OptiKey: Assistive On-screen Keyboard


Author: Thomas C. Weiss
Published: 2015/09/14 - Updated: 2018/04/30
Contents: Summary - Introduction - Main - Related

Synopsis: OptiKey is an assistive on-screen keyboard designed to bring mouse, keyboard, and speech control to people with speech and motor limitations.


OptiKey is an assistive, on-screen keyboard that runs on Microsoft Windows operating systems. It is designed to be used with an eye-tracking device that is low cost in order to bring mouse control, keyboard control and speech to people who experience speech and motor limitations such as those living with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). The software works right out of the box once a person has their eye-tracking device installed and permits selections to be made using dwell selection, as well as physical buttons and assistive devices. If you do not have an eye-tracking device, you can use OptiKey with a mouse.

Main Digest

OptiKey was written to challenge the incredibly expensive, hard to use alternative and augmentative communication (AAC) products on the market that are unreliable. The program is entirely open-source and free of charge; forever. OptiKey may be used as an alternative to a physical keyboard, permitting people to type into any application.

The program can automatically insert spaces between words, as well as capitalize letters for a person to increase their typing rate. You can even type entire words and phrases in one selection by, 'swiping,' or using, 'auto-complete.' To communicate with others around you click the, 'Speak,' button and OptiKey will convert what you type into speech.

OptiKey Mouse Functions

OptiKey can replace your mouse and allow you to click, scroll and drag with exactitude anywhere on your screen. The program's basic mouse actions include basic mouse actions such as left, middle, right click or scrolling. Numbers 11, 12, 13 and 15 as well as numbers 1-9 on the mouse keyboard are performed by selecting the desired mouse action key. A large mouse cursor will be displayed to show where OptiKey is pointing. Direct your attention to the point where you want to perform the mouse action and hold it there. A progress indicator will indicate that you are performing a selection. When the progress indicator completes your mouse action it will be done at that point. When you are scrolling with the mouse, the number of wheel clicks to apply is indicated on key number ten; select this key to change the amount.

Dragging operations, number 16 on the mouse keyboard, is somewhat different because two selections have to be made after you select the drag key. Select point one; the first selection will be where the mouse button is pressed and held down. Then select point two; this is the point to which the mouse cursor is dragged and released.

Continued below image.
Image of the OptiKey mouse keyboard
Image of the OptiKey mouse keyboard

Using an Eye-Tracking Device

To use an eye-tracking device you will need a tablet, laptop, or desktop computer that meets the minimum requirements of the eye tracker you have chosen. From a broad perspective, you will need at least an Intel i5 processor, at least one USB 3.0 port, as well as a screen size large enough for you to use comfortably. Your screen should measure 13-15" and no more than 24", although it might be possible to use a bigger screen if Windows is limited to only 24" such as if you are using Parallels to run Windows on a Macintosh computer.

Buy one of the low cost eye-tracking devices. The creator of OptiKey recommends the Tobii EyeX tracker or the Eye Tribe one, although the full list of usable eye-tracking devices is available on the OptiKey website. Follow the steps on the, 'Using eye-trackers,' page, it will guide you through the process of setting up your eye-tracker to work with OptiKey. Enjoy controlling your computer and speaking using only your eyes.

OptiKey and the Magnifier

To increase your precision while making mouse selections, you can switch on magnification by pressing or locking down the Magnifier key. You will notice that the Magnification key cycles through three states, UP, DOWN and LOCKED DOWN before returning to UP, which means the magnification functionality can be off, on for just the next mouse action, or permanently on.

Selecting a point is a two step process when you are using the magnifier. Direct your attention to the approximate area you want to click or scroll; a magnified image of the area will be displayed. Direct your attention to precisely where you want to click or scroll in the magnified image to perform the action at that point, or select outside the magnified area to cancel the action.

As for dragging with the Magnifier, or number 16 on the mouse keyboard, is somewhat different because two selections must be made after you select the drag key. Select one point; it will be where the mouse button is pressed and held down. Select another point; this is the point to where the mouse cursor is dragged and released. Bear in mind that the, 'Repeat Last,' key or number 14 on the mouse keyboard permits you to repeat the last mouse action you took, something that may be very useful if you want to scroll down a web page that is long one scroll at time for example.

Continued below image.
Image of OptiKey in Microsoft Word
Image of OptiKey in Microsoft Word

OptiKey and Sound Settings

With OptiKey selected press, 'ALT,' and, 'M,' on your keyboard to open the Management Console. Select the, 'Sounds,' tab at the top. The Management Console is something that must be accessed using a physical keyboard and mouse. What follows is information on OptiKey and rate, volume and voice.

The purpose of OptiKey is to provide computer accessibility while enabling a person to hopefully avoid the high costs of some hardware. For people who experience ALS for example, OptiKey is a wonderful piece of software. It is freely available for download and use. The creator of OptiKey desires feedback from those who use the software, you will find an email address below to send feedback to concerning the software.

OptiKey V2

OptiKey was written to challenge the outrageously expensive, unreliable and difficult to use AAC (alternative and augmentative communication) products on the market. It is, therefore, fully open-source and free. Forever- Visit www.OptiKey.org for more info and to download.

Author Credentials:

Thomas C. Weiss is a researcher and editor for Disabled World. Thomas attended college and university courses earning a Masters, Bachelors and two Associate degrees, as well as pursing Disability Studies. As a Nursing Assistant Thomas has assisted people from a variety of racial, religious, gender, class, and age groups by providing care for people with all forms of disabilities from Multiple Sclerosis to Parkinson's; para and quadriplegia to Spina Bifida. Explore Thomas' complete biography for comprehensive insights into his background, expertise, and accomplishments.

Related Publications

Share This Information To:
𝕏.com Facebook Reddit

Page Information, Citing and Disclaimer

Disabled World is an independent disability community founded in 2004 to provide news and information to people with disabilities, seniors, their family and carers. We'd love for you to follow and connect with us on social media!

Cite This Page (APA): Weiss, T. C. (2015, September 14 - Last revised: 2018, April 30). OptiKey: Assistive On-screen Keyboard. Disabled World. Retrieved July 18, 2024 from www.disabled-world.com/assistivedevices/computer/optikey.php

Permalink: <a href="https://www.disabled-world.com/assistivedevices/computer/optikey.php">OptiKey: Assistive On-screen Keyboard</a>: OptiKey is an assistive on-screen keyboard designed to bring mouse, keyboard, and speech control to people with speech and motor limitations.

Disabled World provides general information only. Materials presented are never meant to substitute for qualified medical care. Any 3rd party offering or advertising does not constitute an endorsement.