How to automatically display the touch keyboard in Windows 10 desktop mode

Continuum is a awesome feature for Windows 10 that lets you change between desktop mode and tablet mode. You can use a keyboard and mouse when you choose, or you can optimize your screen for a great touch experience. However, I notice that I prefer to stay in desktop mode even when I don't have the Type cover attached to the Surface 3.

So what's the problem with desktop mode in Windows 10? By default, the touch keyboard does not automatically pop up when tapping on text forms, address bars, or anywhere else that you need to type on. The good news is that you can change that behavior in just a few steps.

1. Go to Settings (keyboard shortcut: Windows + I)

Settings

2. Go to Devices > Typing

3. Scroll down and toggle on: Automatically show the touch keyboard in windowed apps when there's no keyboard attached to your device.

With this method on the Surface 3, I can see more of my open windowed apps. I can also snap up to four apps on the screen instead of just two in tablet mode. Desktop mode still feels very touch-friendly, too. In fact, I don't even think I need to go into tablet mode anymore. What do you think? Do you like this setup, too? Let us know in the comments!

If you think this guide is helpful, we have more like this in our Windows 10 help, tips and tricks page.

Mark Guim is Video Editor at Windows Central. He switched to Windows because the MacBook Pro isn't Pro enough. You can follow him on Twitter at @markguim.

77 Comments
  • Thank you! This was my one pet peeve about the touch interface.
  • Great tip. I found it myself just earlier today.
    But 1) why is this even an option? Why would you not want on screen keyboard if you click on a text input and don't have keyboard connected.
    2) equally important, why on earth is the default set to off?!
  • All good questions. I wonder I anyone out there does not want it popping up?
  • Because normal tablets would use continuum or tablet mode when they dont have a keyboard present. But this is for desktop mode with a tablet. =)
  • Because Microsoft.
  • Me too, I thought it was a bug. Will be fixing this tonight.
  • The virtual keyboard popped up in win 8.1 even on Chrome if no keyboard was attached. I also thought this was a bug - thanks!
  • Yes!!!! Yes.. I needed this.
  • Things that piss me off about wp keyboard is having to hunt around for stuff like @ and not always having the .com shortcut
  • What am I supposed to do if when I go to the typing settings it DOES NOT SHOW ANY OF THESE OPTIONS? It only shows 2 spelling options.
  • thanks a lot ! really don't know about that feature - it's usefull
  • I actually prefer tablet mode on my laptop, believe it or not XD
  • lol and i prefer desktop mode in my tablet
  • Tablet mode is the future
  • Sadly for Microsoft, the future is not now.
  • Completely agree.  I use Tablet mode very rarely now.  I made the start menu larger and that in conjunction with the windows button gives a wonderful balance between tablet and PC and works very well on SP3.  On the smaller screen of the Stream 7, I still use tablet mode. Windows 10 is very flexible and that has its drawbacks, such as having to discover settings and tinkering a bit to make things perfect.  I never really realized how much I liked the tablet first experience of 8.1 (8 went to far) on the SP3, but I now think I have the perfect blend right now of touchscreen, type cover and pen.
  • Nice find!
  • Thanks for the information Mark! This is just what I needed to know as the lack of the automatic keyboard has been preventing me from recommending desktop mode on tablet only devices even though users would prefer desktop mode on their tablets. One user saw tablet mode on my Windows 10 tablet and said "ugh, you have the tiles!! You didn't upgrade to Windows 10 yet???". They thought it was Windows 8.x as general consumers associate live tiles with 8.1 and the start menu with 10 now. I am currently enabling the automatic keyboard on all of our Windows 10 tablets. Thanks again Mark, this will be a great help to our organization!
  • You're welcome. I was so happy when I found this option.
  • Wish they would implement 'flow' for tablet keyboards!
  • This! I thought windows 10 and windows phone was supposed to be one OS now. Where is the feature parity between the two.
  • Umm they are (largely), which is why W10M also lost wordflow seen in the VKB of WP8.1. No doubt it'll come back to them both, eventually...
     
