In a new post on the Microsoft Windows 8 development blog, Microsoft explain some of the thinking behind their enhanced “on-screen keyboards” in Windows 8.

With Windows 8, Microsoft started fresh and took a “first principles” approach to developing the touch keyboard.

In the post, Kip Knox, a member of the Windows User Experience program management team, talks about some of the work.

Touch optimized keyboard layout

Touch optimized keyboard layout

Some of the highlights of the new keyboard (from Microsoft):

  • The backspace key is there because it’s used very frequently on physical keyboards and touch keyboards.
  • The mode switch key is essential to moving between views and languages and for hiding the keyboard.
  • The CTRL key and the right and left arrow keys are intended for text editing operations. You can move your input cursor and cut, copy, and paste without moving your hands from the keyboard. (Note that the CTRL key works just as it does on a physical keyboard—so any supported combination will work. We include labels for things like cut, copy, paste, and bold, because they are related to text editing. The touch keyboard is not intended for “commanding,” which is why you don’t see things like the Windows key or function keys. That is a deliberate decision to stay focused on the goal of being really great for typing.
  • The space bar is centered and wide. Physical keyboard research shows that about 80% of strikes on the space bar occur on the right (if you look at older keyboards, you will notice the wear on that side). This holds for touch keyboards too, where people will miss the spacebar if it’s not ample-sized, and this creates errors that are hard to recover from.
  • The “emoji” or emoticon key switches you to emoji view, where we support a full set of Unicode-based emoji characters. The use of emoji continues to grow worldwide, and has become a part of how people write and express themselves.
  • We also include an option for a standard keyboard layout, which can be useful on a PC without a keyboard when using desktop software that requires function keys or other extended keys. This is easily enabled from the settings Charm, in the General Settings section of PC Settings.
  • As you use the keyboard, we hope you also discover some extra features we’ve added to make things easier. For example, if you hold down the &123 key, you can select symbols or numbers with your other hand, and when you release, you return to your original view. The team calls this “multi-touch view peek.”

Here’s a little video to go with the post:

About the Author

Onuora Amobi is the Founder and VP of Digital Marketing at Learn About The Web Inc. Onuora has more than a decade of information security, project management and management consulting experience. He has specialized in the management and deployment of large scale ERP client/server systems.

In addition to being a former Microsoft MVP and the founder and editor of, he is the CEO of a Pasadena based online marketing education startup - Learn About The Web Inc. ( and The Redmond Cloud (

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  1. Stephen Gooden / July 18, 2012 at 2:52 am /Reply

    Clever – I just looked at my keyboard spacebar and they are right…the right side is worn. I didn’t even realize that i only use my right thumb/hand to use the space bar :-). Glad for the left and right buttons. Hopefully the other tablet folks will adopt. Its obvious they all should make the virtual keyboard as similar to the real as possible but hey.

  2. I miss the ‘.com’ key, the ‘@’ key, and the dedicated numbers column keys that webos and some others.

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