Unexpected uses for Windows Touch

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Windows 7 onscreen keyboardWindows 7 includes Windows Touch & Tablet technology, which allows you to use fingers to scroll through web pages, resize windows, and directly interact with applications. It’s reasonable to ask, "Will I really use it? What will I really end up using it to do?"

I have the final version of Windows 7 with beta N-Trig multi-touch drivers installed on a Dell Latitude XT. Until N-Trig and Dell release final drivers (hopefully, at the same time as Windows 7 launch), this is a good for now but not necessarily representative of the end experience. That said, I’ve found myself touching the screen for all sorts of tasks. Here are some ways that I didn’t expect to use Windows Touch, but do:

1. Shutting down the computer. Using my left hand I tap the Start button and then move my thumb a couple inches to the left to tap the Shut down button. This has become my default way of turning the computer off.

I can also navigate the Start Menu with my fingers. However, my default way of opening an app is to tap Start, then switch to typing the name of the app in the Search box. The hybrid approach works well for me.

2. Go Back a page in IE 8. I use Internet Explorer and Firefox for web browsers. I’ll have 10 to 15 tabs open at any given time and each has its own topic. I’ve found the Back gesture to be very useful. Similar to Flicks in Windows Vista, the gesture to go to the previous page is a short horizontal movement to the right.

Along with scrolling up and down on a page, this simple gesture is really valuable. Scrolling is easy with velocity and distance of my finger’s motion impacting how far and quickly I scroll through a page. It’s easy to rest my right hand against the corner of the convertible Tablet PC and use my thumb to move up and down pages, whether these pages were search results, standard page, or a PDF.

3. Touch to log on. I laugh to myself everytime I enter my password using the touch-screen because I usually catch myself doing this while I’m watching TV. The onscreen keyboard automatically enlarges when my finger hits the screen. Quick and easy.

4. Photo slideshow. After my last travel excursion, I connected the PC to the TV and gave a few slideshows. Advancing through photos with the tip of my finger was easy and was a better option for me than automatic advancement. (In other words, I talked a lot.)

All of these are minor tasks, however, I use them regularly and find it interesting that I didn’t expect to use Windows Touch in this way. The value to me has been that I can just see, point, and get the action I want. Overall, I like the addition of Windows Touch to my PC, just as I appreciate it on my iPhone. It’ll be interesting to see how form factors and software continue to evolve as it is adopted.