Developer makes Windows 7 a lot more touch friendly

By Tom Warren, on 29th May 11 2:43 pm with 16 Comments

Windows 7 custom touch UI

One developer has changed the face of Windows 7 to improve its touch based user interface.

Justin Campana, who is interested in tablet computing, decided to take Windows 7 and improve it. “Tablets have been my main interest for the last couple of years,” explains Campana in an email to WinRumors. The eager developer created a DIY carbon fiber tablet last year which runs Windows 7. “I started working on the carbon fiber tablet before the iPad was even announced,” he explains. “Once the iPad came out it was clear that this was going to be a major shift in how we interact with technology. I now have an iPad, Android tablet and Windows tablet…all have their strengths and weaknesses.”

One of the weaknesses of Windows tablets is the frustrating user interface, designed mainly for mouse and keyboard computing. Microsoft produced a number of improvements inside Windows 7 for touch based computing, however most people argue that they didn’t go far enough. “The main issue with the Windows tablet is that the out-of-the-box touch experience is lacking compared to competitors,” says Campana. “That’s how this project got started,” he adds. Campana has optimized Windows 7 for touch an ASUS Eee Slate EP121-1A011M 12.1-Inch Tablet PC. The developer focused on four key areas - Windows Settings, Docks, Widgets and Applications:

  1. Change Control Panel view.  In the Control Panel select “Large Icons” in the “View by:” field.
  2. Make applications open Maximized.  If you have any apps that always open windowed when you would like them to open maximized, just right click on the shortcut for the app, go to “Properties” and choose “Maximized” from the “Run:” menu on the “Shortcut” tab.
  3. Make folders show List View.  I have found it much easier to deal with folders when they are showing the List View instead of Icons or Tiles.  Screen real estate on a tablet is scarce, so this means you don’t always have to scroll to find what you are looking for.  And it is still easy to click on files/folders when they are in the List View.  To set all of your folder of a certain type to List View open your C: in an Explorer window and choose “List” from the view drop down.  Now go to the “Organize” drop down and go to “Folder and Search Options”.  Now go to the “View” tab and push the “Apply to Folders” button.  This will make all similar folders display List View.  This will not affect different folder types such as Pictures, Music, etc.
  4. Auto-hide the Taskbar.  You can see in my demo that I have the taskbar auto-hidden and on the right side.  The reason for this is screen real estate.  The small screens on tablets mean every inch counts and since I have docks now, I don’t really need the taskbar all that much.

The result is an interface that is a lot more slick for general applications in Windows 7, rather than just a custom UI built on top of Windows. “With a few simple changes Windows 7 becomes touch friendly and more fun to use,” says Campana. We hope Microsoft is watching because Windows 8 needs similar improvements to really push Microsoft’s vision of a full flavour of Windows across multiple device types. Check-out the video demonstration below and how to download all the various pieces required at Campana’s blog here.

  • Ronit Kumar

    I think Windows 8 will be even better than this! 

    • Anonymous

      but of course silly

  • http://twitter.com/s_a_r_k_i_s sarkis chamelian

    Windows 8 tablet please.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=620840352 Jacob Morgan Dunton

    that UI is slick but most of the other suggestions have much more to do with freeing up screen real estate than anything else. list view is a pain to open with a finger — icon view is much nicer (especially with “single click to open”).  and hiding the task bar is just silly because you have to fiddle around to bring it back up.

  • Lp

    MY EYES!!! They are ruined! This UI follows the design principles of Android. Mess Mess and Mess.

    • http://twitter.com/hvnchrstn hynchrstn

      true. each element vying user attention

  • http://twitter.com/mcakins McAkins Online

    Waited almost two months for this tablet (ASUS EP121) on Amazon, go tired of waiting and canceled. Can you imagine that, Asus lost a potential customer. What the heck is wrong with PC manufacturers! The are complaining of poor sales, and when you are ready plunck more than $1000.00 on the table, they are not there to fulfill demand. You can only buy from Amazon mafias for ridiculous prices.
    When are these PC OEMs going to learn from Apple, you can’t depend on others to sell your products!!!

  • Anonymous

    This shows that full Windows *can* do tablet PC relatively well. If Windows 8 is fully optimised for touch, then they could do some real damage to Apple and Google.

    • Anonymous

      I agree but the issue is that Microsoft has not made any touch versions of their apps. If you watch the Zune portion of this video where he has to scroll with the tiny scroll bar on the right instead of panning it. IE also needs a better touch version, current version supports panning but even IE9 with hardware rendering does not zoom very well or layout the screen as it should.

      Until they make a marketplace finding touch enabled application will be a big issue for a consumer friendly experience.

      That being said, I prefer the Asus tablet because it works with a stylus and to be perfectly honest the only thing I want a tablet for is drawing rough sketches with Art Rage, reading Kindle books and viewing Twitter which all are great on the Asus as long as it is plugged in haha

    • GP007

      Valid points but remember there is a custom IE tablet UI in Win8, they found the bits locked away for it in the leaked Win8 builds.   So MS has taken that into account, as well as other stuff.   They’ve said they’re porting Office over, and I think the ribbon for the most part is good for fingure touch.   That just leaves some other apps, a new Zune 5.0 should help but i don’t think MS will ship it with Win8 so that means whatever the new WMP looks like will have to do.

      All in all I think the core Windows apps that most people use will be fingure ready next year when Win8 ships.

  • Anonymous

    nice job campana!

  • Anonymous

    well, i think he did well to come up with this….i think it does make sense to have the taskbar hidden, it keeps the UI cleaner.

    If he was able to do this, which its not that bad, i think MS will do a GREAT job with W8 for tablets…i hope so anyway….loving WP mango update too :P

  • http://twitter.com/starksimon Stark

    This is horrible.

  • Luke_vader

    And once again, I throw in Tab7UI (http://nanopix.de/?p=158), a project concept for a new UI in Windows 7. Of course Windows 8 will make this project obsolete, but as long as Microsoft doesn’t provide it as a free upgrade, I’m happy to see that at least some developers are interested in enhancing the user experience on tablets.

  • Luke_vader

    And once again, I throw in Tab7UI (http://nanopix.de/?p=158), a project concept for a new UI in Windows 7. Of course Windows 8 will make this project obsolete, but as long as Microsoft doesn’t provide it as a free upgrade, I’m happy to see that at least some developers are interested in enhancing the user experience on tablets.

  • Anonymous

    Microsoft could add a better touch UI to Windows 7 pretty easily, but they want people to upgrade to Win 8.
    This is one of Microsoft’s bad habits. They are letting Windows 7 tablets and the vendors die on the vine, while preparing for Win 8.