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Do you use the one-handed keyboard in Windows 10 Mobile?

Earlier this morning, it was revealed that the WordFlow keyboard that is headed to the iPhone will also include a one-hand option. Later on, the Verge posted an image of said mode and it looks very much like one from a Microsoft Research project from 2012.

Needless to say, Windows Phone fans are once again peeved at the iPhone seemingly getting a feature that Windows 10 Mobile users do not.

However, savvy users will know that the Windows 10 Mobile keyboard has had a one-hand option for quite some time. Accessing it is relatively straightforward as we outlined in our '11 keyboard tips that will help you type faster on Windows 10 Mobile' article from November:

"When the keyboard is open, tap and hold the $123 button, and then tap the keyboard icon. Select which side you want to shift it to. This seems only to be available for devices with displays greater than 5 inches."

The effect can be seen below where the keyboard mushes up to one side or the other depending on your preference. Granted, this is not the seemingly "cooler" fan version that the iPhone is evidently getting. Regardless, since none of us have tested WordFlow on the iPhone, it is a bit early to presume that it is necessarily better (it could, but it also could be gimmicky).

All of this controversy raises the question: Do you even use the one-handed keyboard in Windows 10 Mobile? Did you know it was there?

The reason for the question may not be obvious, but like the ability to shrink the display (hold down the Windows key) some of these usability enhancements are just not utilized often by users either because of discovery issues or lack of convenience. Is that the case here?

Take the poll embedded above (or navigate to strw.pl/onehandluke) and let us know what you think!

Daniel Rubino
Executive Editor

Daniel Rubino is the Executive Editor of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft here since 2007, back when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and arguing with people on the internet.

