Windows 8 should be used with touch

Windows 8 should be used with touch

Summary: Microsoft insists Windows 8 is beautiful, flexible, and fast. And it's true when you're touching it correctly.

Windows 8

Microsoft kept insisting that people will love Windows 8, yet the reception has been lukewarm.  What if Microsoft is actually right? What if we were all using Windows 8...wrong

I was one of the doubters, pointing out the jarring experience from mixing the Modern UI and "tablet"-style apps with the traditional desktop interface familiar to previous Windows users. Modern seemed like an alien extra feature tacked onto the upgraded desktop experience. A feature meant to be minimized, turned off, set to "do not launch at start". Impossible to do that though; click here, click there, and all of a sudden you're inside a Modern app wondering where to point your mouse to get back to the desktop.

You know why I didn't like it? I was using it wrong.

Recently I got a Surface Pro. After 15 minutes of messing around with it, I was swiping left, right, up, down, and docking Modern apps with desktop apps (yes, even on the 10.6 inch screen). After 30 minutes I was seamlessly utilizing the mouse, keyboard, and touch to engage with the computer, and I wasn't consciously thinking about which tool (or hand) would bring about the next interaction.

Using a touchscreen transformed the Windows 8 experience from an "okay, it's fine" feeling into an sensation that I was really connecting with what's on the screen.

I wonder, what if Microsoft had required a touchscreen for Windows 8? While initial sales would have been slower, would satisfaction have been dramatically higher--possibly spurring a boom in both Windows 8 sales as well as a booster effect for hardware?

Think of how new games help drive hardware sales as people upgrade their video cards, processors, and memory--with Windows 8, this would be at a massive scale.

Since familiarizing myself with the touchscreen, I've discovered a few features that weren't readily apparent when using just a keyboard and mouse. At my desktop with a non-touch monitor configuration, I've been able to enjoy Windows 8 more because of these new features, but I can't wait to get a touchscreen desktop monitor for the much more intuitive gestures rather than clunky mouse movements.

What Microsoft should have told us all is: "If you're not using Windows 8 with a touchscreen, then you're doing it wrong."

Topics: Software, Microsoft, Microsoft Surface, Windows 8


Howard spent 14 years in the tech industry working as a programmer, evangelist, and community manager for Microsoft. In 2009, he had lived his "dream" of middle-management long enough and opened a Japanese restaurant called Standing Sushi Bar. Trading in stock grants and software licenses for raw fish and cash, he enjoys mixing his passion for technology into the daily hustle of small business.

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  • I think we should agree to disagree!

    Although I total agree with you regarding Win 8 with Touch, I have no problems at all with using Windows 8 on a non-touch desktop with wide screen monitor (non touch) and just using keyboard and mouse. Although occasionally I go to reach for the screen to do things with touch! 8-)
    • Copy

      Windows 8 copied the entire functioning of the iPad! simple copy
      for microsoft windows 7 was the best system for tablets, existed several ugly and expensive tablet with windows 7 and XP
      but the iPad has arrived and they had to do what they have always done, copy!
      Henrique Dourado
      • What?

        Please work on your English. I don't have a clue what you're trying to troll?
    • Agreed

      I use it on a tablet, it is great. I use it on a laptop with external 24" monitor, keyboard and mouse and it is awesome...
    • Mouse & Key-board...

      No problem,
      I've never used it with a touch-screen, and I like it a lot, I don't even get where people are getting this ''it's a touch U.I.'', no, it's OPTIMISED for touch, Windows XP ran on the original Tablet-P.C. ¿would you call that a mouse and keyboard unfriendly enviroment? Windows 8 is just as mouse & key-board friendly as Windows XP. Same software, only new features ;-)
      Agosto Nuñez
  • Windows 8 should be used with touch

    Its nice to read about a positive experience with Microsoft Windows 8 for a change on ZDNet. While Microsoft Windows 8 does work great with a touch screen I've been happily using it on a regular PC. The OS does everything I need it to without any hassles. Start screen for my apps, live tiles for quick info, desktop mode for legacy apps. Touch screen or not, Microsoft Windows 8 works on it.
  • About right imo

    I'm actually quite fond of Metro... on a tablet. I've liked it plenty on my phone.

    IMO the correct way to do this would have been to keep a re-skinned traditional desktop which transitioned to Metro (cough Modern) when you put it into a touch mode. Allow apps like office to seamlessly switch between mouse friendly and touch friendly as you dock, etc.

