How do we control our computers? Keyboards and pointing devices? Spoken commands?
Most of us still do use keyboards and pointing devices. Some of us also use voice part of the time but not exclusively. Dragon is the main software used for that, but few of us depend on it to handle all computer control tasks. I use Dragon’s speech-to-text for dictation, quite a lot, but it doesn’t substitute for a mouse much of any. (Latest versions do many such tasks, though.)
Unless we start using touch screens a lot, which would mean acquiring a new monitor, or a new laptop so equipped, or a tablet/slate device, chances are we will be mouse users for some time to come.
Meanwhile, newer operating systems will “expect” some changes in how we interact with our computers and communications devices. Windows 8, for instance, will assume that we may want to use gestures other than “pointing.” And if we use a mouse, it won’t be our father’s (or mother’s) mouse—even though the mouse, unlike the Oldsmobile, may still be around for some time to come. (As for me, I do not expect the Olds to make a comeback. But I long for a modern version of my all-time fave pointing device: the trackball the size of a billiard ball, which was in fact a billiard ball in a special cradle, which I used with my Atari 1040 ST.)
Tech Republic recently asked readers whether there should be two separate editions of Windows 8: one for the desktop (or “standard” laptop) and a different one for tablets. No clear consensus emerged from the response.
One theme was noticeable among many comments: technology users expect that touch and gesture are going to be the most prevalent user interface, and that change will not be long in coming.
So how are we users going to get used to that? The longer we have used computers, the longer we have depended on using keyboard and mouse as our “most natural” way to interact with the machine. Well, we have used touchpads, but by far the best thing about them is that they are built in as opposed to attached, so they go with the laptop with no fuss, and they do not take up one of the precious USB slots. They are still somewhat awkward to use.
Well, Microsoft has given lots of thought to how to get us accustomed to touch or gesture interaction with computers. Not only is that the wave of the future, and Windows 8 will be part of that future, but it might be part of the wave of the present, too. To that end, Microsoft is about to provide the Touch Mouse.
What a concept! The Touch Mouse will help us transition to the world of touch and gesture, from the world of mouse movement, scrolling and clicking. We will be able to do that before Windows 8 is upon us, refusing to yield up all its bells and whistles through mouse and keyboard alone.
The Microsoft Touch Mouse is not yet available, but has been promised for sometimes this summer. The model shown at CES (Consumer Electronics Show, held in Las Vegas a month or so back) was a multitouch device with a form factor somewhat similar to that of the mouse, but with the ability to accept touch and gesture.
Microsoft says the Touch Mouse will let the user point, click and drag, as a conventional mouse does, and also do many other things by moving the fingers across its surface in much the same way as you would use a touch screen. In a sense, it will convert a conventional screen to a touch screen.
Users can employ one, two or three fingers in various gestures. Flick to scroll rapidly through a document—that takes one finger. The mouse is just sitting there. Pan or tilt or revolve with a different flick.
Move forward or backward through slides or arrays of photos or a browser by thumb motions.
Two-finger pinching or stretching or spreading gestures will maximize or minimize windows, snap them to guides, dock them or restore them.
Three fingers will hide or show the desktop, or launch the Instant Viewer revealing a bunch of thumbnails or all the open windows.
The Touch Mouse has been years in design. Its features and functions had to be coordinated with features and functions of the emerging operating systems and hardware.
The Touch Mouse will be available well before Windows 8, but will be usable with current Microsoft operating systems—even though some of its features may not be accessible before Windows 8 arrives. A main target market will be Windows 7 users. For them in particular, the Touch Mouse will help them transition to the world of touch and gesture—the world of tablets, the world of Windows 8.
Of course I’ll want a Touch Mouse. If I manage to score one before you do, I’ll review it here. If you get one first, let me know how it works for you and we can share that with other readers here. Deal?
E Drymar@gmail.com. Skype lilimartini.