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Will Windows 7 touchscreens change the way you use your PC?

We look at Microsoft's hyped touch facility in the OS

Touchscreens have certainly become more common over the past few years and now Microsoft will be joining the flock, as Windows 7 features touch capabilities. However, we've got some key concerns about the capability and its usefulness.

Issue 2: PC UIs aren't finger-friendly

In using a Dell Studio One desktop and an HP TouchSmart desktop - whose touchscreens based on NextWindows' technology are quite responsive - I found another limitation to the adoption of touch technology in its current guide. The Windows UI really isn't touch-friendly. A finger is a lot bigger than a mouse or pen, so it's not as adept at making fine movements.

Also, on a touchscreen, your hand and arm obscure your view of where your fingertip actually is, making it hard to actually touch the intended radio button, close box, slider, or what-have-you. It doesn't help that these elements are often small. And there's no tactile feel to substitute for the lost visual feedback.

But the issues of using touch gestures go beyond the visibility and size of UI controls. The ways the controls work is often not finger-friendly. Take as an example Windows 7's wireless LAN setup.

It has some big buttons to select a desired network, so it's natural to just press the desired one. And sometimes that works, but often these visual buttons are really the equivalent of radio buttons - item selectors - and you then have to tap the Next button. That's not the kind of direct stimulation that touch assumes.

When you work with something on your hands, the manipulation is direct. But most apps are designed for interaction with keyboards and mice, and aren't so direct (to prevent accidental selections and the like, since it's really easy to move a mouse unintentionally).

The result is that using touch is often an awkward process. Unlike an iPhone's apps, Windows or Mac OS X apps weren't designed for touch, and neither the OSes nor the apps are intended to adjust themselves for this input method.

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NEXT PAGE: Gesture-based computing needs a better surface

  1. We look at Microsoft's heavily hyped touch capability in the OS
  2. The first of the key concerns
  3. UIs aren't finger-friendly
  4. Gesture-based computing needs a better surface
  5. Why touch remains a tantalising prospect


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