I'm currently working on a web application where users can use their keyboard number pads (mainly the following keys 2,4,5,6,8) to change perspectives from which the user is watching a 3D scene. For instance, clicking on 5 would give us an aerial view while clicking on 2 would give us a front view (looking north), and clicking on 8 would give the user a back view (looking south). What if users don't have number pads on their keyboards.

Can you think of a friendly text and pleasant way to ask users to activate their virtual On-Screen Keyboard in case they don't have number pads on their keyboard?

  • 4
    Why get them to activate an on-screen keyboard? That seems overly complex. Just have a separate set on keyboard keys that do the same thing. Q-W-E / A-S-D / Z-X-C for instance. All qwerty keyboards have those keys. People with a keypad can use the numbers if they prefer, people without can use the other side of the keyboard instead.
    – JonW
    May 5 at 10:07
  • Thanks for the input, most of these keys you mentioned are already taken as shortcuts performing other actions (Sorry, I was not clear about this in my initial statement). Thus, the optimal solution I thought of in this case is to sugggest to activate the virtual keyboard.
    – is qr
    May 5 at 11:56
  • 4
    A virtual on-screen keyboard requires users interact with it via mouse cursor. Not everyone can use a mouse as it requires much more precise movement than just pressing a few physical buttons. So virtual keyboards are an issue from an accessibility perspective too. If all the keys are used up then I'd just stick with using Numbers - users can either use the number-pad or the actual number keys across the keyboard top, rather than a virtual keyboard.
    – JonW
    May 5 at 12:59
  • 1
    I get your accessibility point. Thanks for your input @JonW
    – is qr
    May 5 at 14:08
  • 1
    I would have suggested the same as JonW and expressed the same concerns about accessibility. However, since that is not a possibility, can you add voice-activated commands?
    – Devin
    May 5 at 19:07

1 Answer 1


Well, the more or less obvious choice is to use what has always been used: cursor keys. However, they move on a bidimensional plane, and if you have a 3D software, then you obviously need the Z-axis. For this, I'd suggest a combination of keys that you don't currently use as a shortcut, or maybe use the UP arrow (since it's a view from above) combined with a close key. And then we have another problem. See this QWERTY keyboard for Mac:

enter image description here

Now take a look at this QWERTY keyboard for Mac (it's mine, a bit used as you can see):

enter image description here

And now yet another QWERTY keyboard, this time for PC:

enter image description here

(And I could continue with many more examples.)

As you can see, there are no keys that are close and in the same position throughout all keyboard layouts. And we're talking about just QWERTY, let alone other physical configurations and language-based configurations!

So, I think the best you could do is to use CTRL+UpArrow as long as you don't use that combination already.

The assistive technology version

Another option to consider, if it's within your possibilities, is to use voice-activated commands. If not for everything, at least for these commands. Your application will become accessible, and you will provide an easy solution to all users, even those without accessibility concerns.

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