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How do you feel about typing on your Windows 8 tablet touchscreen? Are you comfortable with it, or do you want more features? Perhaps you’re more interested in disabling the keyboard entirely, so you can use a hardware keyboard.

One of the strengths of Windows 8 is its use as a tablet operating system. Part of this strength is the flexibility of the touch keyboard, something that has been enhanced in Windows 8.1, making favourable comparisons with the software keyboards on other platforms.

Windows 8 Touch Keyboard Basics

Typing with the Windows 8 touch keyboard is quite a basic experience, one that has been improved in Windows 8.1 to include autocomplete and child keys (to create characters that would perhaps require SHIFT on a hardware keyboard).

The touchscreen keyboard should open whenever a text field comes into focus. This might be the search tool on Windows 8, the browser, a social networking tool What You Need to Know About Native Social Networking Tools In Windows 8 What You Need to Know About Native Social Networking Tools In Windows 8 Whenever you switch to a new operating system there are always a few new things to learn – and with Windows 8, the learning curve has increased considerably with the new user interface and built-in... Read More or composing a new email, among many other things.

muo-w8-keyboard-w8-touch

Using the touchscreen keyboard, you will see that there is a SHIFT key for upper case characters, the &123 button to display numbers and punctuation and a pair of arrows, left and right, that can be used for scrolling or moving the cursor. You’ll also notice a CTRL key – the copy, cut and paste keyboard shortcuts of CTRL+C, CTRL+X and CTRL+V are all available, as are the undo/redo combination of CTRL+Z and CTRL+Y. In fact, all Windows 8 keyboard shortcuts can be entered on the touchscreen keyboard.

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Various configuration options are available to get the keyboard working the way you want it.

muo-w8-keyboard-settings

You can access these in Windows 8.1 by opening the Charms bar, selecting Settings > Change PC Settings > PC and Devices > Typing.

Here you will find spellcheck functions, feedback options and even the ability to add the standard keyboard layout (the one seen on a hardware keyboard) as a touch keyboard option. This is probably the best option available, and far superior to the default keyboard.

muo-w8-keyboard-full

Switching between keyboard layouts is simple – all you need to do is tap the keyboard selector button and choose the one you want to use.

muo-w8-keyboard-selector

Using this button you can also close the keyboard. If you prefer to use a stylus, you can also switch to handwriting mode.

Choosing A Keyboard Layout

You can choose from two types of configuration with the Windows 8 touchscreen keyboard. The first is the standard QWERTY (or whatever keyboard layout you have selected in Windows settings) in landscape mode. Along with this, you also have the option of a split input, ideal for entering text with two thumbs, although arguably more suitable for smaller devices rather than anything with a display above 10 inches.

An improvement in Windows 8.1 is that the keyboard now also works in portrait mode, with both standard and split keyboards available for text entry this way.

muo-w8-keyboard-desktop

Also worth a mention is the ability to use the touchscreen keyboard in desktop mode, as pictured here.

muo-w8-keyboard-systemtray

In order to activate the touchscreen keyboard from the Windows 8 desktop, all you need to do is click the keyboard button in the system tray.

As with all native Windows apps, you can close the keyboard using the X in the top-right corner. The keyboard will also close when a hardware keyboard is used.

Disable The Touchscreen Keyboard

If you’re not using a touchscreen keyboard, or your tablet comes with an accompanying hardware keyboard that connects via USB or Bluetooth, there is a good chance that you will rarely – if ever – need the software text input tool.

In this case, you may find it slightly annoying when the touch keyboard briefly appears every time you tap into a new field to enter text. Fortunately, there is a good workaround.

Essentially, the workaround disables any text input via the screen. You should be aware, however, that this includes handwriting detection. If you happen to use a stylus to enter text at any point, you’ll need to reverse the following steps (so make sure you have a mouse handy!).

Begin by pressing right-clicking Computer and selecting Manage; note that you will need admin access to view this screen.

muo-w8-keyboard-disable-stop

Next, scroll down to Touch screen keyboard and handwriting panel, right-click and select Stop. This will permanently disable the software text input. Alternatively, you can open the properties box for this service and switch the Startup type to Manual.

muo-w8-keyboard-disable-properties

Either way, note that once disabled, you’ll need to return to this screen to display the keyboard again.

Yes, You Can Type On A Windows 8 Touchscreen Device!

Differences in the typing experience on Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 touchscreen devices demonstrate exactly why it is important for you to upgrade to the latest version of the operating system (although make sure you prep it first! Upgrading Your PC for Windows 8.1? Prep It First! Upgrading Your PC for Windows 8.1? Prep It First! Windows 8.1 makes significant changes to Windows 8 and it's a worthy upgrade on any device. How you'll upgrade depends on which version of Windows you're upgrading from. This article has all the details. Read More ), particularly if you have a tablet computer.

Given that Windows Phone 8 had a more accomplished touchscreen keyboard than Windows 8, it is refreshing to see that Microsoft has finally added some meat to their software text entry tool in Windows 8.1. It’s easy to make excuses about Windows 8 being a new operating system, but the truth is that Microsoft has been producing tablet versions of Windows for over 10 years now – the failings of the touchscreen keyboard in Windows 8 should never have existed in the first place!

Have you used the new touchscreen keyboard in Windows 8.1? Would you prefer some alternate keyboard tools, perhaps produced by third parties, to be made available in the Windows Store?

Tell us what you think in the comments.

  1. Matthew
    July 21, 2016 at 11:17 pm

    Right clicking "computer" what the hell is that?

    • Christian Cawley
      July 22, 2016 at 8:55 am

      Alternatively labeled My Computer or This PC, and found in Windows Explorer, and often on the desktop.