    That would have been pretty awesome.

    As it is the bouncing back and forth is a bit obnoxious, and the Modern apps tend to be very feature weak by desktop standards.
    • Good suggestion

      @SlithyTove - that's a good suggestion; though you lose the edge cases where using the desktop app side-by-side with a Modern app. However I'd imagine > 80% of users use the Modern apps totally separately from desktop.
  • Users need time to adapt

    Selling Windowss 8 is as hard as selling a mouse to a user still doing text editing with VI. They have no idea what this stuff is used for. The smartests among these VI gurus could figure out that a cord mouse could be conveniently used as an suicide assist device, but that's about it.

    Computer with touch screen is too new, many users have grown up with a different user interface. I've just bought a new desktop, touch / Windows 8 was the least of my concern. That is going to take a very long time, for the billions existing "old" computers to be replaced and hoping for the users to move on.
    • ... or not!

      Users generally tend to abhore adaptation. Why should I change the way I drive my car? There were attempts of producing cars that used a joystick for driving... No need to say where that went... I'm positive about Windows 8 being a car with a joystick instead of a steering wheel. Touch devices are not a thing of the future. They're just a very temporary intermediate phase. The future belongs to ultraminiaturized devices that interact directly with the brain. No need for interface, screen, mouse, keyboard or speakers. Just a little head worn device that transmits directly to your cortex. The one place where it actually all happens. That's today's tech. It's within reach. Soon to arrive to an IT store near you.
      • Sounds like you've been reading

        They same Sci Fi books as me, but your way ahead of your self and tech. Touch and voice and maybe movement a voice. Touch would do well as a wall console in a house though!
      • But you generally do have to change the way you drive your new car.

        Every car has its nuances; my latest car has a start button instead of a key and I have to press the brake pedal before I can start. It has an indicator stalk on the left instead of the right and a foot brake instead of a hand brake.
        It just means you have a few hours of effortful thinking before things become an effortless response (see "Thinking, Fast and Slow" by Daniel Kahneman).

        Much the same as Windows 8.
        • re: But you generally do have to change the way you drive your new car.

          Anyone can adapt to minor changes but with Windows 8 they decided to put the gas pedal in the trunk and the windshield washer button in the glove box.

          Metro belongs on tablets, on phones and in zoos where they train monkeys.
          • Strange how haters

            Seem to say Windows 8 is a mess and hard to use, then in the same breath tell us how only monkeys use it because it's simple.

            Say what? Run that by me again, I think I missed something!
          • Metro.

            So you like metro software?

            I just love giving up a 27 inch monitor to a weather app. Or are you one of those people that like windows 8 but not using it like Microsoft intended?
      • Wired into the brain

        @Kostaghus - As exciting as it would be to have machines or interaction devices wired directly into our brains, I think that's not going to be happening for a long, long time. So to say not to invest in touch technology since brain-jacking is coming soon is a little optimistic of you. :D
      • Have you heard of Google Glass?

        Everyone has crazy privacy concerns about the Google Glass. You think the mob isn't going to worry about the government tracking your thoughts with implanted tech? The technology is in reach. The market is not. If by very temporary, you mean we'll go to gestures instead of actually touching.... maybe. That MYO arm band looks really cool. As for direct connection with the brain, I don't think that market will be ready any time soon.
    • Like most

      people, you assume the issue is only one of being unfamiliar with the Metro UI. Not true. I've used Windows 8, and know how it works. I find the interface to be ugly, with icons that look like they came out of the 8 bit world. I have no interest or desire, to sit in front of this interface 8~10 hours a day. Metro works great on a 4.5 inch screen (I have a Nokia 920), but doesn't work on 27 inch screen.
      • Never did understand the argument

        Don't want to sit in front of this interface 8~10 hours a day! Who does that? Most people I know including support techs have something open, web browser, Email programs, photoshop, I could go on for ever really. Not to mention the "GASP" desktop that is still there. Come on, let us in to WHY you would leave metro open to stare at for 8-10 hours a day. Heck, I don't even do that on my Windows 8 Tablet.
    • Mouse

      Actually, the mouse wasn't a hard sell at the time.

      The issue with touch is we are going from a device that has fine control to coarse control. It is reflected in metro software as we go from software that has depth and feature to simplistic. Metro software pretty but paper thin.

      I guess this is where the industry is going. If you are a power user the future is not good.