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Microsoft shows off Windows 7 touch functionality

by Parm Mann on 30 March 2009, 16:51

Tags: Windows 7, Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT)

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With the Windows 7 Release Candidate just over a month away, Microsoft's development team continues to provide a closer look at its forthcoming flagship operating system and has this week turned its attention to "Making Windows Touchable".

It's a well-known fact that Windows 7 will be the first Windows operating system designed to be touch friendly throughout, but despite the widespread usage of the Windows 7 beta, one could argue that touch is its least explored feature simply due to the lack of touch-friendly computers currently in use.

In an effort to show off its method of touch implementation, it's briefly touching upon - excuse the pun - the basic workings of touch in Windows 7. According to the self-titled Microsoft Touch Team - consisting of Reed Townsend, Dave Matthews, Ian LeGrow and others - Windows 7 will feature just a small set of system-wide touch gestures in order to work with all applications reliably.

According to Microsoft, the majority of existing applications that aren't built with touch in mind will support these core gestures via default handlers that simulate a mouse or scrolling wheel. In theory, then, the following gestures should be available throughout the Windows 7 experience:

  • Tap and Double-tap – Touch and release to click. This is the most basic touch action. Can also double-tap to open files and folders. Tolerances are tuned to be larger than with a mouse. This works everywhere.
  • Drag – Touch and slide your finger on screen. Like a dragging with a mouse, this moves icons around the desktop, moves windows, selects text (by dragging left or right), etc. This works everywhere.
  • Scroll – Drag up or down on the content (not the scrollbar!) of scrollable window to scroll. This may sound basic, but it is the most used (and most useful – it’s a lot easier than targeting the scrollbar!) gesture in the beta according to our telemetry. You’ll notice details that make this a more natural interaction: the inertia if you toss the page and the little bounce when the end of the page is reached. Scrolling is one of the most common activities on the web and in email, and the ability to drag and toss the page is a perfect match for the strengths of touch (simple quick drags on screen). Scrolling is available with one or more fingers. This works in most applications that use standard scrollbars.
  • Zoom – Pinch two fingers together or apart to zoom in or out on a document. This comes in handy when looking at photos or reading documents on a small laptop. This works in applications that support mouse wheel zooming.
  • Two-Finger Tap – tapping with two fingers simultaneously zooms in about the center of the gesture or restores to the default zoom – great for zooming in on hyperlinks. Applications need to add code to support this.
  • Rotate – Touch two spots on a digital photo and twist to rotate it just like a real photo. Applications need to add code to support this.
  • Flicks – Flick left or right to navigate back and forward in a browser and other apps. This works in most applications that support back and forward.
  • Press-and-hold – Hold your finger on screen for a moment and release after the animation to get a right-click. This works everywhere.
  • Or, press-and-tap with a second finger – to get right-click, just like you would click the right button on a mouse or trackpad. This works everywhere.

Outside of the software, Microsoft faces a familiar hurdle in terms of hardware inconsistencies. With PCs available in countless varieties, Microsoft's attempting to provide a "great Windows Touch experience" by introducing a Windows Touch logo program - one that'll run alongside the Compatible with Windows 7 program.

Visually highlighting that a PC is suited to the built-in touch functionality, the Windows Touch logo program will require all applying systems to pass 43 individual tests - all ensuring a system's touch accuracy and responsiveness is up to scratch. Once approved, the end multi-touch result should look and feel a little something like this:

Come launch day, Microsoft will no doubt be touting the touch element of Windows 7 as the best thing in computing since the mouse, but how do you feel about touch interaction? Is it a feature that appeals to you, and do you see any value in a touch-capable desktop or notebook PC? Share your thoughts in the forums.

HEXUS Forums :: 18 Comments

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Looks good!
I might whack the beta on my eee and see what the touchyness is like TBH…

Just a faff setting Xandros back up with all the tweaks if Win 7 is carp…
take it or leave it tbh, doesnt help my bamboo and im certainly not spunking money on a touch screen when a mouse is far better. seems like they should have just made a touch screen media centre style thing

only suited to tidgy pc's like taktak's eee and even then i wouldn't be totally inclined to use it
Still not convinced by “touch” for serious computer use. Works well on Phones/PDA's but its never gonna come close to the accuracy/control a mouse will give and onscreen keyboards blow, so most will probably keep a proper one around. Struggling to figure out where MS are going with the idea, as everything seems to be going wireless and home entertainment these days.. Gonna look a right muppet poking at your 50in TV from accross the room with a pointy stick. :laugh:

Awesome technology though and I hope to be proved wrong with interactive coffee tables and keyboards being killed off by cool little touch sensitive panels.
I might whack the beta on my eee and see what the touchyness is like TBH…

Just a faff setting Xandros back up with all the tweaks if Win 7 is carp…

then again mebbe not… i have 64bit and i CBA to DL 32bit, and i'm thinking it'll be too bulky to run from the SSD and i CBA to whack it on an external…