[Chrome, Opera] No need for a real keyboard if you have Virtual Keyboard (by Google)October 4, 2012 3 Email article | Print article
If you are on a touchscreen device, or don’t like your physical keyboard on a non-touch machine, then having an onscreen keyboard is a good idea. Virtual Keyboard by Google gives you that ability in Chrome or Opera with very little fuss.
What is it and what does it do
Virtual Keyboard gives you access to a keyboard within your web browser without the need for a physical keyboard.
- Supports over 80 different keyboard layouts/languages
- Automatically pops up on a page that asks for input with text boxes
- As soon as you click on a letter or number, it shows up where you are typing
- Works with touchscreen devices and by clicking on it with a mouse
- Does not work with Google Docs (this is a known issue)
- Does not work in input fields with iFrames (this is a known issue)
- Development is currently suspended indefinitely
- May interfere with YouTube videos on OS X (this is a known issue)
- Very small keyboard size
- The keyboard does not work with the search bar in Chrome or Opera
When I first stumbled on this extension for Chrome, I was a little skeptical if it would really work. However, I decided to give it a try, since this is the first web-browser based onscreen keyboard that I have seen. I have been using it as much as I can for the past day and the following is what I have found during my time with it.
The first major feature of this extension is the multiple language support. It has lots of languages and the keyboards on all of them are great. However, if you are on older hardware then symbol based languages will have problems like Chinese; however Arabic (or other similar languages) work just fine. As you can see in the picture it works well except for the Symbol based languages.
The second major feature, and the reason that you would most likely get this, is so you can use it with a touchscreen enabled device. While I recommend that you use your device’s built-in keyboard, or a third-party keyboard app, this is a viable option when using Chrome or Opera.
In order to truly appreciate this keyboard you first need to know how to use it. To use it, all you need to do is go to a page that supports it like Google.com. Then click on the search field, and the keyboard should popup automatically; if the keyboard does not pop up then you will have to click on the little keyboard button located in the search bar. After that, type your message and click enter when done. It is as simple as that.
Now, for the bad — and sadly for this extension there are quite a few of bad things about this program. Let us first begin with development. As with all pieces of software, extensions are under constant development (or at least they should be). Without development the product cannot get better and therefore suffers. Such is the case with Virtual Keyboard. As of June of 2012, Google is no longer supporting it, and development has ceased. To make it worse, Google did not open source the extension so private developers cannot make their own improvements to it.
Another issue is the lack of websites that the keyboard works with. The most prominent is Google Docs and Gmail. You can search for things within those two sites but when it comes to composing emails or documents, Virtual Keyboard does not let you do this. And, to top it off, you cannot use the search bar with Virtual Keyboard in Chrome or Opera. This, to me, is a huge disappointment and very hard to deal with.
The one improvement I would make to this extension is obviously make it work with any input box or search field, especially the main address/search bar. However, Google has suspended the production of Virtual Keyboard indefinitely, and they have not made the source open sourced. So that likely won’t happen.
Conclusion and download link
In the end, I would not recommend getting this extension. While it was kind of fun to use it for a little while, after about a minute or two you really find out its limitations. And with Google no longer updating it, there is little hope of it getting better. If you really need an onscreen keyboard I would suggest find one that is compatible with your OS. These are better than Virtual Keyboard and work throughout the operating system, not just your web browser.
Version reviewed: 0.9.8.8
Requires: Google Chrome, Opera