314 Comments
  • I don't. Even when I'm using my brother's Lumia 1520 I don't use it. And I'd bet most people don't either.
  • That's my guess. It's nice in theory, but in practice not sure how many would activate it. The iPhone would have a similar issue as it's an extra step.
  • Now that this has been brought to my attention, I just switched the layout on my 950.
  • Yeah now you've brought this to my attention I've also switched, soooo much easier, thanks WC ;)
  • Same here ☺ didn't have an issue with my 950xl but it's just a bit more comfortable if I need to go to the "far" side now.
  • But... we don't use it because it's bad? The fan version is better? Why we don't have other keyboards? If I could try another one I could say if it's better or not. Even the closed iOS has other keyboards...
  • iOS didn't get third party keyboards until iOS 8, IIRC. We may well get third-party keyboards in future versions of Windows 10, I really hope we do personally. The Windows 10 phone keyboards are good enough, but on tablets it's pretty bad.
  • I'd like that too. However, the architecture of NT doesn't permit it. Here's a quote From another user on another forum who has read InsideNT and is very knowlegeable about the NT kernel:
    It has the potential to be a huge security issue. This doesn't mean they won't ever allow 3rd party solutions, but if they do, they will need a special certification process. Even Windows NT in general has strict guidelines for any input method that has the need to access secure layers. On Windows you can easily make a 3rd party keyboard for most things either via APIs or Hooks, but it can't send keystrokes to lower level or secured controls/content without jumping through several hoops. Just off the top of my head, it has to be a certified credential provider with the ability to obtain a security token of the same level for what it tries to access/touch. (Getting access to the ability to request and use low level security tokens on NT is simply not easy.) Also...
    Some of the most successful Android malware uses the keyboard interface. (iOS also has had successful malware hook into and work through the keyboard in the past.)
      With the low marketshare of Windows Mobile, I don't see swiftkey or swype or anyone else for that matter going through additional hoops deploying for Windows.
  • Yea the windows 10 keyboard is awful, nowhere near as nice as the W10 mobile one. Why Microsoft didn't bring word flow to Windows 10 desktop OS is beyond stupid.
  • I use it all the time on my 1520. Very useful for me if I really have to type using one hand. Sad that my 830 doesn't support this..
    The problem is the SEND button (sms)..which is on the far right side of the screen even when the keyboard is dragged to the left. :(
  • Yeah having the send button move with the one handed option would be so useful
  • Personally for me it makes perfectly good sense to put it on iPhone first. They have a lot more of a diversity of people to beta the product. I rather have a fully functional product as the end result.
  • Although, if it offered me something like that curved keyboard, I'd think if it.
  • I don't think that's the point. I use it and I'm interested to see how this one will be. I should be a first class citizen. Use me as the testing ground even if it's going to the other OS's.
  • I use my 928 one-handed all the time, thanks to Word Flow.
  • I don't because I don't have a Lumia >5 inches. Would anyone like to remedy that and buy me a 950xl?
  • I noticed that this wasn't in the poll. That's why I don't use it. I saw it when it was first shown off, was able to turn it on in an early build, but now on my 929 I can't activate it. I chose that I don't use it in the poll, but I have once before and would still if it was available. The phone is just the right size that I don't have to reach too hard to get to the other side.
  • True. Moreover I wonder how many users are knowing/using "moving the keyboard on the screen" feature or activating one handed mode by pressing Space button. I thank you guys for providing such information as MS is either slow in updating apps like Get Started or Lumia helps+Tips or all the information provided by them can be seldom found at one place.
  • Press hold the space, then drag to any side u want.... This activates the one handed keyboard. I dont think its an extra step tho
  • Lol I didn't even know about the 123 method in the post... I hold space bar then drag. It's useful for me on my 950xl, I'm short though, so small hands
  • @Dan, Thank you for this article. Many people didn't know about this feature. On your iOS fan article I commented a few times that we do have the feature, but just doesn't look the same. Then sent you an email to update the article. You can ignore the email now. I'm sure it went into spam/trash anyway. ;D
  • Hey Daniel, Msn News And Weather just got an update... I noticed the addition of dark mode in articles in news app... Please post this on windows central
  • They should bring back the good old T9 keyboard like I had on one of my earlier HTC devices:
  • If people do not activate it it is because they do not know about it and it is not as good as the rounded one. I use it anyway and MS attitude in the last months would have made me switch to other os if I wasn't a developer.
