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 or composing a new email, among many other things.
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.
Various configuration options are available to get the keyboard working the way you want it.
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.
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.
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.
Also worth a mention is the ability to use the touchscreen keyboard in desktop mode, as pictured here.
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.
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.
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!), 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.