How to turn on and customise the on-screen keyboard in Windows 7

This page explains step-by-step how to turn on and customise the on-screen keyboard in Windows 7. An on-screen keyboard may be the best way to input information if you have a physical condition that makes using a keyboard difficult but you are able to use a mouse or other pointing device.

An on-screen keyboard looks just like a picture of a keyboard on the screen. Letters can be selected from the keyboard using a mouse, a single switch or a joystick.

Note: The 'Ease of Access Center' has replaced 'Accessibility Options' (which was used in earlier versions of Windows) in the 'Control Panel' of Windows 7. For more information, read the Introduction to the Ease of Access Center.

Video how to guide

Text version

Using the on-screen keyboard in Windows 7

Using the on-screen keyboard in Windows 7

Step 1: Use the on-screen keyboard now

Open the 'Ease of Access Center' window by pressing the Windows key + U, or by clicking the 'Start' button, followed by 'Control Panel', then 'Ease of Access', then 'Ease of Access Center'.

Under the 'Quick access to common tools' header, click 'Start On-Screen Keyboard', as shown in Fig 1, or press Alt + K. This will start the on-screen keyboard for current use.

Fig 1Detail from 'Ease of Access Center' window

Step 2: Set the on-screen keyboard to start every time

Follow these steps to make the on-screen keyboard start automatically when you log in.

Open the 'Ease of Access Center' window as in step 1. Under the 'Explore all settings' header, click on 'Use the computer without a mouse or keyboard' (Fig 2), or press Tab until it is highlighted and then press Enter.

Fig 2Detail from 'Ease of Access Center' window

Under the 'Type using a pointing device' header, tick the box next to 'Use On-Screen Keyboard', as shown in Fig 3, or press Alt + K to tick it. Click the 'OK' button, or press Tab until it is highlighted and then press Enter, to finish.

Fig 3'Use the computer without a mouse or keyboard' window

Step 3: Select how to use the on-screen keyboard

Once the keyboard is on screen, as shown in Fig 4, you can tailor it to suit your needs. Click the 'Options' key on the on-screen keyboard to open the 'Options' window (Fig 5).

Fig 4On-screen keyboard

There are several ways you can choose to operate the keyboard, as shown in Fig 5.

Fig 5'Options' window

Click the radio button next to 'Click on keys' to access the keyboard with a mouse or other pointing device by clicking on the cell (on-screen key) you wish to use.

Click the radio button next to 'Hover over keys' to access the keyboard with a mouse or other pointing device by 'hovering' over the cell to select it. You can choose the length of time that you will be required to hover by dragging the 'Hover duration' slider.

Click the radio button next to 'Scan through keys' to access the keyboard using a range of access devices, including the spacebar, a switch or a game pad. The scanning speed can be selected by dragging the 'Scanning speed' slider.

Step 4: Turn on Text Prediction

In Windows 7, the On-screen Keyboard has an integrated text-prediction tool (shown in the top row in Fig 6), which can speed up typing and help with spelling.

To turn on text prediction, tick the box next to 'Use Text Prediction', as shown in Fig 5. By ticking the box below it, you can also choose to add a space after all selected words.

Fig 6On-screen keyboard demonstrating text prediction

Note: If this does not work it could be because your computer settings cannot be changed due to local IT policies - contact your local IT support for further help.

Back to How to guides - I find a keyboard or mouse hard to use

More ways to: Make your keyboard easier to use

Change the keyboard settings on your computer

Control the pace of repeated keystrokes and avoid miss-keys

Use the keyboard with one hand

Set it so you don't have to hold down multiple keys at once

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.