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Switch between Your Surface’s Four Different Onscreen Keyboards

The free onscreen keyboard built into every Microsoft Surface tablet PC, also called the virtual or glass keyboard, normally looks like the one shown here. But the onscreen keyboard can morph into other keyboards, as well. To switch to a different keyboard, press the Switch Keyboards button in the keyboard’s bottom-right corner to switch between each of Windows 8’s keyboards.

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Here are your other keyboard choices:

  • Thumb keyboard: Built for a generation raised on smartphones, this peculiar keyboard lets you hold your Surface vertically, like a giant phone. The keyboard appears in two halves, each clinging to a bottom edge. Your left and right thumbs can then poke at the letters while typing, letting you whip out e-mails beneath the dinner table at family gatherings.

  • Handwriting: Your Surface also recognizes your handwriting, translating it into text as you write on the screen. However, writing or drawing requires a stylus – a type of pen with a special plastic tip.

    The Surface with Windows 8 Pro includes a stylus, but the Windows RT version doesn’t. However, any capacitive stylus (the cheap kind) works on the Surface RT.

  • Standard keyboard: If you need a standard keyboard, complete with numbers and Function keys across the top, choose this keyboard. It’s the real deal, complete with the Windows key, the Alt key, and even four arrow keys for navigating menus.

The Standard keyboard doesn’t include a PrintScreen key. To take a screenshot on your Surface, hold down the Windows key on the Surface’s front and press the Volume Down switch on the side. The screenshot appears as a PNG file in your Pictures library’s Screenshots folder.

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