The power of PC touch

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PCs with Touch capabilities are catching on. There are a number of PCs on the market that have a touch digitizer, ranging in display size, resolution and type of touch digitizer.

Examples of Windows Vista PCs with Touch

Manufacturer

Model

Display Size

Default Resolution

Type of Touch Digitizer

ASUS

R2Hv

7"

WVGA, 800×480

Resistive

Dell

Latitude Tablet PC

12.1"

WXGA, 1280×800 *

To be released

Fujtisu

LifeBook P1610

8.9"

WXGA, 1280×800

Resistive

Fujitsu

LifeBook U800 series (U810)

5.6"

WSVGA, 1024×600

Resistive

Gateway

E-155C

12.1"

WXGA, 1280×800

Dual Resistive / Active

HP

Pavilion tx100z

12.1"

WXGA, 1280×800

Resistive

HP

TouchSmart IQ770PC

19"

WXGA+, 1440×900

Resistive

HTC

Shift

7"

WVGA, 800×480

Resistive

Lenovo

ThinkPad x60 Tablet

12.1"

XGA, 1024×768

Dual Resistive / Active

Lenovo

ThinkPad x61 Tablet

12.1"

XGA, 1024×768

Dual Resistive / Active

Medion

UMPC

6.5"

WVGA, 800×480

Resistive

Motion Computing

LE1700WT Tablet PC

12.1"

SXGA+, 1400×1050

Dual Capacitive / Active

Samsung

Q1 Ultra Series

7"

WSVGA, 1024×600

Resistive

TabletKiosk

Sahara Slate PC i400 Series

12.1"

XGA, 1024×768

Resistive
Dual Resistive / Active option

* Source Engadget

 

So, what does this mean for how people can interact with the software? Quite a bit actually. People can now input information directly. Kids could pet Webkinz online as well as the plush toy to match. You can flick through photos. Even tap on virtual music instruments. You can make the application more interactive, involve emotion. But first that special software has to be written. A finger or fingernail touching the display directly does require consideration when designing the user interface. You can experiment right now, even without a digitizer. Lift your hand off the mouse and touch the display. Your eye and finger can hit the target directly, much faster and more accurately than you could have with the mouse. However, if that target link is not large enough or there are other objects squished too close together then the incorrect targets can be hit or an intended event might not happen at all.

Features like Flicks is a great navigation tool for touch built right into Windows Vista. Let’s say that I’m in fullscreen mode in a browser and went from JKontherun to Gottabemobile, then to Loren’s blog. Now, I want to return to GBM, so I just move my finger quickly to the left and it returns to that previously viewed page. To get to JK’s site, I flick one more time and see it. I can also flick forward just as easily. This gesture is a simple movement for browsing. Alternatively, I could tap the "Back" button in standard mode.

Even though the OS has some features included, software developers really need to add features to their applications also. The main issues that you have to consider are straightforward:

  • Display orientation: support portrait and landscape mode
  • Display resolution: support x480 height by default
  • Target size: 1 cm x 1 cm, minimum
  • Keep information, links, etc. visible — there isn’t hover feedback

There are several articles that include guidelines, tips and sample code:

An application that takes Touch into consideration doesn’t have to be a special skin or application though. These features can be integrated right into your regular app, which is actually less confusing for the user.
Here is a screenshot of the sample project in the above CodeProject link:

UMPC optimized example

Content aside, this looks like a normal application. Nothing is ruined by the consideration for touch, low resolution, widescreen, or even working in portrait and landscape. The header uses large target areas, "home" is in a consistent location, and network and power status are visible.

Touch is an excellent way to get creative and allow users to interact with their PCs. What types of creative uses of touch do you want to see in applications?