  • Aside from larger devices, it works if you make the display resolution at a lower setting too right?
  • I use it but only because I read about it on this site.
  • I don't have it on my 930 :(
  • I think 5-inch phones should have this option too, especially for people who have smaller hands would benefit to this.  
  • Not on my 930 either! Holding the &123 button just brings up the settings icon. Presiing and holding the space bar does nothing.
  • The keyboard with option to move around in the screen has a something like an equal sign = on the keyboard indicating that it is moveable. Fixed keyboards only shows the language used and sliding right and left over keyboard changes the keyboard language, if you have multiple languages installed.
  • I'm one of those people who uses it exclusively.
  • I only use it when I remember to use it.
  • Swipe to me is already 'one handed'
  • It is but people with small hands may have tough time reaching w,a and q with their right thumb. This brings the buttons closer.
  • A lot of people sure don't know about this. Microsoft better to advertise their Windows features both W10 and W10M (even Xbox maybe). Pretty sure alot of people hasn't take advantage of built-in apps in Windows 10.
  • Actually i use it quite often on my 1320, if we had it like (on the apparently better) the iOS keyboard i guess i would use it even more often
  • Okay, someone please help me here.
    When the ONE HANDED mode was announced it was only for LARGE devices at first then it supposedly came to all Lumias after fans asked for it. BUT in build 10586.29 (slow) running in a Lumia 525 it isn't there. I checked on two Lumia's but it isn't there!!!
    What's happening ?
  • isn't it only for 4.5" and larger?
  • I also don't use it. Because it doesn't support 5" screens and lower.
  • 5 foot screen! Wow! /s
    You mean 5"
  • Oops! Typo. Fixed.
  • Better than nothing
  • The problem is there is not much difference between on and off. And if your keyboard is set on small like mine on my 950, putting it left or right, the keyboard gets automatically bigger. Useless feature for now
  • Didn't even know it was there but now I am going to use it all the time.
  • Since I upgraded my 1520 to Windows 10 I use it all the time! This is super awesome ... the only other thing that bugs me is the fact that there are all these Hamburger Menus which are super intuitvely placed on the very opposite corner as my thumb ... I think I need a smaller phone ...
  • I use it. Not everyday but, several times a week easily. I'm glad it's there.
  • I have to admit thing ... My iphone 6 is better than any lumia now thanks to windows .... Well it used to be better but now it is more :D
  • Thanks to Windows? Care to explain that?
  • ms apps
  • Windows = MS?
  • Symbian fan?
  • Same with my HTC One M9. Microsoft is literally giving me reasons to stay off WP. That's why I left in the first place. Looks like they aren't changing the everyone else first mentality anytime soon. Lol. Posted via the Windows Central App for Symbian
  • I might try it though if we got the iphone version!!!
  • I didn't even know it existed lol...
  • No avail. for L Icon.
  • Yikes, seems like your Icon's keyboard has bigger problems like missing letters!
  • Lol ... Don't have it on Lumia 930 either must be screen size
  • Yes. Only Big devices.
  • I meant the one handed option, not the new keyboard for IPhone of course!
  • Yep 1520
  • No
  • Wm10 one hand way > iphones
  • +1
  • Yeah, that fan looks really awkward
  • To everyone salty about this: How do we know MS isn't just testing their Windows Bridges?
  • Why can't they test it on their own OS mobile? There are millions of Insiders
  • "Why can't they test it on their own OS mobile? There are millions of Insiders"
    There may be close to a million total and that is being generous.
  • My bad. Talking about not just one hand keyboard but Word Flow. It still is not yet available for Windows 10 PC, tablets for example.
  •  'cause testing our patience is plenty enough.
  • ^I laughed
  • They can't completely test the bridges on Windows because they are literally designed to develop stuff for other platforms first and then port them over to Windows. Now back on topic, I don't think that's what they're doing here but who knows.
  • I don't think keyboard is what we considered as 'apps'. Unless they're already considering having 3rd-party keyboard for W10M internally.
  • I doubt it.  Why would they port their own keyboard to their own platform?  If anything, I'm pretty sure they have a Windows version already or planned,  and the devs are just waiting for third-party keyboards to be supported.
  • I do on my 1520. And from that photo, I think iOS has a better implementation for one hand use. Hope this comes to WP soon.
  • Yeah, compared to W10M, the iOS one-handed keyboard layout looks more ergonomic for one-hand typing. This is even useful for swipe typing than actual tapping on those keys. The old 2012 curve keyboard prototype looks like its way more thumb-friendly though, I'm not sure unless I saw at least a video of it.
  • Not in Canada. SURPRISE!
  • lol um, I'm guessing it's your phone's model with a display less than 5" and not your region?
  • Lol yeah the ativ s was the biggest display available for 8.x in Canada. Sad but true
