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How to enable and use the ChromeOS virtual keyboard

For those with convertible Chromebooks, the Virtual Keyboard can be a real boon to productivity. Jack Wallen shows you how to enable it, resize it, and move it on your screen.
jack-wallen
Written by Jack Wallen, Contributing Writer on
Lenovo Flex 5i 13 Chromebook
Amazon

ChromeOS has a lot of really nifty tricks hidden within the OS. One such trick is a virtual keyboard. You might be wondering why a virtual keyboard would even be necessary, especially given your Chromebook already has a handy physical keyboard available.

Consider this: If your Chromebook can be used in tablet mode, you flip that screen over and all of a sudden that physical keyboard isn't exactly handy. What do you do? You use the virtual keyboard. 

However, the virtual keyboard isn't enabled by default. So, before you can use it, you have to enable it.

Let me show you how to not only enable the physical keyboard but also make it flat so it doesn't take up as much screen space and you can move it to wherever you need. 

Also: 5 reasons a Chromebook is the perfect laptop for most users

I'll be demonstrating on ChromeOS 106.0.5239.0, but this should work on older instances of the operating system.

Enabling the virtual keyboard

1. Open Settings

The first thing to be done is to open the Settings app. Click the system tray (where the time lives) and click the gear icon to open the Settings app.

2. Locate Accessibility

In the left pane of the Settings app (Figure 1), click Advanced to expand the entry.

The ChromeOS Settings app.

Figure 1: The ChromeOS Settings app is where you take care of most of the settings.

Image: JackWallen

With Advanced expanded, click Accessibility and then click "Manage accessibility features" (Figure 2).

The Accessibility option within the ChromeOS Settins app.

Figure 2: The Accessibility section of the ChromeOS Settings app.

Image: Jack Wallen

3. Enable the Virtual Keyboard

Scroll down until you see "On-screen keyboard" (Figure 3). 

The On Screen Keyboard entry within Accessibility.

Figure 3: Enabling the onscreen keyboard in ChromeOS.

Image: Jack Wallen

Click the on-off slider until it's in the on position and then close out the Settings app.

Opening the Virtual Keyboard

With the Virtual Keyboard enabled, you should now see a keyboard icon on your shelf. Click that icon to open the virtual keyboard (Figure 4).

The ChromeOS Virtual Keyboard.

Figure 4: The Virtual Keyboard is open and ready to be used.

Image: Jack Wallen

Enabling the floating keyboard

As you can see, the virtual keyboard takes up a lot of space, so much so that it could make using the Chrome web browser a bit challenging. What do you do? You can enable the floating keyboard, which is not only smaller but can also float on the screen to wherever you need it.

To float the keyboard, click the right-pointing arrow in the top left corner and then click the small square near the center (Figure 5).

The ChromeOS Virtual Keyboard options toolbar.

Figure 5: Enabling the floating keyboard with a single click.

Image: Jack Wallen

Once the keyboard is floating (Figure 6), you can resize it by clicking and dragging one of the blue corner handles and dragging it around by clicking the bottom handle (circle with the four arrows).

The ChromeOS Virtual Keyboard in floating mode.

Figure 6: The ChromeOS floating keyboard has been enabled and takes up much less screen space.

Image: Jack Wallen

And that's all there is to enabling and using the ChromeOS Virtual Keyboard. For those with a two-in-one Chromebook, this will be a great tool to use when the physical keyboard has been tucked out of the way.

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