Brien Posey's Windows Blog

Mar 30 2009   2:26AM GMT

Taking a Fresh Look at the Windows 7 Touch Interface

Brien Posey Brien Posey Profile: Brien Posey

When a Windows 7 pre beta build was first demonstrated at the Professional Developer’s Conference last year, there was a lot of hype and speculation surrounding the touch screen interface. Now that some of the hype has died down, I want to take a more serious look at the touch interface.

Unfortunately, I still have not had the opportunity to actually experiment with the touch interface myself, but there has been a lot more information released about how this interface works. One wise decision that Microsoft has made was to enable touch at the OS level. This means that all applications should support touch in a consistent manner, even if they were not specifically designed for touch.

So why is this important? It’s important because if the touch interface is ever to become anything more than a novelty, then it needs to be universally supported by all applications, and the only way to make that happen is at the operating system level. The other reason why it is important is because it provides consistency.

A perfect example of this is the mouse. Pretty much every Windows application uses the mouse in the same way. I myself hardly ever even think about the mouse. Recently though, I ran into an oddball application that used the mouse in a non standard way, and it was really disruptive.

I am not much of a gamer, but I absolutely love Microsoft Flight Simulator X (RIP Aces Studio). Normally, you can flit a cockpit switch by clicking on it. I recently downloaded a new aircraft that required you to click on a switch, hold down the mouse button, and rotate the scroll wheel until the switch went to the desired position. Since no other aircraft uses this method, it took me forever to learn how to fly the #$%^ thing.

If nothing else though, this illustrates the importance of an interface’s consistency. Integrating the behavior for an interface into the operating system is the first (and most critical) step to making sure that applications behave in a consistent manner.

Tomorrow, I will follow up this post with a discussion of the gestures that are supported by Windows 7’s touch interface.

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