  • But does this "trick" adjust the position of the input box to prevent the keyboard from covering key items on screen? This is one thing Tablet mode does where the entire screen viewport will shift where it doesn't seem to be supported in desktop mode. Its a pain in the ass when typing in text fields that may be at the bottom of the screen.
  • If the keyboard covers the text you can click undock, next to the X top right, and move the keyboard to the top of the screen so you can see the text.
  • Life saver!
  • Mark; Another option is to ask Cortana to "launch the on-screen keyboard". It's a different keyboard that includes number keys and has a Minimize option so you can keep it handy in the background.
  • Thanks for this. I was hoping Mark's (thank you as well) tip would help with the search box issue in Groove Music. No joy on that but "Cortana's" keyboard will do nicely until there is an official fix.
  • Unfortunately this doen't work with my Lenovo Yoga 2 tablet. I still have to manually click the keyboard icon on my toolbar...Hope to see it fixed in later updates...
  • It works fine for me on the Yoga 2. Only Firefox is an exception.
  • You can do that or you can hold down on the task bar and a small list will show. Allowing you to activate the keyboard, see open apps or see the set apps. I found the above by accident when I couldn't log onto Blizzard's UI. Which in tablet mode, goes full screen but without any access to a keyboard.
  • Thanks a lot for the tip !
    I was desperatly looking for the keyboard button and i managed to set Cortana as an icon only.
  • Great tip thank you
  • Thats a good one!
  • I prefer tablet mode (on my SP3) most of the time. Rarely need to drop down to desktop except for old software. The exception is on my actual desk PC old laptop which stays in desktop mode.
  • But the keyboard still won't pop up in the main editing space of OneNote 2013 or Word 2013, where you might want to do some writing. Strange.
  • "However, I notice that I prefer to stay in desktop mode even when I don't have the Type cover attached"
    Yes - tablet mode is not the best, while desktop feels ok for both.
  • On screen keyboard won't launch for desktop win32 apps even though the settings is turned on. I am in tablet mode & opened chrome browser. ( I know, but my wife like chrome and this is her tablet :/ ) On clicking address bar, i would expect on screen keyboard to launch. But they dont. This is in HP stream 7 tab  
  • You can hold-tap on the task bar at the bottom to add the keyboard icon, like from Windows 8.1.
  • Weird, I have the opposite on SP2 Pro. Chrome launches the KB fine when I click on the address box or text fields, but Edge doesn't. I have to click the KB icon when in desktop mode.
  • Future tip:
    press Alt + prt sc key to take screenshot of the active app only
    no need to crop the picture
  • I only have 2 options: autocorrect and higlight errors
  • Same here, using SP2 though
  • Same here on my SP3.
  • It showed up after I insalled the last rollup update, so it must be a brand new feature. Loving the iteration!
  • how did you get this update. i only get windows defender updates. when i check for new updates, it's telling me that i am already updated. but i still see these 2 options. do i need surface to automatically show onscreen keyboard? are you on desktop, too?
  • Perfect! Now I do not need tablet mode ;)
  • It still does not work consistently - firefox for example it does not work!!
  • Riddle me this. Why does the keyboard icon appear in the task bar when i have the keyboard connected, and disappear when I disconnect it from my SP3 - surely this should be the other way 'round ... surely?
  • Nice. Thank you. Mark!
  • Very helpful information, thanks a lot.
  • Thanks Mark! It's these types of real world use tips that will help people embrace W10. So glad I saw this article. I also prefer desktop mode, so this is a plus for me.
  • I've come across this feature before and just never thought to enable it.
  • I also only see two options? Do you need to do this when keyboard is attached? I have SP3 Pro. edit: shut down and restart and all options are visible... strange
  • Great tip. Just put windows 10 on my hp stream 8 and edge would never show the keyboard!
