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Windows 8 Touchscreen Experiences and Tweaks

29.11.2013 00:00

Whether it is hyped, praised, teared apart or whatever, touchscreens are here to stay and will continue to pervade our computer interfaces. Since about a year I own an Acer Iconia W510 Tablet / Netbook Convertible. It sure has its weaknesses, but overall I enjoy using it as an ultra mobile productive device thanks to running a reguar Microsoft Windows 8.

But once you use Desktop Application and websites that have been developped without touchscreen in mind, problems arise here and there. Typical problems are mouseover-functionality that are nonexistent for touchscreens, the unability to scroll in some applications (luckly not that many) and small icons or buttons.

To use Mozilla Firefox on a touchscreen two small tweaks are important. The Grab and Drag Addons fixes issues with scrolling on some pages (e.g. Google Search). The other issues is about closing tabs. The tab-close-button is just to small if you want to close a tab in Firefox using a touchscreen. This easy fix in the userChrome.css file (see here for help on how to find it or where to create it) helps significantly:

.tab-close-button {
margin: 0px !important;
width: 32px !important;
height: 32px !important;
}

.tabbrowser-tab {
padding: 0px !important;
}

This increases to touchable size of the buttons without significantly increasing the tab height. Just copy it into the userChrome.css, save the file and restart Firefox.

Despite those problems above, there also exists some unexplainable ones. For example pinch to zoom is not available in Google Chrome. Seriously, despite implemented for Chrome OS and Android, you cannot use two fingers to zoom a website in Google Chrome for Windows. Another faux-pas, that should have been fixed with Windows 8.1 is the only partially avaiable auto-correction with the Windows on screen keyboard. In Windows Apps and Microsoft's IE etc. it works fine, but there is no auto-correction in regular desktop applications which makes typing very cumbersome (luckily I have an attachable keyboard).

I often miss a touchscreen when using other notebooks which regularly results in evil eyes when I leave my fingerprints on the screens. A mouse is definitely more ergonomic when navigating around for a long time at the desk, but for occassional clicking / touching and scrolling, a touchscreen is a welcome diversification and distances across the screen are less of a burden. Touchscreens also produce a subjectively lower cognitive load compared to a mouse, and especially if compared to a touchpad.

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