Microsoft Shows Off The New Touch Interface In Windows 8Written by John Thompson on June 2, 2011 · Filed under Software, Tech
We’ve been treated to a number of great interviews this week at the D9 conference which is happening in the States this week, and last night was, for many, the main event. Microsoft Windows President Steven Sinofsky gave attendees a sneak peek at the next version of Windows, codenamed ‘Windows 8′, with a focus on lower hardware requirements and a new touch-centric overlay for the operating system which makes it easier to use on tablets and other touch screen devices.
Although this was a very early demo of Windows 8 – the whole demonstration was powered by a hidden desktop computer underneath the stand, with visible wires trailing from the unit itself to interface with the machine – the touch interface shows quite a bit of promise and seems to include a number of useful features for an early release. We’ve been waiting for a true touch interface to come to Windows for quite some time now, so let’s take a look at what it consists of!
The Metro-like touch interface is clearly designed to extend the interface of Windows Phone 7 on to the bigger screen and make it more accessible for users wanting a tablet without having to sacrifice all of the applications that they already use on a regular basis. The new ‘Start’ screen that slides in once you login is comprised of live tiles (yes, goodbye Start menu, it was nice knowing you…) to provide you with instant information ranging from the current weather to your latest Facebook updates. The way that all of this information is pulled down to the touch interface is very tidy, and you don’t have to leave your Start screen at all to glance at your latest updates.
As this is Windows, and dozens of tasks will be running in the background all the time, you can easily flick between your open applications as well. Simply take your finger and swipe inwards from the left hand side of the screen to bring back the last window that you were working on. This can be done again and again, as Windows remembers which applications you had open at what time. As an extension of this feature, you can also run two applications side by side using ‘Snap’, similar to how you would use Aero Snap in Windows 7. This works in the same way as dragging a previous window to the screen does, but if you want to run the two applications side by side you can simply drag the window in and keep your finger there for a second until the current application adjusts its size so that the new application that you want to view slots in at the side of it.
Internet Explorer 10 will also have a touch interface built to work with Windows 8, so you can navigate the web on your tablet without having to use your standard, non-touch Windows browser. Tabs drop down from the top of the screen, and you can go back in the browser though a small pane that pops up at the bottom of the screen when you tap on the display.
When you bring up the virtual keyboard within the touch interface, you will be presented with a layout and look that seems to be consistent throughout tablet devices such as the iPad and Android tablets, but you can also choose to change the layout of the keyboard, so that it is cut in half and displayed on each far side of the screen, making it much easier to use with your thumbs.