How to Enable and Use the Windows 11 Touch Keyboard

A deep dive on Windows 11's most versatile text input option.

Windows 11 Touch Keyboard Featured Image

The touch keyboard in Windows 11 added several new features, greatly expanding the number of ways you can enter text on a screen. You can even use this virtual keyboard if your monitor or laptop lacks touch capabilities and one or more keys on your physical keyboard aren’t working. This tutorial walks you through some of the main features of the Windows 11 touch keyboard.

Touch Keyboard vs. On-Screen Keyboard

Microsoft primarily created the touch keyboard for tablets and touchscreen-enabled laptops running Windows. On these devices, it’s automatically displayed when you touch any area that accepts text inputs and hides when you no longer need it. It also sports a modern look adhering to Microsoft’s latest design language.

Windows 11 Touch Keyboard On Screen Compare

On the other hand, the on-screen keyboard is part of the Accessibility tools in Windows. It boasts a few exclusive extras, such as a full suite of navigation keys and function keys. It’s possible to take advantage of it on touch-screen Windows devices as well as standard ones.

How to Enable the Touch Keyboard in Windows 11

To start using your touch keyboard, you’ll first need to activate it from your PC’s settings. Follow the below instructions.

  1. Right-click or long-tap on an empty space in your Windows Taskbar.
  2. Go to “Taskbar settings” to open the “Taskbar” section in “Personalization.”
Windows 11 Touch Keyboard Taskbar Settings
  1. Alternatively, press Win + I, go to “Personalization” from the sidebar, and finally “Taskbar.”
  2. Activate the “Touch keyboard” option.
Windows 11 Touch Keyboard Personalization Taskbar Touch Keyboard Enable
  1. Tap or click the small keyboard icon on the notification area to launch the touch keyboard.
Windows 11 Touch Keyboard Taskbar Icon

Note: if you are using a Windows tablet or touchscreen monitor without a physical keyboard attached, you may also tap any area allowing text inputs, such as a text box to pop up the keyboard.

Take a look at some essential things you can do with the touch keyboard activated.

1. Basic Inputting Using the Touch Keys

  1. Tap or click on any key to insert its corresponding character after the blinking cursor.
Windows 11 Touch Keyboard Basic Inputting
  1. Press on the &123 key to change to numbers and symbols. Use the left and right arrow keys below the Tab key to cycle through the symbols.
Windows 11 Touch Keyboard 123
  1. If you need to perform a key combination involving modifiers like the Alt or Shift keys, tap or click the modifier key to activate it, then select the other key to make the combination.
Windows 11 Touch Keyboard Key Combination

2. Using Swipe Typing

  1. To start swipe typing on your screen, tap or click on the first character of a word you want to enter and immediately drag your finger or mouse cursor toward the second letter of the word.
  1. Keep swiping your finger or pointer on the remaining letters until you complete the word.
Windows 11 Touch Keyboard Swipe Typing Next
  1. If you’ve generated the wrong word, pick any of the suggestions found above the top key row to correct it.
Windows 11 Touch Keyboard Swipe Typing Suggestion

3. Adding Text With Your Voice

  1. From the touch keyboard, tap or click the “Microphone” key to switch to voice typing mode.
Windows 11 Touch Keyboard Microphone Key
  1. Start speaking. If you don’t see the “Microphone” bubble pulsating, click the area where you wish to input the text, click the Mic and start talking again.
Windows 11 Touch Keyboard Microphone Activate
  1. Windows should start transcribing your words.
  2. If you wish to exit this mode, click the “Microphone” bubble again.
Windows 11 Touch Keyboard Microphone Listening

4. Inserting Text Using Handwriting Recognition

  1. On your on-screen keyboard, tap or click on the “Gear” icon in the upper-left corner.
  2. Select “Handwriting” from there.
Windows 11 Touch Keyboard Settings Handwriting
  1. Write your sentence in print or cursive form with your finger, mouse, touchpad, stylus or Surface Pen inside the handwriting panel.
Windows 11 Touch Keyboard Handwriting Input
  1. If Windows misunderstood your handwriting, choose any of the suggested words above the handwriting block to fix it.
Windows 11 Touch Keyboard Handwriting Suggestions

