There is a very handy feature included with Windows that you may have heard about before, but chances are you’ve never used it. We’re talking about the on-screen keyboard; a graphic, working representation of a keyboard that appears on your screen.
While you may think this is something you don’t need, if your keyboard ever suddenly breaks and you need to access your computer, using your on-screen keyboard is the quickest way to get work done in a pinch. There is no doubt of the on-screen keyboard’s usefulness since it had bailed me out when my keyboard failed, and I didn’t have an option to get a new one for a couple of days.
In this guide we will outline how to use the on-screen keyboard in Windows when your physical keyboard stops working as expected.
Finding the On-Screen Keyboard
The on-screen keyboard in Windows has always been a nice feature, but in Windows 7 it got a major upgrade and had several handy features added to it, such as text prediction and a few new key activation options.
The location of the on-keyboard on your hard drive has also moved. It can be found under, “Start > Control Panel > Ease of access > Ease of Access Center.”
Once here, the on-screen keyboard will be found at the top of your screen under the “Quick access to common tools” area. Just click the link that says “Start on-screen keyboard” to fire it up.
In Windows 8, Use the Shortcut “WinKey + W” to open the search function and Type in On-Screen Keyboard. Alternatively, you can Open the Start Screen, right-click on a blank area of the screen and click on All Apps. Under Windows Ease of Acess Options – Click On-Screen Keyboard.
When you click the “Start On-Screen keyboard” link, the on-screen keyboard will appear right away in the middle of your screen.
Also, if your keyboard breaks before you’re able to log into Windows, you can also launch the on-screen keyboard from the “Start Screen” by clicking the round blue circle with a white arrow located in the bottom left-corner on the Start Screen. This will bring up the on-screen keyboard link, as well as links to other Ease of Access tools like text magnifier.
Using the On-Screen Keyboard
After launching the on-screen keyboard, you’ll discover how incredibly easy it is to use. For starters, you can make it bigger or smaller if it’s hard to see by simply clicking and dragging on any of the corners of the keyboard.
When using the on-screen keyboard, you can use it in any Windows application where you need to type. To activate the keys on the on-screen keyboard, you do this by either clicking the key you want with your mouse or by using some other pointing device, such as a digital pen or laser pointer.
In the Windows 7 upgrade of the on-screen keyboard, three methods to use the on-screen keyboard were added. One of the new key activation methods is “hover,” where you “hover your mouse over a key” to “press” it.
Text prediction was also added, similar to what you’d see on a cell phone. Text prediction also has learning capabilities so it can learn the words you use the most and predict them to help you type faster.
To make using the on-screen keyboard easier, Windows also added a “scanning” method in which the keyboard scans through each key, row by row, highlighting each key as it goes along, with you hitting the space bar key when it’s on the key that you want.
Changing the On-Screen Keyboard Settings
If you want to edit any of the “Settings” of the on-screen keyboard, such as if sound is played when you hit they keys or turning on text prediction, hover or keyboard scanning, you will need to go to the “Options menu” to change them. To access the Options menu, “click the Options key” on the right side of the on-screen keyboard.
When you click this key, the Options dialog window will load, showing you it’s full menu for changing the various on-screen keyboard settings. Also in this menu, you can change the speed of the key scanning tool and the hover feature.
There is no denying the usefulness of the on-screen keyboard. It can come to the rescue when you need it the most and it’s also incredibly handy for filling in passwords fields and for signup pages in online games when using the actual keyboard can be a hassle. While it will never replace your physical keyboard, every computer-user should make a point to learn how to use this.
For information on using your physical keyboard better, check out our post – 10 Useful Keyboard Shortcuts That Work In All Web Browsers