For years, touching a PC screen did nothing except leave a greasy smudge on the glass . That's still the case if you have a desktop or notebook PC with a conventional display— Windows 7 cannot magically turn your old LCD into a touch screen . But if your hardware includes a display that can recognize the touch of a pen or a finger, you can input text and manage windows, icons, and other on-screen objects directly.
For basic program management and web browsing, you can use a finger or the Tablet PC pen as a mouse, opening programs, selecting menu options, moving scroll bars, and clicking hyperlinks by pointing, dragging, and tapping. If your PC includes a pen, you can use it to enter handwritten notes directly on the screen, using pen-aware applications such as Windows Journal (included with Windows 7) or Microsoft Office OneNote. You can add handwritten annotations to Microsoft Office Word documents and Microsoft Office Excel spreadsheets and share the marked-up files—even if your coworker is using a conventional PC . You can send handwritten notes to other people via e-mail or Windows Live Messenger, or you can convert those scribbled notes to text and then insert the converted text into other documents
The full range of features available to you depends on your hardware . At the time we wrote this chapter, widely available options included two basic categories of PC designs:
• Touch-enabled PCs These are typically all-in-one devices that integrate the motherboard, memory, and storage in the same housing as the display. You can use a keyboard or mouse for conventional computing tasks or hide those input devices and control media playback and other functions using touch .
• Tablet PCs These are notebook computers that include the capability to enter and edit data using a pen and a specially digitized screen. Tablet PC hardware typically uses one of two configurations . Slate designs do not include a built-in keyboard (although they can accept an external keyboard or mouse) and are intended for use primarily with a pen . Convertible designs resemble a conventional notebook, with a keyboard and pointing device; by rotating the screen on a hinge and folding it over the keyboard, you can switch the PC into a position that allows you to work with the pen in a more natural fashion From a software point of view, there is no difference between the two designs
The history of PC design suggests that these form factors will be joined in the future by new designs that take advantage of touch features for special-purpose applications . For example, it's easy to imagine a small touch-enabled device, powered by Windows 7, that is designed to sit on a living room table and control Media Center functions on a big-screen TV.
What makes a touch or tablet screen special?
The difference between a standard LCD display and one that is able to accept direct input from a pen or finger is an extra layer of technology called a digitizer. The specific implementations of this technology vary, depending on the intended application, and can typically be divided into two broad classes. An active digitizer responds only to a specific type of input device, such as a pen or stylus, which contains electronic components that transmit electromagnetic information to the sensor behind the LCD. This arrangement allows the digitizer to respond to input even if the point of the stylus is merely hovering over the screen; it also allows Windows to record different degrees of pressure with very high precision (to make thick and thin ink strokes, for example). A passive digitizer, which is typically used in dedicated devices such as ATMs and check-in kiosks at airports, is less precise and responds to any kind of pressure, including the press of a finger. Hybrid designs combine both types of digitizer technologies to allow handwriting input and simplified touch navigation .
If you have an older computer that supports pen or single-touch input only, you will not be able to enable the multitouch features in Windows 7 . In fact, even some PC designs that bill themselves as multitouch might not provide you access to the new touch features in Windows 7. If in doubt, look for the logo indicating that the computer has passed Microsoft's stringent compatibility tests for touch support. Finally, if your computer has a touchpad that is capable of accepting multitouch input, prepare to be at least a little disappointed . These features are supplied by device manufacturers only and are not supported by the Windows Touch subsystem in Windows 7 .
If you purchase a new PC with Windows 7, any drivers and utilities required to enable touch and pen input will already be installed by the PC maker. If you upgrade to Windows 7 or perform a clean install, you might need to visit the hardware manufacturer's website to download and install required drivers . To check the status of pen and touch support, open Control Panel, click System (under the System And Security heading), and look at the last line under the System heading. The system whose properties are shown here includes support for the full range of pen and multitouch features .
Installed memory [RAM): System type: Pen and Touch:
r^j-J Windows Experience Index ]ntel(R} Core[TM)2 Duo CPU U7700 0 133GHz 1.33 GHz 3.00 GB [2.75 GB usable) 32-bit Operating System
To see the full range of hardware settings, you'll need to familiarize yourself with the options under the Pen And Touch heading in Control Panel options .
For a touch-enabled PC, the most important options are available on the Touch tab of the Pen And Touch dialog box, which is shown in Figure 26-1.
The check boxes at the top of this dialog box allow you to enable or disable touch and multitouch input. The Touch Actions section in the center includes options for customizing the touch behaviors that correspond to common mouse actions. Select either entry from the list and then click or tap Settings to change the way it works. These options are especially useful if you need to increase or decrease the sensitivity of the response to a double-tap action
The check box in the Touch Pointer section at the bottom is normally not selected. When this option is enabled, touching the screen displays a large, transparent pointer in the shape of a mouse. Click either of the virtual buttons on this virtual mouse to simulate a click or right-click.
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