Windows 8 In Videos: An Operating System Reimagined?

Tablet And Smartphone: Keyboard

Touch Keyboard

Metro really shines on tablets and smartphones. We’re specifically referring to the touch keyboard, which comes in three modes: thumb-only, full, and handwriting recognition. No matter what mode you're using, the virtual keyboard (or writing panel) appears docked at the bottom of the screen. But you can move it around as a floating window.

The color scheme is similar to Honeycomb, but that’s just one similarity to Android. For mixed input, you still need to use a function key to alternate the layout because there’s no dedicated row for numbers. The awesome part of the interface comes from the innovative thumbs-only keyboard layout. It’s undoubtedly intended for tablets and smartphones, and in our opinion, the keyboard will speed up typing compared to the hunt-and-peck approach encouraged by virtual keyboards.

There is one slight quirk. Unless you have the Samsung developer tablet handed out at BUILD, the touch keyboard doesn’t appear in Metro mode. On our Asus Eee Slate EP121, we can only access the touch keyboard in the Vanilla UI. This also holds true for our desktop equipped with Wacom’s Bamboo Fun Pen & Touch.

If you're using a regular desktop or notebook, there’s no way to access the virtual interface. This is a bummer for developers because they can't test their programs as they'd appear on more mobile devices. The only thing you can use is the On-Screen Keyboard, which is intended to provide accessibility for those with visual disabilities, but it lacks touch functionality.