Using an On-Screen Keyboard

by Barry Dysert
(last updated May 23, 2016)


The on-screen keyboard helps those who are somehow challenged when using a traditional mechanical keyboard. The on-screen keyboard lets you use the mouse or some other pointing device to do your typing.

The on-screen keyboard isn't just for those who have problems with traditional keyboards, though. It can also be used to enhance security, for the over-cautious crowd. (If you use a public computer, it may have a keystroke logging program installed on it to record all the keystrokes on the computer. "Keystrokes" on an on-screen keyboard cannot be logged, thereby keeping sensitive information safer.)

To enable the on-screen keyboard, just use Windows' searching capabilities to search for "On-Screen Keyboard." Before you even type the word "Keyboard," you should see a search result for "On-Screen Keyboard," which you should select. This causes a keyboard to be displayed on the screen. (See Figure 1.)

Figure 1. The on-screen keyboard.

The on-screen keyboard looks a bit different from one version of Windows to another. It can be resized by clicking and dragging its edges or corners. You use the keyboard almost like a mechanical keyboard, but you type characters by clicking them. If you need to enter a multi-key sequence (e.g., Ctrl + C to copy selected text to the clipboard), click the modifier key first (i.e., Ctrl) and then click the second one (i.e., C).

The on-screen keyboard has some options that you may find useful, too. Click the "Options" key in the lower right corner of the keyboard. Windows then displays the Options dialog box. (See Figure 2.)

Figure 2. The on-screen keyboard's Options dialog box.

The first checkbox allows you to manage the click sound for whenever you click a key. The next checkbox controls whether the keyboard includes a numeric keypad or not. (See Figure 3.)

Figure 3. The on-screen keyboard with the numeric keypad.

Going back to the Options dialog box, you can determine how a "keystroke" is executed, i.e., by clicking the key or by simply hovering over the key. The "Scan Through Keys" option takes a bit of getting used to. By enabling it, when you click the Space Bar, each row of keys is temporarily highlighted; click the Space Bar while a row is highlighted, and it highlights the first few letters of that row; click the Space Bar again, and it selects a key from what's highlighted. (Use of the Space Bar is, of course, configurable.)

Finally, the "Text Prediction" option works like it does when texting on a cell phone. When you start selecting keys, the top of the keyboard starts showing word predictions. You can then select a predicted word instead of finishing typing your word a character at a time.

You exit the on-screen keyboard by clicking the "X" (close) button in the upper-right corner of the keyboard.

 This tip (11563) applies to Windows 7, 8, and 10.

Author Bio

Barry Dysert

Barry has been a computer professional for over 35 years, working in different positions such as technical team leader, project manager, and software developer. He is currently a software engineer with an emphasis on developing custom applications under Microsoft Windows. When not working with Windows or writing Tips, Barry is an amateur writer. His first non-fiction book is titled "A Chronological Commentary of Revelation." ...


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What is 9 + 5?

2016-05-24 19:20:56

Scott Renz

I thought this would be my solution for making extended ASCII characters since I have no Numlock key or key pad. However, the On-Screen Keyboard will not let me keep the Alt key depressed as I type the remaining numbers of the ASCII character code. It will let me do the ones that just need one digit since the first few would be zeros, but I have no way to make codes from 10 or above. Is there a way to tell it to keep holding the Alt key down?

2016-05-23 09:57:06

Henry Noble

Tip 11563 hardly begins to cover the variations in behavior of the on-screen keyboard (OSK) in Windows 10. Win10 really requires an article of its own. To get the OSK on a Win10 desktop or laptop system, it is necessary to specifically enable it when there is no touchscreen. Ways to do this include "Run OSK", enabling it in ease-of-access settings, or clicking tablet mode in the Notification panel. Tablet mode significantly alters Win10's operation.

When the device has a touchscreen, as with a tablet, the OSK icon automatically appears in the system tray. Clicking it brings up a short keyboard, similar to that on a smartphone where alternate keyboard layouts are used for numbers and special characters.

Not surprisingly, the game changes again with Windows 10 Mobile.

2016-05-23 06:53:51

Shreepad S M Gandhi

Thanks a ton Barry. I must admit, this is one of the few very wonderful sharings by you in this forum.
Thanks again. I have successfully tried typing some part of this comment using the On-Screen keyboard. Enjoyed the experience of hovering.

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