  • Dont forget the L830
  • Forgot about that 1. Though its not surprising given the short sales period here
  • My Canadian 640XL supports it.  It's not region-specific lol.
  • Now I am jeez, I'm a lefty and it was set to righty.
  • I used to on my 1520 and then I just kind of stopped.
  • I almost exclusively typed one-handed and did not know about this nifty trick in W10 mobile.  Thanks!
  • Tried to use it for the first time to write this comment, but......930
  • Really wish it was available on my 920. 5 in screen requirement is asinine
  • Maybe, but some of us with 5.7" displays don't even use it.
  • That doesn't mean the convenience of one hand use isn't desirable
  • Hey I got a question, my Lumia 640 with windows 10, it's running current build, but today my battery life was terrible today, and sometimes my keyboard glitches, it thinks I'm using flow keyboard typing when I'm just iPhone keyboard typing. Any fix?
  • They made the "one-handed mode" (push and hold Windows button) available for all devices after originally only making it available for bigger phones, so they could do the same here.
  • @Owen Dugmore. That is awfully clunky at best.
  • That's not for the keyboard... that's for reaching to items at the top such as menus and buttons.  The one-hand keyboard is accessed by pressing and holding the &123 button on the keyboard.
  • @thaman04 I am aware... That's why I said they could make the keyboard feature available for all phones *like* they eventually made the reach (hold win button) feature available for all phones.
  • Before everyone gets their pitchforks out again today, a Microsoft employee has confirmed on Reddit that the iOS keyboard truly is just a project from the Microsoft Research group: https://www.reddit.com/r/windowsphone/comments/42m9pd/microsofts_ios_wor... She assures us that the phone team is "improving the W10M typing experience based on all the feedback you guys have been sharing with us", but the iOS keyboard has nothing to do with anyone in the Windows division. This project reinforces WindowsCentral's report earlier today on MSR's push for more public projects: http://www.windowscentral.com/microsoft-research-will-push-get-more-prod... And this would be a great "in" for Cortana everywhere in iOS. Maybe even a way to hook into OneNote or something like OneClip? Combined with other utilities and apps, Microsoft could essentially take over iOS or Android from the inside out. Since converting them to Windows Phone failed, MS can at least lock them into Office, OneDrive, and other services in the ecosystem.
  • We give feedback to things that we know and have. Why they keep the creative things to people that don't give feedback? How can I ask to bring a "fan keyboard" if I don't have this idea?
  • We can't handle the truth...
  • Everyone should read this!
  • I get that... and it's a smart move to dominate other phones... but their own phones should still be treated as first-class otherwise no one will actually ever switch.   It seems like Microsoft Research isn't part of the 'One Microsoft' vision based on their note.  But neither is their Skype team.
  • Once in a while... I was amazed to see ppl whining abt iphone getting the feature because most of them didnt know that it came to w10m first... And its only gud for device like my l1520. . . Thats why i use it. I wud not have if i had a screen smaller or eqaul to 5".... I dont even use the moving feature... I bet if it comes to iphone too... Ppl will be like why msft....
  • I didn't know iPholk had opposable thumbs.
  • That there is funny
  • Very funny.
  • Never knew of this but on the 1520 unless you have a 6 inch thumb word flow works like crap. That is UNTIL I read this article. Shrinking it down and to the right makes a tremendous difference. Though I think word flow is over hyped generally speaking. Thanks for the tip!
  • I am so tired of getting "nit" instead of not.
  • That started with W10M keyboard. It was fine before.
  • I totally forgot it was avialable. I use larger format phones, 5.7". I usually use 2 hands, or it's Cortana to the recue.
  • I knew about it. Elected not to use it, not even on my 1520. When I type, I like two thumbs.
  • You don't need to press and hold the 123 key and then select the keyboard type. You can also simply hold the space bar and drag the keyboard left or right as well as up down.
  • This is what I do. Hold and drag the spacebar.
  • I knew about the up and down, but not the left and right, appreciate it.
  • Microsoft should seriously market and give ads about their Windows features, including the WordFlow keyboard. This is why alot of people didn't even know Microsoft giving us options, most of the times Microsoft didn't even try to mention it to the public and give ads about it.
  • They released many mini-vids on the features... but they can't advertise EVERY little feature otherwise that'll be overkill.  Most people don't even care about this feature to be honest.
  • Not really those very small features that are buried under the settings. Features that are most likely used by anybody. Those mini-vids showcase the major features and most are because its a new features. We need to have some other similar vids to showcase some existing features that people more like being use already but don't know the extra functionality, such as the WordFlow Keyboard, a feature that every Windows Phone/Mobile user use but maybe don't know other stuff other than typing. We don't need videos talking about Device Manager or other totally non-obvious stuff.
