can help you use your computer more efficiently.

Let’s talk about the other functions you can perform using the shift key and a combination of other keys.

Shift Keys Help Activate Shortcut Functions

These hidden functions require you to use keys located on the left and right sides of the keyboard. Having a shift key on each side makes it easier for you to trigger these hidden functions.

Additionally, it’ll be easier for you to navigate your computer more efficiently and complete your tasks faster.

You won’t have to go through a program’s settings to activate these functions, which can reduce the time you need to work on your tasks.

Here are some shortcut keys that require a shift key:

  • Shift + cursor keys when using a text editor will allow you to select or highlight specific parts of the text that you want to delete or edit. You can use either shift key, but the easiest way to do it is to use the left shift key because you’ll be using your right hand to navigate through the document.
  • Shift + Windows Key + Left/Right will allow you to move your active window to another screen. This shortcut only works if you have a system with multiple monitors. The Windows key is on the left side of the keyboard, so it will be easier for you to use the left shift key.
  • Ctrl/CMD + Shift + Tab works when using a browser. It allows you to switch to another active tab on your browser. For this shortcut, using the right Ctrl + Shift keys will be easier than using three left fingers to press all the keys on the left side.
  • Ctrl/Cmd + Shift + N when using a browser is a shortcut to open a new window in incognito (private browsing).
  • Ctrl/Cmd + Shift + T when using a browser will re-open your previously closed tab, which is extremely useful when you accidentally close a tab.
  • Shift + Delete a selected file permanently removes the file from your computer without going through the recycle bin. It’ll still notify you to approve the action, but you must be careful because there’s no way to retrieve a permanently deleted file.

As you may have noticed, the key combinations are on both sides of the keyboard. Having shift keys on the left and right sides of the keyboard makes it easier to trigger these shortcuts without going through the settings and finding each of them.

Following the recommended finger placement for your keyboard, you can use the right shift keys whenever you need to press a key on the left side.

This also includes the other special function keys like the Alt and Ctrl/Cmd keys.

You Can Use the Shift Key in Lieu of a Faulty Caps Lock Key

Another very useful setting you can change in your computer is to replace the caps lock key with the shift key. The caps lock key allows you to type in all caps without holding the shift key. 

However, other keyboards may start to be faulty and send incorrect input to the computer, forcing you to type in all caps.

If you’re dealing with a faulty keyboard, you can temporarily adjust your settings to allow the shift keys to enable or disable the caps lock key. Here’s how you can change the settings for it:

  1. Press the Windows key + R.
  2. Copy and paste this into the input box: Rundll32 Shell32.dll,Control_RunDLL input.dll,,{C07337D3-DB2C-4D0B-9A93-B722A6C106E2}.
  3. Go to Advanced Key Settings.
  4. Go to the “To turn on Caps Lock” section, then select “Press the SHIFT key.”
  5. Click Apply, then OK to save your settings.

Although this will allow you to use your keyboard properly, it’s not the ideal setup because you won’t be able to use the shift keys to activate the symbols on the number row or other secondary keys. Still, it can help you finish your task without replacing your keyboard immediately.

Conclusion

There are two shift keys on the keyboard because it helps a user type faster and makes typing more comfortable.

With these shift keys, it will be easier to press every key on the keyboard while minimizing the strain on your fingers or wrist.

You don’t have to use both shift keys if you’re already comfortable with your typing style.

However, if you’re still practicing and want better typing speed, consider using both shift keys to help you be more fluid when typing.