  2. Christian Cawley
    June 6, 2015 at 7:31 pm

    Susan, are they Bluetooth or wireless devices, or USB?

  3. Susan Pierce
    June 6, 2015 at 3:32 pm

    I have a similar issue. My dell laptop with a touchscreen display used to let me use both on screen touch and the hardware keyboard. For some reason it now will only let me type on screen. I can't use the hardware keyboard or mouse. I can disable using these instructions, but I'd really like to able to use both. Can anyone tell how to do that?

  4. j
    May 24, 2015 at 3:45 am

    disable it, then use the older osk from win7.

    or automate on/off with autohotkey

  5. DASBruton
    May 1, 2015 at 1:51 pm

    'Disabled' is brilliant for my Dell laptop which always has a keyboard attached. You'd think it would be the default setting.

    Good article thank you. Only clarification is I found this setting change under: This PC > Manage > Services and Applications> Services

  6. Bella
    April 9, 2015 at 2:43 am

    By the way, when you want to remove your keyboard and keep it off, don't select "manual", you have to select "disabled". This way, the keyboard stays off.

  7. Tromply
    March 2, 2015 at 3:43 pm

    Has anyone found a way to remove the international characters (especially from the top row of numbers) so that the swipe only does numbers (and not ?ëþÿüïïö)?

  8. Tang
    December 13, 2014 at 7:54 pm

    I know this is an old article but I found that simply setting the startup mode to "Disabled" solved the issue much more easily.

  9. Westcoast Wildcat
    April 11, 2014 at 10:25 pm

    In order for the keyboard to stayed disabled, you have to open the recovery tab and change all the options to "take no action" then hit apply.

  10. Ghaaziy
    April 9, 2014 at 8:34 pm

    Disabling the touch keyboard from the task bar is not working for me. The touch keyboard still appears. Any other solutions?

    • Westcoast Wildcat
      April 11, 2014 at 10:26 pm

      See my response below.

  11. Elliot
    March 12, 2014 at 2:45 pm

    Right-click the Taskbar and select Toolbars -> Touch Keyboard to toggle it on/off the taskbar.

    • Kei
      March 17, 2014 at 5:59 pm

      Holy that is awesome!! Thank you! now the stupid touch keyboard won't pop up anymore.

    • www
      January 12, 2015 at 2:13 pm

      Thank you, thank you, thank you! :)

  12. Jerry H Bridgers
    February 19, 2014 at 2:33 am

    Windows 8.1 for my T100 is an example of Microsoft knows what I need.

    It is not really flexible. Like other, the keyboard will not stay off.

    This issue lacks any configuration other than cosmetic. Function stays as is.

  13. Rich
    February 6, 2014 at 9:00 pm

    The disable works but once you restart the laptop you have to disable the keyboard again. Amazingly enough my laptop came with a keyboard already attached to it, this must be a relatively new function for which Microsoft was not prepared...

  14. Raven
    January 30, 2014 at 12:26 pm

    stoping it didn't work.... i wish to stop it 4ever

  15. Heidi
    January 25, 2014 at 3:02 pm

    This doesn't work. I've tied both types of disabling techniques listed above for my laptop and the on screen keyboard comes back within a few hours. My laptop has a permanently attached keyboard. I would NEVER EVER want to use the on screen keyboard. Its annoying. Its awkward. Its just stupid and I want it gone! Please is there anything else I can do?????

  16. gavin
    December 31, 2013 at 10:16 am

    I couldn't find what right clicking computer meant (my computer?windows icon?) I found this on another site and then the instructions above worked a treat
    Press the Windows key + W
    Type "services," and press Enter
    Scroll down to "Touch screen keyboard and handwriting panel"
    You can either right click and "Stop" or you can double-click and change it from "Automatic" startup to "Manual."
    Fixes the issue where you want to select keyboard in tablet mode but not in laptop mode

    • Christian C
      December 31, 2013 at 7:57 pm

      I think you mean "Begin by pressing right-clicking Computer..." which does refer to what we used to know as "My Computer"

      It seems that there is some difference here. On my Windows 8 tablet (pre-installed) it is labelled "This PC". On devices upgraded from Windows 7, it is labelled Computer.

      Would be nice if Microsoft could make this more consistent, wouldn't it?

  17. Bill
    December 28, 2013 at 10:39 pm

    I have the opposite issue in that my keyboard does not pop up when I enter a text field. I am forced to click on the keyboard icon in the system tray to get to the keyboard.

    • Mat
      January 17, 2014 at 2:38 pm

      This is EXACTLY how I want the touch keyboard to behave on my Surface, any ideas how to replicate this?

  18. Ken
    December 19, 2013 at 12:34 pm

    My keyboard still appears during RDP access to the PC despite disabling the service.

  19. Ken
    December 19, 2013 at 12:33 pm

    My keyboard still appears during RDP access to the PC despite disabling the service.

  20. Justin D
    November 11, 2013 at 2:57 pm

    very informative, thanks!

    my issue with the Win8 on-screen keyboard is that it pops up when I touch the screen in a Modern app regardless of whether or not my keyboard is connected to my tablet. See, if my keyboard is not connected and I'm just using it as a tablet, I need the keyboard constantly, but if I have the keyboard connected, I would like to be able to tap a text-entry field without the virtual keyboard popping up.

    You'd think that Microsoft would've figured this out with Win8.1, but it still happens. The OS seems unable to detect that there is a hardware keyboard and use that information to temporarily disable the virtual keyboard. As you described, you can disable the onscreen keyboard completely, but I would prefer it to auto turn on/off depending on whether my keyboard's attached or not, you know?

    *sigh*

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