  • Sure as **** do.
  • I don't use it cause it's hard to use with 1 hand (contrary to the curvy one from ios :D)
  • I like that the option is there, but I just don't need it because I purchase devices like the 950 or M8 that fit my hand.
  • No. Not even with the other platforms. Two-handed use still is faster and the phone is more secure. Really no decent situation wherein you'd need to use the phone one-handed. If the phone falls and breaks because of that, then it was much deserved. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Well, I is not that hard to balance a phone. I often have the problem that I do not have both hands free and without this balancing your phone actually gets much worse than it already is. Reaching all over the screen to the keys on the opposite site of your hands is an enormous hassle ...
  • It actually isn't hard, but doesn't mean that you should actually do it. If you don't have both hands free then wait until you've got them free. If you actually drop your device then the size isn't to blame but yourself. You wouldn't need to balance anything or rely on software aids on two hands.
  • True that. Still, there are often situations where two-handed use is not an option. And without bad controls this would not be a problem in the first place, since I can securely hold my phone with one hand. It just gets somewhat problematic when I actually have to use it ...
  • Never used it. I typically buy phones that fit in my hand and Wordflow's Swype-like feature makes it even easier. The only issue I've ever had was reaching the top of the left corner on my 1520 but that's been remedied by its retirement. The 950 is now my daily phone and I haven't looked at the 1520 the same ever since.
    Btw, Lumia's don't break from drops, that's an Android /iPhone issue. How small are your hands? Phones are intended for one handed usage, not two. If you have to use two hands then you bought the wrong phone. It's also a well known fact that the fastest typing record was set by using one hand (Omnia 2) so I'm not sure where you based that comment from. So if you bought an Android then it is you who much deserves a broken phone for buying such shoddy built devices.
  • Opposite experience for me - after switching from the 1520 to the 950, I'm finding myself really missing the big screen, especially when web browsing or reading news articles and comments, such as on WC.  I passed on the XL due to some of its specific deficiencies, but I'm starting to really second-guess my choice. As for the keyboard, I don't use the one-handed option, even when one-handed swipe-typing, such as while driving.  The regular keyboard never felt too big or tough to reach across for me, even on the 1520, and on the 950 the difference between the regular and one-handed one is negligible.
  • Quite the opposite actually. I actually despise devices with screens lower than 5.5-inches. I'm an Asian so my hands aren't that big compared to other people who're taller and complain about the size of a 5-inch device. I can reach the opposite end of the keyboard without any issues so I can't see where the problem is with others. The fastest record is with a Galaxy S4, two hands, and the aid of Fleksy. I don't need the latter. Yes, a phone is intended to used with one hand. I haven't even seen anyone using the phone functionality with two hands. Have you? Texting is a different concern. If texting is meant for one-handed usage then we'd have those one-handed keyboard right off the bat when on-screen keyboard started. They only started adding these for people who don't give a damn about their phone (since you guys rarely pay full-price for them) and they're hoping you'd drop them trying to use it one-handed. Two-handed usage still secures the phone better than a single hand. You'd probably care enough if your only option is buying devices at full-price.
  • I think that is specifically your case (clumsy hands), as for me, when I had my Lumia 640XL, one-handed keyboard was perfect as it improved the stability when holding the device, there was no need of stretching my thumb and with combination of WordFlow it was a delightful feature, only diminished by the weird word prediction, at least for my language.
  • Wait, you can't secure your phone with one hand? Also, I find using wordflow with one hand faster than typing with two.
  • I don't, but if it looked like the iPhone version I might and I'm not just saying that out of spite. Looks like it really would facilitate one-handed thumb use more than the Windows version.
  • Didn't know it existed. Never noticed the menu option on the 123 key. I do not have the need to use my Lumia 1520 one handed. Sometimes I use my L1520 in landscape to type with 2 thumbs, very convenient.  
  • The actual questions should be: how many of us owe phones with screens above 5"? and how many of those people are actually voting? How can we make sure only users with 5" phones would vote? We can't so the results can't really be trusted
  • I use this feature daily...