We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What Is an Overlay Keyboard?

By G. Wiesen
Updated May 16, 2024
Our promise to you
EasyTechJunkie is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At EasyTechJunkie, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

An overlay keyboard is a type of input device that consists of a board with a series of keys on it that are typically unmarked and not assigned to any particular meaning. It is essentially a blank keyboard that can then be programmed to have each key represent a particular input signal. This type of device is often used in the fast food industry in which each key can be assigned to a different food, to make input fast and easy. An overlay keyboard can also refer to a virtual keyboard that appears on a touch screen, allowing someone to enter input through it.

There are many different layouts and designs that can be used to make an overlay keyboard, though their functionality is essentially the same. This type of device typically consists a number of keys that can be arranged in many different ways, set atop a base. Keys are often in a grid formation, either in a square or rectangular assortment. Also, they are left blank since each one is inherently not assigned to any particular letter, number, or function. There are even some expensive keyboards that have tiny screens on each key, which can display the function of that key.

Different sheets of labels can be used with a standard overlay keyboard in order to provide a user with a guide to key functionality. These sheets are often called overlays, hence the name for this type of device. Individual stickers or labels can be used for each key, though more often one full sheet covers the entire overlay keyboard. This allows the user of such a device to simply change out the sheet when altering input configurations for the device.

A wide range of different functions and input types can be assigned to each key of an overlay keyboard, often limited only by the programming used with them. Engineers, for example, can use a keyboard like this to assign different functions commonly used in engineering software to the device. This can then make input faster and easier, allowing the engineer to use one key for a function that might require a combination of keys on a standard keyboard.

The term “overlay keyboard” can also be used to refer to a virtual input method that can appear on a touch sensitive screen. This is usually a series of keys that are arranged in a way similar to a standard keyboard that “overlays” the rest of the image on the screen. The user of this type of device can then use the touch sensitive screen and overlay keyboard to provide input.

EasyTechJunkie is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By Markerrag — On Mar 12, 2014

Those overlays were one of the features that the manufacturers of the old ColecoVision video game console bragged about quite a bit. By having a controller with a numeric keypad that was designed for use with an overlay, games could be made that offered a lot of customizable functionality.

For example, the "Mouse Trap" game came with an overlay that let the user alter the maze by hitting one of three buttons to flip sections of the maze that corresponded to a color (blue, red or yellow).

The problem with overlays is that they tended to get lost. Finding a game complete with overlays for a ColecoVision or other system that used those overlays is difficult these days.

EasyTechJunkie, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

EasyTechJunkie, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.