Since Windows 8, Microsoft’s operating system has been the home of not just one but two virtual keyboards, each with its specific purpose. The On-Screen Keyboard was designed for Ease of Access purposes whereas the Touch keyboard was simply thrust into Windows 8 as part of the OS’s general turn towards touch-based screens and devices like tablets.
Both keyboards can be extremely useful and there is a multitude of reasons to use them. Though my usual case scenario revolves a couch, a laptop connected to the TV, and an unbeatable sense of laziness, the virtual keyboards can help you in a pinch when your keyboard breaks down as you can use them in almost any area, including the login screen.
The On-Screen Keyboard
Our article on the On-Screen Keyboard of Windows 8.1 covers most of the things you should know about this virtual keyboard and most of the settings have remained the same in Windows 10. The only difference is that you can now enable this keyboard by going to Settings > Ease of Access > Keyboard and turning the very first toggle to the “On” position.
One thing to remember is that this is the most advanced virtual keyboard that Windows has to offer as it can technically replace a physical one. Not only does it include most of the keys you would find on a standard keyboard, it also supports additional features such as text prediction and even the ability to use it with a video game controller.
This keyboard is meant to be used in touch-enabled devices yet it is easily accessible to everyone. To activate it, right-click on your Taskbar and select the “Show touch keyboard button” option. This will place the touch keyboard’s icon in your system tray so you just have to click on it in order to activate it. While you can use the keyboard just about anywhere, it will automatically close when you open the Start menu. While you can still use the touch keyboard on Start, you will have to launch the menu first and then click on the touch keyboard’s button. The keyboard also closes whenever you press a key on your actual keyboard so keep that in mind.
By default, the touch keyboard is docked to the bottom of the screen but that is not exactly convenient as it takes up a huge part of the display. Clicking on the icon right next to the “X” button will let you undock it and place it anywhere you want. Unlike the On-Screen version, there is no way to resize this keyboard.
Basically, the only reason why you might want to use this keyboard is that it features three distinct layouts. To access them, click on the language button (e.g. ENG) and you will see all of them. Aside from the normal view, you can split the keyboard into two or three parts (depending on your configuration) to make typing easier when you have to hold the device with both hands. The third mode lets you draw letters instead of typing them out and while it is not incredibly useful, it can be pretty fun.
The Touch Keyboard’s settings can be found in Settings > Devices > Typing but they will only appear if you actually have a touch-enabled device. In normal computers, you will only see options about spelling but they are generalized for Windows. The menu offers several options, including a feature that automatically enables the keyboard in windowed apps. Enabling the “Add the standard keyboard layout as a touch keyboard option” toggle will add one more keyboard layout which you can access like I told you before.