How to Use the On-Screen Keyboard in Windows 7 & Windows 8

keyboardIf you need to type without a keyboard, the on-screen keyboard in Windows might be helpful. It allows you to type by using a mouse. You can even set up and use this function without having a keyboard connected to your computer, which can be useful if your keyboard is unavailable. This article will explain how to access the on-screen keyboard, how to operate it, how to use it to log on to a password-protected user account without the use of a physical keyboard, and how to use several of its options including the predictive text function.

NOTE: This guide is useful for PC users who have Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 installed. Most of the screenshots were made in Windows 7 because the differences related to the on-screen keyboard are very minor between these two operating systems. Windows 8.1 also includes a touch-based on-screen keyboard, for devices with touch screens. That keyboard works differently and it will be covered in a separate tutorial.

How Do I Access the On-Screen Keyboard in Windows 7?

An easy way to open the on-screen keyboard in Windows 7 is by hitting the Start button, selecting All Programs, Accessories, Ease of Access, and then finally clicking on the on-screen keyboard as indicated in red below. All of this can be done with a mouse, so the on-screen keyboard can be activated without a physical keyboard being connected to the computer.

On-Screen Keyboard, Windows 7

If you need to access the on-screen keyboard to enter your password in order to log on to Windows 7, this is possible. On the log on screen in the bottom left-hand corner is an "Ease of Access" button, pictured below. Click on this key to access the Ease of Access panel on the log on screen.

On-Screen Keyboard, Windows 7

On this panel, check the box for "Type without the keyboard (On-Screen Keyboard)" and then click on Apply.

On-Screen Keyboard, Windows 7

In about five seconds, the on-screen keyboard will pop up and you will be able to use it to enter your password on the log on screen.

How Do I Access the On-Screen Keyboard in Windows 8?

In Windows 8.1 you can access the on-screen keyboard by going to the Apps view. On the Start screen move the mouse to the bottom left corner of the screen and an arrow pointing downwards is shown. Click on it and the Apps view opens.

On-Screen Keyboard, Windows 8.1

Scroll to the right until you find the "Windows Ease of Access" folder. There you will see the On-Screen Keyboard.

On-Screen Keyboard, Windows 8.1

If you need to use the on-screen keyboard to log in to Windows 8.1, select the user you want to log in with and then press the Ease of Access logo on the bottom-left.

On-Screen Keyboard, Windows 8.1

A menu is shown with several options. Click On-Screen Keyboard.

On-Screen Keyboard, Windows 8.1

Now you can start using the on-screen keyboard.

How do I operate the On-Screen Keyboard?

The on-screen keyboard is used by first opening the program or window you wish to type in. For example, you might open Notepad or your Internet browser of choice. Then, select with the mouse where you want to type; just like you normally would if you were to use a physical keyboard. Make sure the blinking line or cursor that usually indicates where you will be typing in a given window is in place.

On-Screen Keyboard, Windows 7

Then, simply maneuver the cursor over the on-screen keyboard's keys and click them with the mouse. In the example below, the user would move the cursor with the mouse to click the letters on the on-screen keyboard, replicating the line above it.

On-Screen Keyboard, Windows 7

There are also options that allow you to click the keys by hovering over them with the cursor, we will discuss how to turn this on later in the tutorial. Several options can be accessed by clicking on the Options key on the keyboard interface. This key is indicated in green in the picture below.

On-Screen Keyboard, Windows 7

Options Available to Customize the On-Screen Keyboard

When you click the Options key on the keyboard interface, a panel will pop up with several options to customize the on-screen keyboard for your personal use.

If you check the box for "Use click sound" at the top of the Options panel, you will hear an audible clicking noise through your speakers when you click keys on the on-screen keyboard.

On-Screen Keyboard, Windows 7

Directly below this, the "Turn on numeric key pad" box will add a data-entry style number pad to the side of the keyboard interface. This appears as shown below.

On-Screen Keyboard, Windows 7

In order for the numeric keypad to actually display numbers, you must click the NumLock key as indicated in the example below.

On-Screen Keyboard, Windows 7

If you plan to use the on-screen keyboard often, you can set your computer to start-up with the on-screen keyboard already activated once you log on. This can be set up by clicking on the "Control whether the On-Screen Keyboard starts when I log on" link at the bottom of the Options panel.

On-Screen Keyboard, Windows 7

This will bring up a panel, at the top of which is a box that says "Use On-Screen Keyboard" as indicated below. Check this box and your computer will start with the on-screen keyboard already opened for you.

On-Screen Keyboard, Windows 7

The default method for operating the on-screen keyboard is the "Click on keys" option. However, you can instead select "Hover over keys" if you'd prefer to operate the keyboard by having the cursor hover over the keys you wish to click. The "Scan through keys" option allows you to select letters by hitting a button of your choice as the computer scans through the available keys row by row and then key by key. Both of these alternatives have scroll-bars that allow you to customize how long you need to hover over a key or how quickly you scan through the keys.

On-Screen Keyboard, Windows 7

How do I use the Predictive Text function?

The predictive text function works a lot like similar functions featured on smartphones. Check on the box for "Use Text Prediction" in the options panel to activate it.

On-Screen Keyboard, Windows 7

It is recommended that you also check the "Insert space after predicted words" option, as it will save you additional time by automatically hitting the spacebar for you after a word is predicted by the program.

As you type, the function will suggest words that you might be typing at the top of the on-screen keyboard. If you see the word you are attempting to type, click it and the program will instantly complete the word for you. This can help you type longer words more quickly. For example, if you were typing the word "jumps" the predictive text function might catch on to this and provide the word at the top of the on-screen keyboard as indicated below. Then, simply click on the word and it will automatically complete it for you.

On-Screen Keyboard, Windows 7

The On-Screen Keyboard in Windows 8.1 vs Windows 7

The on-screen keyboard in Windows 8.1 works the same as in Windows 7 and it even has exactly the same configuration options. Its looks are slightly different, to adapt better to the Windows 8.1 look-and-feel. Also, it has an additional row with options, on its right side.

On-Screen Keyboard, Windows 8.1

Ner the two columns with special buttons like Home or PgUp that is present also in Windows 7, there is a third column with the following buttons:

  • Nav - minimizes the keyboard and displays one row with keys used to navigate the operating system: Tab, Enter, Space, Up, Down, etc.
  • Mv Up - moves the on-screen keyboard to the top side of the screen.
  • Mv Dn - moves the on-screen keyboard to the bottom side of the screen.
  • Dock - docks the on-screen keyboard to the bottom side of the screen
  • Fade - makes the on-screen keyboard transparent. However, it remains in the background and you can still use it.

On-Screen Keyboard, Windows 8.1

Conclusion

The on-screen keyboard is an alternative to using a physical keyboard to type on a computer. If a user suffers from wrist problems or other factors that keep them from typing normally, this may be an answer to be able to continue typing. It is also a good fix if you do not have a functional keyboard hooked up to your machine. For other tutorials about tools which ease the access to your computer, check the recommendations below.