Well well, look at you. You've just picked up a touch enabled Windows 7 PC like the Lenovo S10-3T or the Fujitsu UH900. What's that you say? Windows 7 doesn't feel like it's very touch friendly? Well that's because you need to do a little tweaking so that Windows 7 touch works FOR YOU PERSONALLY. This is a topic I wanted to write about for a long time and I'm glad I finally got around to doing it.
So without further ado, here's a little guide on how you can optimize your touch enabled Windows 7 PC to get more out of your investment. Find a nice comfy place to sit down and read this guide because it's a long one!
The Right Edition Of Windows 7
Ok, first of all you need to make sure you have the right edition of Windows 7. To do this, bring up your Start Menu and type in SYSTEM into the search box like so, then select the System link under the Control Panel category.
This will bring up the system information window like what you see below.
The two important pieces of information (highlighted in red) to learn from this screen is what Windows Edition you are using and under Pen and Touch you'll be able to see wheter or not your PC supports touch and how many touch points it supports.
So... the first step you have to do to optimize your Windows 7 Touch Experience is.
If you're running Windows 7 STARTER or HOME BASIC Edition. You need to upgrade to HOME PREMIUM Edition NOW!!!!
This is because unless you have Windows 7 Home Premium edition or higher you will not enjoy some of the more advanced Touch features offered by Windows 7.
Let's Touch Something
Now that you know which is the right edition of Windows 7 you need to have, let's start actually doing some changes. The first thing we are going to take care of is the common complaint that certain windows controls are too small to be manipulated by touch.
in this case I'm talking about the windows size buttons (maximize, minimize, close buttons) and also the scrollbar. Normally these two things are so small that it's extremely hard to hit with your fingers. To do this we need to adjust the color settings of your system.
Bring up the Start Menu and type color into the search box, then choose Change Window Colors And Metrics under the Control Panel section.
This will bring up the Window Color And Apperance settings page.
From the Item list, select Caption Buttons.
Then under the Size setting, increase it to something bigger. Something bigger than 35 works well for me, but it might be different for you. As you increase the size, you'll see the buttons in the preview panel increase as well.
Hit the Apply button and Windows will apply your settings after a short loading screen and you should see that the windows size buttons are now larger.
IF YOU DO NOT SEE THAT THE BUTTON HAS GOTTEN BIGGER. This is due to a bug in Windows which sometimes happens, to overcome the bug, select Active Title Bar from the Items list.
Increase the Size value (it should be showing the same value you entered for the Caption Buttons previously) by 1 and then hit the Apply button. The size of the buttons should now grow to your intended value.
The next thing you'd want to do is to increase the scrollbar's size as well, so select Scrollbar under the Items listbox and change the size to something that feels right for YOU.
I use something around the region of 30 myself. So after all these changes your typical Window should look something like this.
The windows buttons, as well as the scrollbars should now be at a comfortable size for you to manipulate with your fingers. If not just adjust the size till you find something that works for you.
If Only Everything Played Nice
So now you've set your preferences and made some of the smaller harder to reach controls of Windows bigger so you can manipulate them easier. But if only every program worked the same and obeyed the same settings. Here is a screenshot of Skype on my system AFTER I've did the above windows tweaks.
Note how even though the scrollbar is at the larger dimensions which I defined, the windows control buttons on top or still small and hard to hit with our fingers. In this situation we'd need some assistance in controlling our cursor to be able to hit the button that we want. This is a job for the Touch Pointer.
Bring up the Start Menu and type touch into the search box. Then select Change Touch Input Settings from the results.
This will bring up the Pen And Touch settings screen.
Check the Show Touch Pointer option in the highlighted area, and click OK to save your settings.
So... what is the Touch Pointer? After enabling the setting just now, touch anywhere on the screen and you'll notice something appear near the position which you've touched.
The highlighted object is the Touch Pointer, notice how it's shaped like a mouse? Because IT IS A MOUSE. The touch pointer is basically an onscreen mouse, once it appears you can drag the mouse around by dragging the mouse body (bottom part) and perform left and right clicks by tapping on the appropriate buttons. Now that you have a virtual mouse you can just drag it around to hit those hard to reach spaces like good old Skype here.
I noticed that some people HATE the touch pointer, saying that it gets in way, or its useless. Personally I like having it around to work with programs which were never meant for touch operation in the first place. And of course if you feel that the pointer is too big or too small you can always go back to the Pen and Touch settings screen previously, hit the Advanced Options button and you can tweak the pointer's settings and appearance.
