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Visual Keyboards

Windows and Macintosh each have built-in visual keyboards that are designed as accessibility features. But you can take advantage of these tools when learning to type in an unfamiliar language. You can either use your mouse to click on the letters to type, or use your physical keyboard and use the visual keyboard as a guide.

On both systems, you have control over the display font for the visual keyboard. So if you are having trouble seeing the font on the keyboards, try changing the font to something that will display better. Typically, more decorative or serif fonts may be more difficult to read on screen than simpler, sans-serif fonts.

Hint: Print out the visual keyboard and tape a copy of it to the bottom of your monitor. This will put it almost in line with your screen, which is where your eyes are directed anyway. Doing this can help reduce the strain on your neck and eyes while you are still getting used to the new input method.

Macintosh

As with all of Mac's keyboard utilities, their Keyboard Viewer is found in:

  1. System Preferences
  2. International
  3. Input Method section
  4. Check the box next to Keyboard Viewer on this screen and then Quit your System Preferences.

The Keyboard Viewer is a visual keyboard of the active keyboard input. It will float above all open windows and change automatically as you change your keyboard layouts in the keyboard menu (displayed in the upper right of the screen under a flag icon).

Windows

Windows also has an accessibility feature called On-Screen Keyboard. You can find this by going to:

  • Start Menu
  • Programs
  • Accessories
  • Accessibility
  • On-Screen Keyboard
Hint: make a shortcut to this in your QuickStart bar at the bottom of your screen. This will make it readily available with a single click at all times.

This keyboard window floats over all other windows when open, and shows you the layout of the input method currently selected. Sometimes the keyboard takes a few seconds to update when you switch between input methods, click on the keyboard to get it to update it's display faster.