How to Use the Mac On-Screen Keyboard

How to Use the Mac On-Screen Keyboard

Want to see all characters you can produce on macOS by typing? Find out here how to open the on-screen keyboard on a Mac (Keyboard Viewer) to see the key layout and enter characters by clicking.

First, What Happens When Your Fingers Wander?

Cat with a light touch

A thousand diverse notes” sound, of course, as your fingers wander over the water organ’s keys. Claudian, a poet of late Antiquity describes it quite clearly, and all it takes to make the bronze pipes blow is a “light touch” on the earliest keyboard instrument.

Now, what if you want to know what a light touch of the Command, Shift and U keys will produce on the instrument in front of you?

How to Open the Mac On-Screen Keyboard (Keyboard Viewer)

Using Windows? How to open and use the screen keyboard on Windows 10.

To enable and bring up the virtual macOS on screen keyboard so you can view character layouts and enter letters or even special characters with either keys or a keyboard missing on a MacBook, iMac or other Mac:

Using the Mouse and Menu Bar

Time needed: 2 minutes.

To open a useable keyboard on your Mac screen using macOS:

  1. Enable the input item in the macOS menu bar. (See below.)

    Alternative: You can also open Keyboard Viewer using the mouse and a screen corner or the keyboard; see below.

  2. Click the input menu button in the menu bar.

  3. Select Show Keyboard Viewer from the menu.

    Show keyboard viewer for the Mac on screen keyboard

Using the Mouse and a Screen Corner

To set up a Mac screen corner to bring up the on-screen keyboard:

  1. Open System Preferences.
  2. Select Accessibility.
  3. Go to the Keyboard category (under Motor).
  4. Now go to the Viewer tab.
  5. Check Enable Accessibility Keyboard.
  6. Click Options….
  7. Open the Hot Corners tab.
  8. Choose Hide/Show Home Panel for the corners you would like to bring up (and hide) the on-screen keyboard.

Now, to open the keyboard:

  1. Move the mouse to an enabled screen corner.
  2. Wait for the on-screen keyboard to open.

How to Use the Mac On-Screen Keyboard

To use the virtual screen keyboard on a Mac:

  • Click any key to insert it at the current text cursor position.
    Hint: So-called “dead” keys will appear in orange. A dead key is one that modifies the next key you press, to add a tilde (~, as in año), for example.
  • Hold down keys—and modifier keys in particular—on the physical keyboard, if you have one, to see what effect they have.
    Example: Press the Option and Shift keys together, for example, to see what character pressing Option and Shift together with another key will insert.
    Clicking, not pressing: You can also click modifier keys on the keyboard viewer to “press” them; note that you can always only have one enabled in this manner, however.
    On-Screen Keyboard on a Mac - Keyboard Viewer. Apple

Enable the Mac Input Menu

To enable the input menu in the macOS menu bar:

  1. Click the Apple logo () in the menu.
  2. Select System Preferences… from the menu.
    Select "System Preferences…" from the menu. Apple
  3. Open the Keyboard category.
  4. Go to the Input Sources tab.
  5. Make sure Show Input menu in menu bar is checked.
    Make sure "Show input menu in menu bar" is checked

How to Use the Mac On-Screen Keyboard (Keyboard Viewer): FAQ

Can I open Keyboard Viewer using the keyboard?

Yes.

To bring up the Mac on-screen keyboard using the (physical) keyboard:

  1. Press Command Option F5.
  2. Now press Tab until the checkbox in front of Accessibility Keyboard is highlighted (under Physical and Motor).
    No “Accessibility Keyboard”: If you do not see Accessibility Keyboard in the list of options, select Preferences and see below for adding it.
    Open the on-screen keyboard (Keyboard Viewer) on a Mac using the keyboard
  3. Press Space to enable the on-screen keyboard.
  4. Now press Enter.

Add “Accessibility Keyboard” to Accessibility Shortcuts

To add the on-screen keyboard as a choice for the Command Option F5 keyboard shortcut:

  1. Open the Accessibility section in System Preferences.
  2. Select Shortcut under General.
  3. Check Accessibility Keyboard.

(How to use the Mac on-screen keyboard tested with macOS Monterey 12.0, Big Sur 11.2, Sierra 10.12, High Sierra 10.13 and Catalina 10.15; updated September 2022)

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