Windows 8: 5 touch gestures needed for better tablet operation

Windows 8: 5 touch gestures needed for better tablet operation

Summary: I've become more impressed with the way Windows 8 works on tablets over time, but would like to see these touch gestures implemented to make it even better.


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  • Swipe back to the Start Screen

    Just as I wish I could swipe the screen to get easily from the Metro Start Screen to the desktop as detailed in the previous slide, I wish the reverse operation was also possible.

    When sitting on the legacy desktop I wish I could do a long right to left swipe to swing back to Metro. Nothing fancy, just a natural way to swipe back to the Start Screen. Think of the Start Screen as a circular thing with the desktop just to the left of the live tiles. That makes this touch gesture and the one mentioned previously make a lot of sense.

  • Swipe to minimize desktop windows

    I spend a lot of time on the legacy desktop as I imagine many might do. It's great to be able to run non-Metro apps on the Windows 8 tablet until such time as there are more Metro apps in the store.

    One problem with using apps on the desktop is that window controls can be awfully tiny. They are hard to hit with precision which is frustrating.

    I would like to see a new touch gesture designed to minimize active windows on the desktop. A long diagonal swipe from the upper right to lower left would do the trick nicely, minimizing the window to the task bar. It's nothing fancy but I'd find it extremely useful on the desktop screen with its lack of touch optimization.

  • Swipe to cycle through desktop windows

    In the previous slide I described a new gesture to minimize windows to the task bar. Another gesture I'd like to see for dealing with desktop windows is a swipe on screen to cycle through desktop apps.

    A long swipe from the upper left to the lower right could cycle from the active window to the next in line. The user could keep swiping to cycle through all apps (and windows) running on the desktop, stopping when the desired one is active.

    There are other ways to do this but that's true for most of the proposed gestures in this article. This gesture like the others would provide a natural way to accomplish the desired task. A natural UI is the mark of a good OS.

Topics: Mobility, Tablets, Windows 8

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  • Simple and intuitive

    And very useful.
    Microsoft, are you listening?
    • Every one is Listening

      Everyone is listening and learning. The technology of using touch screens is still in its infancy. Many more great ideas will come along but the real danger is of them being patented, have restrictive licensing, and never gaining acceptance.
  • I would suggest the following:

    If you want to minimize a window just make it work with a Three finger swipe down. Asus already implemented this with their Touch Pad on Windows. I would love to do that on screen.

    The close program gesture is extremely clunky and its the only thing I hate the most (Metro). In desktop mode they should have a physical close button and with touch they can do the same or just make it close with a Three finger swipe down.
    Dreyer Smit
    • THIS! ^^^^

      While I think James is certainly onto something with adding a few useful gestures, I do prefer Dreyer's suggestion of using multi-finger swipes rather than diagonal/longer swipes.

      Sadly though, I wonder whether Microsoft is hamstrung from doing so due to existing patents?
    • Multi Finger Gestures

      I think some of the problems with gestures that require multi finger touch is it just isn't as natural. People have to remember to switch from one finger to two or three, and that doesn't always come to mind as easily. However having different broad gestures like the ones suggested using one finger are good because you not changing your interface tool(your finger).
      Jonathan Baynes
      • NO to multi finger swipes!

        because it makes it impractical when you are using an active stylus.
        The first 2 swipes James mentioned are superfluous on win8 tablets as the windows button does exactly that without ambiguity with scrolling which his suggestion clashes with.
        I would prefer circular gestures for minimise and window switching. maybe anti-clockwise for minimise and clockwise for window switch. This would make it practical with a stylus as well.
  • Hmm

    Some of these are just rehashed Apple Gestures.
  • Re: There are other ways to do this

    I commend James for his suggestions. They have value. Please let me give my two cents worth - both pro and con - about them.

    1. Swipe to the desktop. Pro: This would work. Con: Possibility of an inadvertent switch to the desktop. Also, this task is what the Windows Key is made for. Personally, I think I would prefer a dedicated Windows key to perform the task of switching to and from the Legacy Desktop environment to the Metro Tile environment.

    2. Swipe back to the start screen. Pro: This would also work. Con: Why mess up with unnecessary fingerprints the display screen when the Windows key (on both the tablets and the keyboard) accomplish the same task.

    3. Swipe to minimize desktop Windows. Pro: This is James's best suggestion. Con: There are no cons, IMO. Good Idea.

    4. Swipe to cycle through desktop Windows. Pro: There is No pro arguments, IMO. Con: Confusing and not needed. That is what the bottom menu tray or "dock" is designed for - ready access to minimized apps.

