If there’s ever been a program feature that made no sense whatsoever to me, it is the impact tha the scroll lock key has on navigation in Microsoft Excel.
Hummmm… Did I say that strongly enough? Probably not, but I’m not going to write those words…
We all know about the Num Lock key and how it locks the keyboard’s keypad into number mode. If you have a keyboard with an attached numeric keypad, the keys default to scroll mode (arrow up, left, down, right, Home, End, etc.). If you press the NumLock key, the keypad locks into numeric mode.
The Scroll Lock key (Scroll Lk) works differently. According to Wikipedia (www.wikipedia.org), the Scroll Lock key is left over from the DOS days. It’s functionality is set by the program your using — and most programs don’t even acknowledge the existance of the Scroll Lock key.
Excel, unfortunately, is one of the few that do.
The original function of the scroll lock key was to modify the arrow keys so that we could quickly scroll through a document. The cursor stayed at the same place on the screen, but the content scrolled screen by screen. Of course, in the world of Microsoft Windows (and other graphical user interfaces like those in Linux and on the Mac), we use the scroll bars to quickly move through documents.
Excel modifies the way the arrow keys work if you’ve turned on the Scroll Lock key. It follows the concept of : if you turn on Scroll Lock and press the right-arrow key, the columns scroll one position to the left. Your selected cell (the active cell) stays the same, though, which means that it quickly shifts out of the window.
Let’s look at this movement in Excel in a sample spreadsheet. In the image on the left, I selected cell B4. Then, I clicked on the scroll lock key, which stays on until you turn it off. Finally, I clicked on the right-arrow key.
Notice that Column A scrolled off the screen. Formerly, the window showed columns A through F. Now they show B through G.
I haven’t figured out any reason that Excel should support this type of movement.
On the other hand, I have seen (and experienced) the confusion that results when someone accidentally turns on the scroll lock key.