Windows 11 and the Evolution of Microsoft Touch Computing

Windows 11 is launched. Four words that rather encompass a lot of code, design and dreams. It is almost impossible to cover everything, but one area that has developed into various Microsoft products over the years has been tactile. Prior to the general availability of Windows 11, I sat down with Panos Panay, Microsoft Product Manager, to talk about this part of Windows 11… the touch computing approach.

In a sense, touch has always been a part of Windows. Maybe it was just using a mouse, but when the time was right, Windows showed a tiny hand with one finger on the screen. “Click” are well-known terms, so “touch” would be a better analogy than “touch”, but you can see the history of touch today on Windows 11 from this decades-old prologue.

Sometimes the cursor was a pointer; sometimes the cursor was the aforementioned index; sometimes it was a text selection tool; the key fact being that the cursor was contextual. Windows changed the action depending on the circumstances.

Smash cut to Windows 11, touches specifically Windows 11, and you get the same idea of ​​a pop-up interface thriving in a new environment … except it’s not just a few pixels around the cursor, it’s all Windows 11.

I started to ask what drives the tactile experience. For Panay, touch is one of the five ‘senses’ of Windows 11: “Whether you’ve picked up the stylus, put your finger down to touch, want to talk, the fluidity between the shift from productivity to creativity, and consumption to lean back and enjoy. “

“When you lean back and remove the keyboard, fold it up, or tilt it down, we wanted touch gestures to help you quickly navigate your device and move windows around on the screen. . Vertical stacking of two applications [can be used] without ever wondering which application is being developed.

“If you tap Windows 11, switch to tablet mode and pick up an app, you’ll see a little shadow giving you a subtle hint of ‘Ahh, I’m controlling.’ This feeling of control for a customer in tablet mode is quite important, especially when trying to be productive. “

If you move away from the traditional desktop keyboard, mouse, and monitor, and Windows 11 still has to deliver. Being productive is the key; after all, any display can just show you some media, it’s about what you do when the consumption is over.

“When you switch to tablet mode, you remove the keyboard and it’s just the screen, Windows 11 knows that.” Panay increased the intensity here: “Touch targets change, taskbar gets bigger, it’s easier to put your finger down because Windows knows you’re now switching to voice, stylus, and touch.

It also brings up the new Windows 11 onscreen keyboard. “When you change [how your use Windows], we have a brand new touchscreen keyboard. You can move it around, use it with two thumbs, one hit, though. You can also personalize it by personalizing it. It’s crazy, ”says Panos,“ when I show people the Gifs and the Emoji keyboard… what it does is it enlightens people on a PC. It sounds silly, but it isn’t. It’s very stimulating “,

“We have also improved voice input. When I lean back I can switch to voice typing, which now recognizes tones and punctuation. It’s easier than ever and incredibly powerful. I want more people to get into voice typing.

“The final piece is the pen, which unlocks a whole new power of expression, grasp and creativity. [The new Surface Pen] comes with haptics, which works on all Windows 11. Now there is a little more hindsight for taking your notes and writing. And it’s also contextual, just like this first cursor, “in tablet mode with the stylus, the stylus menu appears”.

There’s a lot going on here, but where did it all come from?

“From Windows 7, we had the experience of touch and a tablet; Windows 8 brought it to the fore; and Windows 10 brought a hybrid with its tablet mode. But he’s also informed by the human factors teams – they can look at areas like how you hold the tablet, how comfortable you feel holding one hand and writing with another.

“We can literally scan the brain [using MRI and CT equipment] and watch how people think, what emotions arise and how easy something seems. We use all the current technology, the human factors lab, the product history, all of that. There isn’t a piece of Microsoft that doesn’t inform these decisions. “

Microsoft has been moving in this direction for some time. Look at the Surface hardware. It started with the Surface RT tablet, which included a removable keyboard and a basic stylus. Compare that to the latest announcements of the Surface Pro 8 and the Surface Laptop Studio in particular and you can see how the hardware has maintained a line, but also innovated and brought new ways of working.

Good hardware works with good software. The aforementioned Windows 10 tablet mode has certainly helped improve touch on Windows devices, although the transformation has been relatively subtle.

Windows 11 is taking a leap forward. Touch is one of the five key elements at the heart of designing a system that hopes to move between different elements with as little digital friction as possible. It is also one of the most understandable elements. If you hit a button, it should do something. If you drag a window, it should happen. If you select text, it should just grab the signal and highlight what you need … whether it’s with a stylus, finger, or the classic Windows cursor.

Learn more about Microsoft’s new Transformative Surface hardware …


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