5. Opening the Emoji Panel

  1. On your touch keyboard, tap or click the icon depicting a small heart inside a box to reveal the most recent emoji, GIFs, and other symbols you have used. This panel mirrors the features you can find on the Win + ; emoji panel.
Windows 11 Touch Keyboard Emoji Panel
  1. Press on any of small icons above the “Recently used” strip to go to their corresponding sections.
  2. You may also use the search box on the upper-right portion to look for emoji and GIFs by keyword.
Windows 11 Touch Keyboard Emoji Panel Emojis Search
  1. Tap or click on the symbol to paste it in.
Windows 11 Touch Keyboard Emoji Input

6. Accessing the Clipboard History

  1. Tap once again on the heart icon.
  2. Go to the “Clipboard history” icon to see what items you recently stored in the Windows clipboard (same as the Win + V menu).
Windows 11 Touch Keyboard Clipboard Icon
  1. Click on any clipboard entry tile to paste the text or data that the tile contains.
Windows 11 Touch Keyboard Clipboard Panel
  1. If you want to prevent future clipboard entries from overriding a certain clipboard entry, click the “Pin” icon on the bottom right of the desired clipboard entry tile.
Windows 11 Touch Keyboard Clipboard Pin

7. Changing the Touch Keyboard Layout

Tap or click on the “Gear” icon on the touch keyboard and select “Keyboard layout.” Choose any of the three options from the pop-up menu.

Windows 11 Touch Keyboard Layout Menu
  • Small – undocks and shrinks the touch keyboard to resemble a smartphone keyboard. Use this option to free up more screen real estate.
Windows 11 Touch Keyboard Small Layout 2
  • Split – shrinks the keys down to a smartphone size but repositions half of them to the far left and far right sides of the docked area. This layout is ideal for typing on the tablet touchscreen with your thumbs.
Windows 11 Touch Keyboard Split Layout
  • Traditional – closely resembles a standard physical keyboard layout, complete with a number row and extra symbols giving you quicker access to those keys.
Windows 11 Touch Keyboard Traditional Layout

8. Personalizing Your Touch Keyboard

  1. Tap or click on the “Gear” icon on the touch keyboard.
  2. Go to “Theme and Resize.”
Windows 11 Touch Keyboard Settings Theme And Resize
  1. Adjust the “Keyboard size” slider to shrink or enlarge the touch keyboard. The default size is “100.”
Windows 11 Touch Keyboard Personalization Touch Keyboard Kb Size
  1. If you only want to resize the text on each key while retaining the sizes of the keys themselves, scroll down to the “Key text size” option and pick from any of the two other sizes. Use the “Open keyboard” button to preview the change.
Windows 11 Touch Keyboard Personalization Touch Keyboard Key Text Size
  1. If you wish to hide the rectangular backgrounds behind each key on the touch keyboard, disable the “Key background” option.
Windows 11 Touch Keyboard Personalization Touch Keyboard Key Bg
  1. Under “Keyboard theme” to select any of the styles you wish to apply to your touch keyboard.
Windows 11 Touch Keyboard Personalization Touch Keyboard Kb Theme
  1. If you aren’t happy with any of the themes Windows provides, select the “Custom theme” option and tap the “Edit” button below.
Windows 11 Touch Keyboard Personalization Touch Keyboard Custom Theme
  1. Click the “Save” button after you set the colors for your custom theme.
Windows 11 Touch Keyboard Personalization Touch Keyboard Custom Theme Colors

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I quickly enter numbers or accented characters?

Long-press on a number or key for about a second. You should see a few other related keys or symbols pop up above. Drag your finger or the cursor to the key you want. This doesn’t work with every key.

How can I easily move the blinking text cursor with the touch keyboard?

Hold down the space bar on the touch keyboard with your mouse pointer or finger and drag in any direction.

Why is swipe typing not working?

Swipe typing only works on the “Default” and “Small” keyboard layouts. Some apps may not support swipe typing either.

How can I use swipe typing to enter custom words, such as acronyms and proper nouns?

Swipe typing can also take your system’s “Personal Dictionary” into account when suggesting words. To add words to your personal dictionary, make sure you enable the “Personal inking and typing dictionary” option from “Settings → Privacy & Security → Inking & typing personalization.” Keep typing the word using the touch keyboard or physical keyboard in any app or field allowing text inputs. You can see if Windows added the word to the dictionary by going to “Personal dictionary” from the “Inking & typing personalization” section.

Image credit and screenshots by John Ruiz

Subscribe to our newsletter!

Our latest tutorials delivered straight to your inbox