    5. Swipe to spin through the Start Screen. Pro: This would work and I'm surprised Microsoft did not implement this concept of the "imaginary circular structure metaphor. Con: A swipe too fast would go past your intended destination and return a user to the beginning of the start screen.

    Personally, I find that using the two finger "pinching to close" gesture that minimizes the live tiles so that a single touch directed at the desired app location would accomplish this proposed added gesture.

    As James stated, there are several ways to accomplish the results for each of these gestures.

    I really do like the Swipe to minimize the window suggestion for legacy desktop apps. Although not "really" needed, it would be a nice enhancement.
    • +1

      Ram U
    • If the goal

      is to make an OS that gives the same user experience and use for both a pure touch tablet and keyboard-mouse based device, then you can't replace gestures with keystrokes. A pure touch or convertible tablet doesn't always have keys to use. Also, if you must resort to keys, a lot of gestures could be mapped. For example, [Alt]+[Tab] will cycle through open applications on the Desktop, at least in W7 and below.

      Also, if these gestures had been included in W8 UI design, I would have had a completely different opinion of it. And may have found a reason to use it...
      • alt + tab

        works in win8
  • Well done!

    James, you have spent some time thinking about these suggestions. How much of that thinking time came from your extended user experience with multiple tablets? I would venture to say that your user experience with tablets is prompted the article in the first place?

    Hope Microsoft has you on their positive watch list! Your suggestions would be of value to all users of Windows 8.

    Ok Microsoft, its your turn...
    jmb codewriter
  • Pinch

    I would do the 5 finger pinch to close the current app or the uppermost window.
  • Circular Good

    I really like the circular swipe but the rest are just meh. Instead of a swipe to get to desktop, how about a persistent access point at the top of the start screen - always there (except when in an app).
    Richard Callaway
  • Twist and flick to share

    What I'd love to be able to do is a 5 finger point press, twist my wrist and then flick whatever is onscreen toward the share charm (kinda like throwing it off screen) to activate either a default share or the menu.
    Alternatively doing it the other side could flick the item onto a joined device screen.
  • Windows 8 gestures

    They are only needed if you use it as a tablet. I use it on a laptop and live in the desktop. Windows I works fine that way.
  • Gestures

    Has anyone tried Linpus Gesture2Launch on Windows 8?
  • I'd go for #3

    Some of my comments have to do with the problems of supporting the average naive user.

    1. I set people up with Desktop as the first icon. With 8.1 you can make it the biggest icon. That way you can throw the start menu to the right and have one tap for desktop. Actually I have some customers where the start screen has nothing except desktop.

    2. Isn't that a one touch item already? Either the Win key on a PC or the main button on a phone or tablet?

    3. I like the idea but it only addresses one aspect of the problem on hi-res small screens. That is why I use the stylus on our Surface. I've seen some complaints about 1920x1080 being a low resolution. Higher resolutions on anything less than a 15 inch screen only aggravate the problem of areas too small to touch.

    4. If you have a touch screen you can already do that by tapping on the open application icons without needing to cycle through them to find the one you want right now.

    5. Circular swiping would drive me nuts. The people that need basic support would be on the line constantly if there were no beginning and no end when looking for an application. Heck, they cannot cope with typing in a search term unless there is an item on the screen that says search that also has an empty field next to it. Personally, I have the most important business applications at the beginning of the start menu and my personal/hobby applications at the end with the occasional use items in the center. I would no longer be able to do the two finger fling and end up where I want to be.
  • #5 and #6 #7

    #5 can be achieved by pinch-zoom the live tiles to the zoomed out look. Then just click the left most group of icons. Problems solved, but your idea has some merit.

    #6 desktop gesture: un-hide the taskbar when minimized

    #7 desktop gesture: show/minimize keyboard

    Especially #1. Since the Dev Preview I pictured Start to the right of the desktop. When I started watching the media slam wagon dissing MS on the “jarring” transition between Metro and Desktop I thought that shared backgrounds and swiping between the environments was a perfect solution. I still do!

    I pictured that little arrow that now exists in at the bottom of the 8.1 Start, on the top left corner for desktop users. I would then add a swipe down in both the Start and Desktop screens to reveal a kickass notifications center that could only exist in a complete desktop OS. Here’s to dreamin!