Windows 7 Touch Screen Details Emerging, Reliability Questioned

Dennis Faas's picture

Microsoft has revealed more about Windows 7 and its support for touch screen technology. The system sounds impressive, however, reports suggest it appears to have a high error rate.

The Redmond-based company originally considered setting up a completely separate interface for software which used touch screens, similar to the way Media Center works. Instead, Microsoft opted to build everything into the main Windows 7 experience in order to cut down on switching back and forth between two interfaces.

When Windows 7 is used with a touch screen, there will now be some slight tweaks to make it easier to use. Most of these involve making commonly clicked icons and buttons larger and more finger-friendly. There's also an on-screen keyboard where each letter lights up as your finger hovers over it, the idea being to reduce typos.

Zoom In and Out In a Pinch

The Windows 7 touch screen system will be based around ten different input gestures. These include familiar ones such as taps and double taps, while pressing down and holding simulates right-clicking. Some of the more complex moves include pinching -- pulling two fingertips together or apart -- which carries out zooms. (Source:

While ten finger gestures will be no challenge to anyone who's ever played a complicated PC game, it may be a lot to learn for less-experienced computer users. That said, several of the gestures are only needed for very specific tasks such as rotating an image in a photo editing program.

Gestures Misread

In an early version of the system, Microsoft found some problems. For example, both the zoom and rotate functions worked less than 75% of the time, often because the computer confused the two.

To rectify this, engineers redesigned the system so that it only looks out for gestures specifically relevant to the program being used. This made a significant improvement: the zoom gesture was now recognized 90% of the time. (Source:

The problem is that even a 90% success rate may be too low. If you can imagine how frustrating it would be if one in ten keystrokes or mouse movements didn't do what you were intended, you can see why touch screen technology will need to be even more reliable if it's to truly improve the user experience.

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