Switch between Your Surface’s Four Different Onscreen Keyboards - dummies

Switch between Your Surface’s Four Different Onscreen Keyboards

By Andy Rathbone

The Surface’s onscreen keyboard can morph into several keyboards, other than the keyboard that is usually displayed. To switch to a different keyboard, press the Switch Keyboards button in the onscreen keyboard’s bottom-right corner.

A pop-up menu lets you choose among your Surface’s different keyboards. (If you install keyboard layouts from other languages, those other layouts also appear.)


Typing with the Thumb keyboard

Built for a generation raised on smartphones, the Thumb keyboard lets you hold your Surface vertically, like a giant phone. The keyboard appears split into three sections, each clinging to a bottom edge.

Your thumbs can then poke at the letters while typing, letting you whip out e-mails beneath the dinner table at family gatherings.


Adjust the Thumb keyboard for different-sized thumbs by holding down the three dots (shown in the margin) near the keyboard’s left side.

A pop-up appears, letting you slide your thumb over the words Small, Medium, and Large. As your thumb slides, the keyboard reshapes itself to the new size. When you’re satisfied, lift your thumb to lock in the new setting.

Writing on the Handwriting panel

Your Surface also recognizes your handwriting, translating it into text as you write on the screen. To write on the screen, choose the Handwriting panel. Writing or drawing on the panel requires a stylus — a type of pen with a special plastic tip.

The Surface Pro and Surface Pro 2 include a stylus, but the Surface RT and Surface 2 don’t. However, any capacitive stylus (the cheap kind) works on those models.

Adding a Standard keyboard layout

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


However, the Standard keyboard is normally turned off. To add it as an option on the keyboard menu, follow these steps:

  1. Slide your finger inward from the screen’s right edge to summon the Charms bar and then tap Settings.

  2. When the Settings pane appears, tap Change PC Settings from its bottom edge.

  3. When the PC Settings screen appears, tap the PC and Devices category.

  4. When the PC and Devices screen appears, tap the Typing category.

  5. Tap the On toggle switch next to the last option, which is labeled Add the Standard Keyboard Layout as a Touch Keyboard.

The Standard keyboard then appears as a keyboard option along with the other three.

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 in your Surface’s upper-left corner. The screenshot appears as a PNG file in your Pictures library’s Screenshots folder.