  •   This is great info to have thanks!. Folks Windows 10 has a problem for Mouse and keyboard input Desktop/Laptop Computer users in tablet mode. Microsoft got rid of the -"Desktop Tile"- when you go to Tablet Mode. now you have to bring up the "Action Center" Hamberger menu list and disable The "Tablet Mode"  to get back to the good Old Desktop. this may be a stupid complaint to some folks but some people like me would like the Windows 8/8.1 Desktop tile to be on the Windows 10 Tablet mode screen so we can easily  switch back forth from the Tablet mode screen to the Desktop screen . I hope someone at Microsoft can get the "Desktop tile" on the Windows 10 Tile Mode screen by default like it was on Windows 8/8.1        
  • Swype?
  • Did you ever get an answer on this?  Swype type would be great on this, as the keyboard really sucks.
  • I did not know this, thanks! Great for power users.
  • I also think that in these instructional posts you should teach the power of search. For instance, it's much quicker to hit Search / Start Key and type 'typing' to get to the same screen.
  • Hmmmm  When I get to teh "Typing" Setting, all that is there are two items under "Spelling"   I don't seem to have the same array of Settings as the Author.  Any idea why?
  • You need to install the latest cumulative update, it's a brand new feature.
  • This should be the default setting (enabled).
  • THANK YOU!!!!!
  • I don't understand how this method helps me get snapping 4 apps in tablet mode feature. Anyone care to explain? That was my deal breaker for windows 10 and I'm currently still on the path to downgrade to windows 8.1
  • I think it's a bug, but I've never tried this myself first. Let this be my (just) assumption. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • It's awesome that this setting is there, but it doesn't appear to work with Firefox...
  • Perfect, thanks. Been missing this feature
  • Ah, thanks. I thought that there's no way to automatically show the touch keyboards, but I was wrong with that. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Great tip, and excellent article! Certainly seems the display keyboard in tablet mode should be the default setting.
  • Does anyone know how to get the virtual keyboard, the On Screen Keyboard, OSK, or whatever you want to call it, to lock into place, snap into place, or however you want to describe it? After the gymnastics to get the keyboard to appear, it now covers the text input area sometimes.  In Windows 8.1, and on virtually every other mobile device I've ever used, the keyboard will snap in and whatever app will resize ot fit the remainder of the screen. This way, they keyboard is not covering the input area. It is unbelievable that this would ship this way, and there is no solution, other than to reposition the keyboard.  It's really awkward to slide the keyboard up to the middle of the screen in order to type in an input window located at the bottom of the screen.
  • I can't see that option on Lenovo Thinkpad Tablet 2
  • This doesnt work on my Surface Pro 3. Even though I already have done whats listed in this guide, it still wont work. I have Yahoo Messenger open, i unplug the keyboard and the virtual keyboard icon disappears. I cant type at all!    Why on EARTH would the Virtual Keyboard Icon be showing when I have the physical keyboard plugged in, instead of showing when I DONT have it plugged in? It's so stupid. Please help me
  • not quiet so. the probed method only works on internet explorer, but not on Firefox. in a desktop mode you still have to pop the onscreen keyboard tamplate manually. And the tablet mode is just ridiculous. Additionally, the popup keyboard is not all the time pops up on the screen, even when using Internet Explorer. it's a common windows operational problem. windows 10 needs to be worked on a lot more than thought. tons of bugs crawlikng within.
  • Unfortunately this doen't work with my Lenovo Yoga 2 tablet. I still have to manually click the keyboard icon on my toolbar...Hope to see it fixed in later updates...
  • I have this problem with Chrome. The OSK pops up on Edge and other MS apps but while it did work on Chrome it suddenly stopped. I've tried every setting, and on my W10 Settings the option says "Show the touch keyboard...." and not "Automatically show the touch keyboard...." so have they changed it? I've even tried going into chrome://flags/ and changing touch events from Automatic to Enabled with no success. It looks like other Chrome inputs are affected as well. On Google Maps I can't tap to zoom either though I can touch to move the map. This is a real pain and makes no difference whether I'm in desktop or tablet mode.
  • there is a short video tutorial on how to brign back the missing keyboard, just incase people would rather watch it being done than reading it being done. hope it Helps  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2dRYfRbIpTI
  • thank you.