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Windows 8: 5 touch gestures needed for better tablet operation

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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Topic: Mobility
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1 of 6 James Kendrick/ZDNet

5 proposed touch gestures for Windows 8 tablets (and laptops)

It took me a while to get used to Windows 8 on touch tablets, but with the right device . It does some things better than others, and the dual nature of Windows 8 (Metro and desktop) is challenging.

Overall, the Windows 8 touch interface is pretty well done albeit a little quirky. It takes time to get used to swiping from the four edges of the screen to do different things, and it doesn't help that they are very different things at that. Using touch to manipulate the OS works reasonably well, but every time I use my Windows 8 tablet I wish some additional touch gestures were included in the mix.

The 5 gestures proposed in this article may not be for everyone using a Windows 8 tablet, but I really wish they were part of the UI. They are simple in concept and operation, and I would use them constantly if implemented. If you think about it you might wish they were included, too.

See also:

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2 of 6 James Kendrick/ZDNet

Swipe to the desktop

Windows 8 has a dual nature, between the Metro Start Screen and the legacy desktop. The Metro side has live tiles in a horizontal layout that can be spun through by swiping from right to left and vice versa to get back to the left-most screen.

Tablet users can attest to how common it is to be spinning right and left on the Start Screen to find a particular app tile to either run or view information on the tile. It's a natural gesture that fits the touch tablet particularly well.

As good as it is, I am constantly wishing it was expanded a little. When I am swiping from left to right on the Start Screen to get back to the left-most screen of tiles, I wish that it would let me swipe through to the desktop.

The legacy desktop is not part of the Metro interface but it's something I use all the time. I envision it existing to the left of the Metro side, so I wish I could keep going when swiping left to right on the Start Screen to easily get to the desktop.

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3 of 6 James Kendrick/ZDNet

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.

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4 of 6 James Kendrick/ZDNet

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.

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5 of 6 James Kendrick/ZDNet

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.

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6 of 6 James Kendrick/ZDNet

Swipe to spin through the Start Screen

Back on the Metro side of things, while spinning left to right is easy to do on the Start Screen, it's annoying to reach the screen on the far right and hit a wall. When you hit it you must swipe back to get to the "main", or left-most Start Screen.

It makes more sense for the Start Screen with it's multiple screens to exist in an imaginary circular structure. When you hit the right-most "wall" the swiping should circle back around to the left-most screen. It's natural and intuitive and would make working the Start Screen more enjoyable.

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