7 Days Until Windows 8: Make Sure You Can Touch Windows 8

Windows 8's release is just 7 days away. As you look to building applications for Windows 8, another area that can't be forgetting is touch. While Windows 7 supported Touch, Windows 8 really brings it to life.

While there are many areas or touch that you could ignore with Windows 8, there are some you just can't ignore. For example, you could ignore the different touch gestures such as Rotate or Flick. Not all applications will use these; however, in some applications, these actions could increase the usability of the article and thus potentially increase the engagements. The gestures you should consider in Windows 8 include:

  • Tap
  • Double Tap
  • Panning with Inertia
  • Selection
  • Dragging
  • Press and Tap
  • Zoom
  • Rotate
  • Two-Finger Tap
  • Press and Hold
  • Flick

In addition to considering the various touch events and even multi-touch actions, you should also consider the use of touch in a standard interface. For example, when building a form, you should not assume that a mouse and standard keyboard will be used. Rather, you should consider the user that is using a touch screen on a device such as a tablet.

Using touch means you need to consider button size and spacing. For example, you might need to space radio buttons a little farther from each other, or you might need to increase the size of buttons. Many developers in the past have spent time optimizing a screen to get the most on them possible. This could have meant creating smaller buttons and scroll bars. While these smaller and controls are easy to manipulate with a precise mouse button, with touch these can lead to problems and taps that simply miss their mark.

The following figure is a standard desktop application that comes with Windows. As you see, the standard Paint program has a lot of controls shoved into an application ribbon. While this gives the user lots of options, making some of the selections can be hard if you have big fingers. It would be better to add some space to allow for touching to happen easier.

Paint Ribbon - not touch friendly

The following image is captured from Fresh Paint. You can see that the small buttons are gone. There is more space around the various controls so that when you touch them, there is less of a chance that you'll select the wrong item.

Fresh Pain't Touch Friendly Controls

Touch Gestures

Windows 8 provides messaging that you can use to handle touch gestures. You can capture the WM_GESTURE message. This will give you access to a GESTUREINFO structure that can then be used to determine what gesture was used.

Remember Touch and View States

Yesterday I mentioned snap and fill. Because touch is not as clean as using a mouse pointer as far as accuracy, you likely don't want to simply shrink a screen down to the snap width. If you try to shrink the interface to make it fit, chances are the interface controls might get too small to be effective with touch.

Touch can be your friend. It can open up new and interesting controls and actions on your interface. When building your Windows 8 applications, keep touch in mind.


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