Mobile-Inspired On-Screen Keyboard Coming to Windows 10

The on-screen keyboard in the next major Windows 10 feature update will include SwiftKey predictive typing technology.

Windows 10

SwiftKey, the popular predictive, AI-enabled keyboard for mobile devices, will be part of the next major Windows 10 update, which is expected to arrive sometime in the fall.

Rather than peck at virtual keys, SwiftKey allows users to "swipe" across a keyboard to complete words. And the more it is used, the smarter it gets. Microsoft acquired SwiftKey in early 2016, and beginning with Windows 10 test build 17692, users can see how the technology works on a desktop operating system.

"SwiftKey gives you more accurate autocorrections and predictions by learning your writing style—including the words, phrases and emoji that matter to you," stated Microsoft's Dona Sarkar, head of the Windows Insider program, and Senior Program Manager Brandon LeBlanc in a blog post announcing the availability of Windows 10 build 17692.

Beginning with that build, Microsoft's mobile-inspired predictive keyboard will work with select languages, powering "the typing experience on Windows when using the touch keyboard to write in English (United States), English (United Kingdom), French (France), German (Germany), Italian (Italy), Spanish (Spain), Portuguese (Brazil), or Russian," they added.

Windows 10 build 17692 also makes it easier to find software downloads using the operating system's built-in search functionality. When users type the name of a Windows software program into the taskbar's search field, they are now directed to the official download page of the desired application.

Meanwhile, Microsoft Edge is getting a couple of enhancements, including one that was let out of the bag a little earlier than intended.

The browser is getting a control that will allow users to set whether a website can automatically play video under Advanced Settings. The control, although initially announced for build 17692, will be making an appearance in a future build instead, clarified Sarkar and LeBlanc after the initial reveal.

The one Edge feature that Windows Insiders can try out now is the updated WebDriver, a toolset used by web developers for cross-browser testing and other coding tasks.

The latest version matches the latest W3C Recommendation specification and is now available as "on demand" feature, meaning WebDriver is automatically updated alongside the operating system for users who have enabled Developer Mode. Previously, users were required to manually install the version of WebDriver that matched the operating system. The change also means that Microsoft will no longer issue stand-alone installers for future versions, although it will keep the previous releases available on the company's download page.

On the accessibility front, the new "Make everything bigger" setting allows users to change the size of on-screen text. The setting works across the entire operating system, including classic Win32 software and newer Universal Windows Platform (UWP) applications.

Narrator, the text-to-speech feature in Windows that reads on-screen content aloud, now offers a new keyboard layout that aligns better with the shortcuts used on other screen reader software, making the transition to Microsoft's solution a bit smoother for users. A new Find feature allows users to find a passage of text, similar to the "Find on page" functionality in Microsoft Edge. Additionally, when a dialog box pops up—like a save prompt or error message—Narrator now automatically reads its contents.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...