|05 Jun 2010||#1|
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Windows 7 Feature Focus Tablet PC and Windows Touch
While Apple gets all the credit for multi-touch technologies in its iPhone and iPad products, the truth is that Microsoft has been innovating with alternative user interfaces for PCs for decades. It began with pen-based Windows controls but really picked up steam with the company's Tablet PC initiative. Through this set of technologies, which grew to include new form factors like the Ultra-Mobile PC as well as new input techniques such as touch and multi-touch, Microsoft has evolved Windows over the years to support a wide range of usage scenarios that go well beyond traditional mouse and keyboard controls.
In this feature focus, I'll highlight two of these technologies, Tablet PC, which includes pen-based navigation, input, and handwriting technologies, and Windows Touch, which extends this support to include touch- and multi-touch-based gestures.
In Windows 7, using the systemís integrated Tablet PC functionality is virtually identical to the way it worked in Windows XP Tablet PC Edition and in Windows, but naturally with a few enhancements. Windows Journal, Sticky Notes, and the Tablet PC Input Panel (TIP) all make it over with some functional improvements, as does the Snipping Tool, a favorite Tablet PC download that Microsoft used to provide separately. Here's a rundown of what's changed in this release.
Configuring Tablet PC Features
Before using your Tablet PC or tablet-equipped PC with a stylus or other pointing device, you should probably take the time to configure the Tablet PC functionality thatís built into Windows 7. If you have Tablet hardware, youíll see a few items in the shell that arenít available on non-Tablet hardware, including a handy way to select multiple items with a pen, a few new tray notification icons that appear over time, and the same reordering of Control Panel items that one sees when using Windows 7 with a notebook computer. With the exception of that last item, youíll examine these features throughout this chapter.
Tablet PC features are configured via the Control Panel, through two separate locations, Tablet PC Settings and Pen and Touch, both of which are available in Hardware and Sound. If you're used to how these features are configured in Windows Vista, you'll need to get reoriented because Microsoft has moved items around fairly dramatically. So spend some time in these interfaces and make sure everything is configured as you'd prefer.
Tablet PC Input Panel (TIP)
Back in the original version of Windows XP Tablet PC Edition, the Tablet PC Input Panel, or TIP, was typically docked to the bottom of the screen, just above the taskbar, and you toggled its display by clicking a TIP icon next to the Start button. In Windows XP Tablet PC Edition 2005, Microsoft enhanced the TIP by enabling it to pop up in place, where you needed it. That is, if you wanted to input some text into the address bar of an Internet Explorer window, for example, you could tap the address bar with the pen and the TIP would appear in a floating window right under the tap point. That way, you wouldnít have to move the pen up and down across the entire screen in order to enter text or other characters.
That said, the TIP could still be manually launched by clicking that special icon next to the Start Menu; and the TIP in Windows XP Tablet PC Edition 2005 was a pretty big bugger, occupying a large swath of onscreen real estate.
These issues are now fixed in Windows 7. Instead of a special taskbar button, the TIP is now always accessible, but mostly hidden, on the edge of the screen. Only a small portion of the TIP is visible by default. When you mouse over it (using either mouse or pen/stylus), the TIP peeks out just a bit more. To activate the TIP, simply click it with the pen or stylus. The TIP will then appear in the center of the screen.
An activated TIP is a happy TIP.
Compared to the TIP in previous versions of Windows, the Windows 7 TIP offers very similar functionality with a slightly reworked user interface. The Quick Launch icons for the Writing Pad (the default) and Touch Keyboard modes have been moved to the top of the window, next to the Tools and Help menus. (And the Character Pad interface from Windows Vista has been unceremoniously made less accessible: You get to it by tapping Tools and then Write character by character.)
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