"MultiTouch Shines"4.5 starson by Azelis
Pros: - Several applications, including the on screen touch keyboard have multitouch support.
- All Windows GUI windows, including Internet Explorer, support drag style scrolling and several support pinch style zoom
Cons: - Hardly the fault of Microsoft, but getting ahold of the N-Trig Windows 7 driver for my Hp TX2 laptop was a royal pain.
- Occasinally the touch screen will stop responding and only the pen will work.
Summary: A year ago I was finally forced to admit, grudgingly, that the iPhone was the best smartphone out there, for things like the application support and network integration, but what really sold me on it was the multitouch screen. Now I can finally say that my laptop has one-upped my phone.
Microsoft has brought multitouch support in flying colors to Windows 7. Having expected good things due to the development of the Microsoft Surface, when I made my tablet choice I went with one that supported multitouch in hopes of seeing it in Windows 7. I have to admit HP's own software emulation of multitouch in Vista were lackluster, slow, and unreliable. Windows 7 has completely blown them out of the water.
The first test of multitouch was honestly getting the driver installed. N-Trig has made this an extremely unfriendly process, going so far as to change the user/pass you need to download the driver from their corporate support site from what they say it is. However once I got it installed I did what Microsoft recommended; I started MS Paint. It's hard to express how utterly useless, yet entertaining it is to be able to paint with 4 separate fingers at the same time, but it did well to demonstrate the ability and response speed of multitouch. Users of a multitouch screen in Vista will be happy to know that the actual multitouch sensitivity is much greater than the software they're used to. Two fingers touching each other will indeed yield two different points on the screen.
From there I launched into Internet Explorer where I found that iPhone style grab and scroll works beautifully, far better than pen flicks did in Vista (pen flicks still make an appearance and I suspect this may be more intuitive when using just the pen, however the touchscreen is too fun to pass up). Pinch style scrolling is also fairly responsive, if not quite as fluid. However browser tweaks that I suspect make heavier use of my graphics hardware have definitely sped up the process. Two finger style rotate has also been implemented in photo viewer, however it's not quite the photo gallery effect of the Surface videos some of us were so taken with.
Of course I could hardly surf the tablet internet without bringing up the on screen keyboard. As I said it now supports multitouch as well. I was able to ctrl+shift+arrow key select text even. Keys light up and then fade as you press them (except when entering a password) but I do feel that aural feedback is lacking. Call me spoiled but the tick sound that the keyboard on my iPhone makes greatly aids in on screen typing accuracy somehow.
The new task bar did take me some time to get used to, but it's definitely an improvement and I fully agree that they have brought a strong GUI contender against OSX. For one thing the larger buttons are a touch improvement making it easier to select things with a finger, especially on 12.1 inch tablet laptops such as mine. Once I began to understand the functionality of it by playing around I found it so incredibly intuitive that it was the first time in years I uttered the phrase, "Now why didn't I think of that?" The touch and drag context menu works beautifully and once I discovered that clicking a program group brings up real time previews of each window in that group it was incredibly easy and intuitive. And perhaps a small but well designed improvement, downloads now show up minimized as the "e" program group icon with a progress bar gradient filling it as the download proceeds. In fact aside from my Google desktop button and the date/time, the task bar no longer has any text on it. Daunting at first but surprisingly easy to get used to.
While Vista touch users may miss the on screen mouse that made moving and right clicking a little easier to the touch savvy, it's honestly not needed anymore. Moving the mouse without clicking something is still hard to do, however right clicking now has two faces. One is the traditional hold and wait for the circle to complete, however multitouch users now can hold on what they want to right-click and tap a second finger nearby to get the right click menu. And if people simply find this old tool too hard to part with, it can be turned back on.
I think the research Microsoft did with Surface definitely shines through in Windows 7 and in fact I expect we'll be seeing those coffee table computers in wide distribution before long. Even in the beta version it's inredibly polished and intuitive, enough that I find myself working in screen only mode more than laptop mode just for the shear usability it now offers. I haven't even talked about the surprisingly increased graphics responsiveness but if you've got a multitouch capable monitor/laptop, Windows 7 will not disappoint.
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