Chapter 4: Learning to touch

You'll get the most out of Windows 8 if you have a computer with a touchscreen, and particularly a tablet or hybrid-style Ultrabook. Using your finger to navigate the operating system is very easy once you learn all the necessary gestures. The most important ones are swiping in from the sides of the screen. These gestures can bring up Charms, application settings and can allow you to quickly switch between open apps.

Perhaps the most fun you'll have with a touchscreen is flicking through all your open applications. By swiping your finger in from the left side of the screen, in a quick flicking motion, you can swiftly switch through all of your open apps until you find the one that you want to use. Alternatively, you can swipe in from the left edge towards the right and then quickly back to the left in order to bring up the Switcher, which will show thumbnails of all open or recently used applications. Up to nine apps can appear in the switcher and the oldest will drop off the list as you open more. To open them you simply tap their icon.

Swiping in from the right side of the screen towards the left will bring up the Charms, which we mentioned in chapter two. The Charms are finger-friendly icons that you can tap in order to access settings that are relevant to the apps that you're in, or you can quickly change system settings such as brightness, volume and wireless networks.

Swiping in from the bottom will bring up the context menu for the application you are in, so you'll be able to see commands such as Save, Edit or Delete, depending on the application.

Swiping in from the top all the way down to the bottom of the screen without lifting your finger will close an application. Swiping down and dragging a new-style app towards the side of the screen will invoke the Snap feature so that you can place two apps side by side on the screen.

You can use two fingers to perform pinch-to-zoom and rotate gestures, and you can tap-and-hold icons and open spaces to get more menus and commands, similar to right-clicking with a mouse. You can also tap-and-drag your finger on tiles to move them around and rearrange them on the Start screen, as well as tap-and-drag to manipulate scroll bars.

For typing on the screen rather than with a physical keyboard, Windows has a new virtual keyboard that can be displayed either in the conventional way, or as a split keyboard so that you can use your thumbs to type while holding a tablet device with both hands.

The full keyboard is shown on the top half of the screenshot, while the split keyboard is shown on the bottom half. The split keyboard is designed to used with your thumbs only. The on-screen keyboard can be used on touchscreen computers only.
The full keyboard is shown on the top half of the screenshot, while the split keyboard is shown on the bottom half. The split keyboard is designed to used with your thumbs only. The on-screen keyboard can be used on touchscreen computers only.

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Previous chapter: Using a touchpad to get the most out of Windows 8

Next chapter: Desktop improvements

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