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Microsoft introduced touchpad and touchscreen gestures back in the era of Windows 8, leading a lot of people to wonder if a laptop or tablet was better for these gestures Pros & Cons Of A Windows 8 Tablet Vs. A Touchscreen Laptop Pros & Cons Of A Windows 8 Tablet Vs. A Touchscreen Laptop Windows 8 is a gift for touchscreen users. But some people prefer non-touch devices. Which option is right for you? It depends on what exactly you're looking for. Read More . Things got even murkier with other peripherals like touch-based mice and monitors 5 Ways to Add Touch to a Windows 8 Computer 5 Ways to Add Touch to a Windows 8 Computer Windows 8's Start screen and "Modern" apps can feel awkward to use on a non-touch PC, but they really start to make sense when paired with a touch PC. If you're not ready to go... Read More .

It’s clear that touch wasn’t very useful in Windows 8, but that’s not true at all for Windows 10. Not only did Microsoft bring over all of the basic gestures from Windows 8 3 Uncommon Ways to Use Your Laptop Touchpad 3 Uncommon Ways to Use Your Laptop Touchpad Your laptop's touchpad seems like a simple, boring piece of technology, used only when no mouse is available. But touchpads can be fast and efficient. They have shortcuts for everything from easily scrolling to gestures... Read More , but it added several new ones — ones that actually are useful for everyday use. We even dare to call them essential.

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And now, with the advent of 2-in-1 laptops for Windows 10 5 Reasons to Buy a 2-in-1 Windows 10 Laptop 5 Reasons to Buy a 2-in-1 Windows 10 Laptop 2-in-1 laptops are incredibly versatile. Running Windows 10 they are powerful enough to do office work. They also convert into a tablet, complete with touchscreen, making everything easier. Let us tell you more! Read More , you don’t even have to decide between touchpads and touchscreens. You can get both in one device! So if you aren’t making full use of either, we implore you to give them a second look. You just might be surprised.

Touchpad Gestures

Before delving into these, you should be aware that some of the more advanced gestures will only work with a precision touchpad, which your laptop should have, if it was manufactured after the release of Windows 8.1. Here’s how to check if you have one.

Open the Start Menu, type touchpad, and select the Mouse & touchpad settings option. Look under the Touchpad section for this phrase: “Your PC has a precision touchpad.” If you don’t see it, then you won’t be able to apply most advanced touch gestures.

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In short, gestures 1 through 4 will work on any touchpad while gestures 5 through 8 require a precision touchpad.

1. Drag and Drop

To imitate the drag-and-drop functionality of a mouse, simply use one finger to double-tap on an item, then drag. When you’re done, just release your finger to drop the item wherever it is.

2. Scroll

To imitate the scrolling functionality of a mouse, simply use two fingers to tap and drag in the direction you want to scroll. This works for any application that supports scrolling — including word processors, Web browsers, and music players — and works both horizontally and vertically.

3. Zoom

To imitate the zooming functionality on most modern smartphones, simply use two fingers and pinch them inwards (zoom out) or pinch them outwards (zoom in). This comes in handy for Web pages with tiny text, or if you need to do some quick image editing.

4. Rotate

Use two fingers and spin them in a circle to rotate whatever item you’ve selected. Keep in mind that not all items can be rotated.

Note that you might have to enable rotation in your touchpad settings under Settings > Devices > Mouse & touchpad > Additional mouse options. Here, search for a Settings… button under pointing device settings and look for multi-finger features.

5. Context Menu

Most touchpads come with a right-click button that you can use, but if you don’t have one, if it’s broken, or if you just don’t want to use it, you can simply use two fingers and tap. This works great for bringing up context menus on Web links or on files in File Explorer.

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6. Show All Windows

The new Task View feature in Windows 10 is a great way to get a quick overview of all open windows, and it’s easier for picking the window you need rather than cycling through everything with Alt-Tab. Task View is especially useful if you use multiple virtual desktops 10 Surprising Reasons Why You Will Like Windows 10 10 Surprising Reasons Why You Will Like Windows 10 It's almost cool to hate on Windows 10 these days. Don't let that deprive you of all the benefits Windows 10 will bring! We show you what you're missing out on. Read More .

Task View can be brought up in a lot of ways, but no method is simpler than using three fingers to swipe upwards. Tap the window you want to switch to, or swipe down with three fingers to close Task View without selecting any window.

7. Minimize All Windows

The Show Desktop feature has been around for many Windows versions, but now there’s a new way to access it: use three fingers to swipe downwards and all open windows will be temporarily minimized. Use three fingers to swipe upwards to restore them.

You can also use this nifty Windows key shortcut 13 Nifty "Windows Key" Tricks You Should Know By Now 13 Nifty "Windows Key" Tricks You Should Know By Now The Windows Key can be used to do a lot of neat things. Here are the most useful shortcuts that you should already be using. Read More  to do the same, but if you’re already on the touchpad, why move to the keyboard when you don’t have to?

8. Switch to Next Application

The ability to cycle through open applications using Alt-Tab is one of those keyboard shortcuts every Windows user should know Windows Shortcuts 101 - The Ultimate Keyboard Shortcut Guide Windows Shortcuts 101 - The Ultimate Keyboard Shortcut Guide With so many shortcuts built into Windows and its software, it might seem impossible to learn them all. Here's the ultimate guide to the most useful keyboard shortcuts. Read More . I use it dozens of times every day and I couldn’t imagine living without it.

But now there’s an easier way to do that, too: use three fingers and swipe to the left or right to do the exact same thing. Left cycles backward while right cycles forward.