It might be feel a bit funny at first, but once you figure out how it works you might like having the touch pointer around so give it a chance before you dismiss it as just an annoying blob.
Let's talk about writing
Now let's take a look at the Text Input Panel (TIP) that comes with Windows and is enabled when you're using a touch equipped PC. Most people would be familiar with the keyboard view of the TIP.
If you find that the keys are too small for you, resize the window and they'll grow to fit the larger size. If you have a resistive touchscreen, or a digitizer panel you should know about the Writing Pad mode of the TIP, which you access by hitting the pen icon in the upper left corner of the tip.
While you can just write like normal with the pad, it's a good idea to read up on how to use advanced editing behaviors by hitting on the help button on the upper right hand corner in writing pad mode.
After which you can click on the four editing methods to see a short video on the advanced methods of working with your writing.
The TIP is definitely a great thing to have when interacting with your touch enabled PC when you don't have a physical keyboard around. But some people might find it's default hiding spot on the left side of the screen (indicated by the arrow) a bit hard to reach due to maybe the frame of the screen, or large fingers.
You can make it easier to bring up the TIP by clicking on the Tools button in the TIP and select Options
This will bring up the TIP Options Window where you can set various options regarding the TIP.
But the one we're interested in is Show the icon on the taskbar. When this is checked an icon will appear on your taskbar which once clicked, will bring up the TIP. This is definitely easier and handier for touch screens.
UPDATE 3rd August 2011 : Why can't I see what keys I'm pressing during password entry?
So why can't I drag to scroll?
If you've had experience with other touch screen gadgets like the iPhone and various other things you might have gotten used to just dragging and scrolling lists around. But upon getting your nifty touch enabled Windows 7 PC you might have wondered why you can't do such a simple task. Well, let me tell you now that... YOU CAN DRAG TO SCROLL on a touch enabled Windows PC. It's just that SINGLE FINGER dragging is DISABLED BY DEFAULT. I can think of some reasons why it's disabled normally but considering that there's no real mention that there's a setting for which you can turn this feature on, this just turns out to frustrate users. Ok... enough ranting. Bring up the Start Menu and type panning into the search box.
Selecting Change Panning Settings will then bring out the Panning tab in the Pen And Touch settings screen which we went to previously to enable the touch pointer.
Obviously what you want to do is to check the Turn On Single Finger Panning option. If you find that your PC performs poorly when you drag and scroll to the end of something and the whole window moves to indicate you're at the end turn off Enable Boundary Feedback For Pan Gestures.
Click OK and viola.. you can now drag and scroll views around.... IN SUPPORTED APPLICATIONS. This is a very important point to remember. Not all programs are made equally so drag support might or might not work the way you want in the application you're using. One very apparent example are Web Browsers, obviously IE8 works with the panning setting, Google Chrome also responds. But Firefox and Safari don't. If you want those browsers to support the builtin panning gesture pester the developers to enable it, or install the relevant add-ons.
For Once Learn Something From Help!
Windows 7 actually has a few built in touch gestures for multi touch (You can how many touch points by the System Info screen which I showed in the beginning of this long article remember?) enabled systems. Instead of explaining and describing all of them here I'm going to refer you to one of what I'd expect to be the LEAST USED Windows feature...
Yes.. I want you to bring up the Start Menu and click on Help And Support. Then do a search for gesture
Select the Using Touch Gestures topic
Read and learn about all the supported Gestures and Flicks feature in Windows 7 to maximize your Windows 7 touch experience.
Multiple Selection With Only ONE Finger
This next feature should already be enabled when Windows 7 detects that it's installed onto a touch enabled PC, but in case is isn't. This is regarding how you'd select multiple files in Windows Explorer normally by holding down the CTRL key and clicking on each of them. So you get something like this.
This can be pretty hard to do when you are just using your finger or pen, so let's fix that. First go to the Folder Options dialog in Windows Explorer.
Then in the View tab, check the Use check boxes to select items option.
Now when you mouse over an item, a checkbox will appear to allow you to select the file.
Notice how there's also a checkbox on the upper left corner of the list to select everything. This is such a useful feature that you should enable on even your NON Touch Enabled Windows 7 PCs.
Wow.... that was one long article. I hope this will help you have a better experience with your Touch Enabled Windows 7 PC and that you'll enjoy your system better with all these settings and tips.