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Samsung's ATIV Smart PC 500T: An Atom-Based Windows 8 Tablet

Windows 8's On-Screen Keyboard And Handwriting Recognition

We covered Windows 8's on-screen keyboard in The Definitive Windows 8 Review And User Guide. But, as it pertains to a digitizer-equipped tablet like Samsung's, the keyboard is worth covering again. 

There are two on-screen keyboards. The first displays a standard QWERTY layout, adding apostrophe, comma, period, and question mark punctuation keys. Backspace, Enter, Caps Lock, the space bar, and left and right cursor keys are also available. That layout works well enough when the tablet is lying flat on its back like a physical keyboard.

But if you're holding on with both hands, stretching your thumbs across the screen requires a lot more dexterity. Enter the split layout, which lets you type quickly using both thumbs on their respective sides of the display. Even though the keys are smaller, it seems easier to be more accurate. For each keystroke, a larger reverse-color (white with black letters) pop-up appears directly over the keys you press.

If you instead plan to use a digitizer pen, handwriting input is the other layout option you can pick after pressing the lower right-hand keyboard icon.

Handwriting recognition continues to be a learning process. The more you write, the more accurately Windows 8 detects your personal style. During the first few weeks of use, this means manually picking out improperly-detected words and writing out their individual letters. Microsoft does its part to help, though. For example, when you enter a URL into a Web browser, the "http://" and “.com” parts of the link are already written out.

The QWERTY and split-screen keyboards, along with the handwriting panel, share the same space. This lets you switch back and forth between layouts quickly. The input window gets overlaid on top of other programs and applications. Though convenient, this behavior covers much of a smaller tablet's screen, often hiding the fields you're typing into. Hit the maximize button in the application's upper right-hand corner to solve this. It'll resize the window so it populates whatever is left of the display not already monopolized by the input window.