9. Activate Cortana or Action Center

You can do a lot of cool stuff with Cortana on Windows 10 6 Coolest Things You Can Control with Cortana in Windows 10 6 Coolest Things You Can Control with Cortana in Windows 10 Cortana can help you go hands-free on Windows 10. You can let her search your files and the web, make calculations, or pull up the weather forecast. Here we cover some of her cooler skills. Read More , like searching the Web or controlling your music. There’s also the new and awesome Action Center How to Control Windows 10: The Settings Guide How to Control Windows 10: The Settings Guide The Windows control panel is on its way out. Its replacement, the Settings app, has received a significant upgrade in Windows 10. We'll reveal all its secrets for you. Read More  for quick settings management. Both of these can be accessed with a single tap using three fingers.

The touchpad settings of Windows 10 allow you to decide whether this gesture activates Cortana or opens the Action Center. If you don’t want either though, remember that you can easily disable Cortana How to Set Up Cortana & Remove Her in Windows 10 How to Set Up Cortana & Remove Her in Windows 10 Cortana is Microsoft's greatest productivity tool since Office. We'll show you how to get started with Windows 10's digital assistant or how to turn Cortana off for improved privacy. Read More  and tweak the registry to disable the Action Center 5 Windows 10 Registry Tweaks to Improve & Unlock Features 5 Windows 10 Registry Tweaks to Improve & Unlock Features The registry editor is the only way to enable some of Windows 10's hidden features. Here we'll show you easy tweaks like enabling the dark theme or hiding folders. Read More .

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Touchscreen Gestures

If you have a touchscreen device, such as a tablet, then you can use the following gestures. To see if you’re touchscreen capable, open Settings, select Change PC settings, select PC and devices, and select PC info, which should tell you if you have a touchscreen.

1. Scroll

To imitate the scrolling functionality of a mouse, simply use one finger to tap and drag in the direction you want to scroll. This is pretty much a universal gesture. It works in any app, whether horizontally or vertically.

2. Drag and Drop

To imitate the drag-and-drop functionality of a mouse, simply use one finger to drag in the opposite direction of scrolling to dislodge an item. For example, if a list scrolls up and down, drag the item sideways to dislodge it, then you can drop it wherever you want.

3. Context Menu

To imitate the right-click context menu, simply use one finger to tap and hold on the relevant item. This will either open up a menu of actions that you can take, or it will present you with more information about whatever item you selected.

4. Action Center

To open the Action Center, use one finger and swipe in from the right edge. You can think of the Action Center as the successor to the now-defunct Charms Bar from Windows 8: it’s a quick way to access and change various system settings.

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5. Bring Up Task View

To view all open apps, use one finger and swipe in from the left edge. This brings up Task View, which shows you all open windows. Tap the windows you wish to bring forward or touch an empty spot to close Task View.

To snap, move, or close a window, long-tap and release the item to bring up the respective menu.

Touch Gesture Task View

Note that this feature will only work if your screen resolution is at least 1024 x 768.

6. App Commands

Some apps have app-specific commands that you can access by using one finger to swipe in from the top edge or the bottom edge. Example commands include Refresh for browsers and New for text editors. Not useful in every app, but very useful in certain ones.

7. Close Current App

To close the currently opened app, you can use one finger to swipe in from the top edge all the way down to the bottom edge. Closing an app frees up resources and prevents your system from being bogged down, which can slow down performance.

Note that this feature only works in Tablet mode.

8. Zoom

To imitate the zooming functionality found on most modern smartphones, simply use two fingers and pinch them outwards (zoom in) or pinch them inwards (zoom out).

9. Rotate

Use two fingers and spin them in a circle to rotate whatever item you’ve selected. Keep in mind that not all items can be rotated, but this sometimes works to rotate the screen too, depending on the app of course.

Are You a Mouse or Touch Person?

Even with all of these cool touchpad and touchscreen gestures, you may still feel like you can get more done with a mouse. I personally feel that way, but I can’t deny that these gestures are really useful, so don’t blow them off. At least give them a try!

If you aren’t on Windows 10 yet, these gestures may not be enough of a reason to make the upgrade Should You Upgrade to Windows 10? Should You Upgrade to Windows 10? Windows 10 is coming, but should you upgrade? Like almost every change it's mostly good, but also comes with drawbacks. We've summarized them for you, so you can make up your own mind. Read More , but throw in all of these surprising things that you’ll love about Windows 10 10 Surprising Reasons Why You Will Like Windows 10 10 Surprising Reasons Why You Will Like Windows 10 It's almost cool to hate on Windows 10 these days. Don't let that deprive you of all the benefits Windows 10 will bring! We show you what you're missing out on. Read More  and you may find it hard to resist much longer.

Upgrade to Windows 10 now Make Today Your Launch Day: Get Windows 10 Now! Make Today Your Launch Day: Get Windows 10 Now! You're eager to install Windows 10. Unfortunately, you missed the Insider Preview and now it's taking a while until the upgrade will be rolled out to you. Here's how to get Windows 10 now! Read More  while you still can for free!

So how about you? Do you prefer touchpads, touchscreens, or trusty old mice? Got any other tips to share with us? Tell us in the comments below!

Image Credits: Touchpad by THANAWAT TEAWPIYAKUL via Shutterstock, Touchscreen by Mihai Simonia via Shutterstock

  1. Ge
    August 1, 2016 at 8:25 pm

    Touch was VERY useful in Windows 8.1 on a touchscreen enabled device, and many many really useful gestures have been ditched by Microsoft in W10 compared with 8.1.

    So when you say "it's cear that touch wasn't very useful in Windows 8", I say that you either have never used W8.1 on a touchscreen device, or you don't really know your subject. Either way I ws very disappointed with this article.

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