An alternative to a physical keyboard, a virtual keyboard is a software-based keyboard used with touch screen devices. The keyboard is a digital representation of a QWERTY keyboard that appears on the screen when text input is required by the application. The user can then tap the virtual keys for typing words.
Virtual keyboards often include multiple pages of characters, containing letters, punctuation, numbers, and symbols. Depending on the device's operating system, there may also be options to insert emojis, stickers, or animated GIFs.
Virtual keyboards are featured on smartphones, tablets, and other portable devices that do not require the constant use of a physical keyboard. Most developers have created proprietary virtual keyboards for their devices. However, the default virtual keyboard can often be replaced with third-party virtual keyboard apps, available for download or purchase on the device's app store.
Examples of virtual keyboards
- Gboard - A virtual keyboard for iOS and Android created by Google, featuring translation capabilities, GIFs, and customizable themes.
- Swype - A popular virtual keyboard that lets you type by swiping a finger across multiple letters, spelling out a word in a single motion.
- OSK (on-screen keyboard) - A virtual keyboard available in Microsoft Windows when a mobile device or 2-in-1 laptop, such as the Surface Pro, is operated in tablet mode. The OSK is also available when Ease of Access accessibility features are enabled.
Accessing the virtual keyboard
On an iPhone, iPad, Android smartphones and tablets, and most other mobile devices, tapping in a text field displays the virtual keyboard. There is no button or option you need to tap to access that keyboard. Third-party virtual keyboards are also available through the device's app store and used in place of the default virtual keyboard.
If the virtual keyboard is not displaying on your mobile device, access the Settings app and find the keyboard settings. Some devices allow you to use a physical, external keyboard, and the keyboard settings may be set to only use an external keyboard. If the external keyboard option is enabled, try disabling that option to see if that gets the virtual keyboard to display again.