How to Pair Your Keyboard
Setting up a Bluetooth keyboard with Android is very easy. First, you’ll need a Bluetooth keyboard and, of course, an Android device. For this example, I’m using a Logitech Keys-to-Go keyboard.
In Android, enable Bluetooth if it isn’t already on. To enable Bluetooth, simply go to Settings > Bluetooth and tap the slider button to “On”. Then, turn on your Bluetooth keyboard and put it into pairing mode. (It will usually go into pairing mode automatically after you turn it on, though some keyboards may require an extra step—check your manual if you aren’t sure.)
On the Bluetooth screen, your Android device should automatically search for and find your keyboard. If you don’t get it right the first time, simply turn the keyboard on again and then tap “Search for Devices” to try again. If it still doesn’t work, make sure you have fresh batteries (or the keyboard is charged) and the keyboard isn’t paired to another device. If it is, you will need to unpair it before it will work with your Android device.
When Android finds your keyboard, select it under “Available Devices” and you should be prompted to type in a code.
If successful, you will see that device is now “Connected” and you’re ready to go.
If you want to test things out, try pressing Windows+Esc on the keyboard (or Command+Esc if it’s a Mac keyboard), and you will be whisked to your Home screen.
How to Use Your Keyboard
You probably know you can use your keyboard to type out emails, blog posts, or whatever other longform text you want. But your keyboard can do more than type. Traditional Windows and Mac users know there’s usually a keyboard shortcut for just about everything. So where does Android fall in terms of baked-in keyboard commands?
We’d say Android’s keyboard shortcuts are “enough, but not too much”. There are definitely established combos you can use to get around, but they aren’t clear and there doesn’t appear to be any one authority on what they are. Still, there is enough keyboard functionality in Android to make it a viable option, if only for those times when you need to get something done and an on-screen keyboard simply won’t do.
It’s important to remember that Android is, and likely always will be, a touch-first interface. That said, it does make some concessions to physical keyboards. In other words, you can get around Android fairly well without having to lift your hands off the keys, but you will still have to tap the screen regularly unless you add a mouse. For example, you can wake your device by tapping a key rather than pressing its power button. If you have a password or PIN, you can type it in with your keyboard, but if your device is slide or pattern-locked, then you’ll have to use the touch screen to unlock it. Other things like widgets and app controls and features will also have to be tapped. You get the idea.
Keyboard Shortcuts and Navigation
As we said, baked-in keyboard shortcut combos aren’t necessarily abundant nor apparent. The one thing you can always do is search. Any time you want to Google something, start typing from the Home screen and the search screen will automatically open and begin displaying results.
Other than that, here is what we were able to figure out:
Esc = Go Back
Ctrl+Esc = Menu
Alt+Space = Search Page (say “OK Google” to voice search)
Alt+Tab and Alt+Shift+Tab = Switch Tasks
Also, if you have designated volume function keys, those will probably work too. There are also some dedicated shortcuts that launch apps like calculator, Gmail, and a few others:
Android supports mice, keyboards, and even gamepads. On many Android devices, you can connect USB peripherals to your device. On other Android devices, you may need to connect them wirelessly via Bluetooth.
Yes, this means you can connect a mouse to your Android tablet and get a mouse cursor, or connect an Xbox 360 controller and play a game, console-style. You can even connect a keyboard and use keyboard shortcuts like Alt+Tab.
USB Mice, Keyboards, and Gamepads
Android phones and tablets don’t have standard, full-size USB ports, so you can’t plug a USB peripheral directly into it. To actually connect a USB device to your Android device, you’ll need a USB on-the-go cable. A USB OTG cable is an adapter that plugs into the Micro-USB port on your device and allows you to connect full-size USB peripherals. These cables can be purchased for a dollar or two on a site like Monoprice, or a few bucks more on Amazon.
A USB OTG cable may also allow you to use other USB devices with your Android. For example, you can connect a USB flash drive to your Android phone or tablet.
Important Note: Not every Android device supports peripherals with a USB OTG cable. Some devices don’t have the appropriate hardware support. For example, you can connect USB mice and keyboards to a Nexus 7 tablet, but not a Nexus 4 smartphone. Be sure to Google whether your device supports USB OTG before purchasing a USB OTG cable.
Once you have a USB OTG cable, just plug it into your device and connect the USB device directly to it. Your peripherals should work without any additional configuration.
Bluetooth Mice, Keyboards, and Gamepads
A USB OTG cable isn’t the ideal solution for many devices. Wires add a lot of clutter to what should be a portable device. Many devices also don’t support USB OTG cables.
If your device doesn’t support USB OTG or you just don’t like wires, you’re still in luck. You can connect wireless Bluetooth mice, keyboards, and gamepads directly to your phone or tablet. Just use your Android’s Bluetooth settings screen to pair it with your device, just as you’d pair a Bluetooth headset. You’ll find this screen at Settings -> Bluetooth.
If you’re shopping for a mouse or keyboard to use with your Android tablet, you’ll probably want to purchase Bluetooth devices for convenience and compatability.
Using a Mouse, Keyboard, or Gamepad
Using your peripherals is surprisingly easy. All of these input peripherals should “just work” — no rooting or other tweaks required.
Mouse: Connect a mouse and you will see a familiar mouse cursor appear on your screen. The cursor can be used to navigate through Android’s interface, clicking on things you’d normally tap. It works just like it would on a computer. Of course, you can also still reach out and touch the screen while the mouse is connected.
Keyboard: Your keyboard should just work when typing in text fields, allowing you to type at a reasonable speed on a mechanical keyboard and see more of the screen by removing the need for the on-screen, touch keyboard. Many keyboard shortcuts work like they do on computers, including Alt+Tab for switching between recent apps and Ctrl + X, C, or V for Cut, Copy, and Paste.