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

This page explains step-by-step how to turn on and customise the on-screen keyboard in Windows XP. 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.

Using the on-screen keyboard in Windows XP

Step 1: Turn on the on-screen keyboard

Open the 'Start' menu by clicking on the 'Start' button, or by pressing the Windows key or Ctrl + Esc.

Click on 'All Programs', or press P until 'All Programs' is selected and then press Enter. In the same manner, click on 'Accessories' (or press A), then 'Accessibility' (or press A) and finally 'On-Screen Keyboard' (or press O).

Although the keyboard cannot be adjusted in size, there are two versions available. To switch between the two types of keyboard, click on 'Keyboard' in the menu bar or press Alt + K.

In the drop-down menu, click on 'Standard Keyboard', or press S, for the Standard Keyboard (Fig 1), which has the minimum number of keys.

Fig 1Standard keyboard with Regular layout

Alternatively, click on 'Enhanced Keyboard', or press E, for the Enhanced Keyboard (Fig 2), which includes the numeric keypad.

Fig 2Enhanced keyboard with Regular layout

Once you have chosen which type of keyboard you want, the next step is to decide how you want to use it. If you are using a mouse, see Step 2. If you are using a switch, see Step 3.

Step 2: Use the on-screen keyboard with a mouse

With the keyboard on-screen, click on the letter (or other key) you want to type. If you have a word processor open, you will see the letter appear on the page.

If you have difficulties clicking the mouse button, you may want to change the settings so you can hover the mouse over a key for a set time, after which the key will automatically be 'pressed'.

To do this, click on 'Settings' in the menu bar or press Alt + S. In the drop-down menu, click on 'Typing mode' or press Alt + T to open the 'Typing Mode' dialogue box shown in Fig 3.

Fig 3'Typing Mode' dialogue box

Select the radio button next to 'Hover to Select' by clicking on it, or pressing Alt + H.

Click on the 'Minimum time to hover' drop-down box and select a time, or press Tab until the drop-down box is highlighted and then use the up and down arrow keys to select a time.

Click 'OK' or press Enter to finish.

You can now type simply by hovering the mouse pointer above the letter you want to press. After the cursor has hovered over the letter for the time you chose, the letter will be automatically clicked on.

Step 3: Use the on-screen keyboard with a switch

The on-screen keyboard can be used entirely with a single switch. This works by row/column scanning: a highlight sweeps across and down the rows and columns and the switch is pressed to select the desired choice.

With the keyboard on-screen, click on 'Settings' in the menu bar or press Alt + S. In the drop-down menu, click on 'Typing mode' or press Alt + T to open the 'Typing Mode' dialogue box shown in Fig 3.

Select the radio button next to 'Joystick or key to select' by clicking on it, or pressing Alt + J.

Click on the 'Scan interval' drop-down box and select a time, or press Tab until the drop-down box is highlighted and then use the up and down arrow keys to select a time.

Click the 'Advanced' button or press Alt + A to display the 'Scanning Options' dialogue box shown in Fig 4.

Fig 4'Scanning Options' dialogue box

Tick the box next to 'Keyboard key' by clicking on it, or press Alt + K to tick it.

Click on the drop-down box to choose a key to start and control the scanning, or press Tab until the drop-down box is highlighted and then use the up and down arrow keys to select a key. The spacebar is a good one to use.

Click 'OK' or press Enter to return to the 'Typing Options' dialogue box. Click 'OK' or press Enter again to return to the on-screen keyboard.

Now when you press the key that you set up for scanning, the scanning box should appear and start scanning. When the scanning box is on the line you want to access, press the scanning key and the bar should stop on this row and start moving across the screen column by column. When the letter you want is highlighted, press the scanning key to 'type' that letter.

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

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