According to Microsoft, Windows 8 has a “touch-first” interface. 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 out and buy a new Windows 8 laptop with touch, tablet, convertible, or all-in-one PC, here are some ways you can add touch support to your existing system.
There is a reason Microsoft is pushing hard to integrate touch support into all future PCs. None of these methods is as ideal as having a PC that comes with native touch support that “just works.”
Get a Touch Mouse or Pad
Microsoft and Logitech are both making touch-enabled peripherals, from touch-enabled mice to touchpads that can be used with a desktop PC. These are actually fairly convenient — they’re relatively inexpensive and easy to add to an existing PC. Swap out your current mouse for a touch-enabled mouse and you’ll be able to get around Windows 8 much quicker by using touch gestures for everything from bringing up the start screen to activating the charms and scrolling around in the Modern environment.
Microsoft has a list of their own touch mice on their website, while Logitech makes their own touch mice for Windows 8 and a touchpad that will allow you to work with Windows 8 gestures on your desktop. However, such touch-enabled mice are generally more expensive than regular mice, which can be had for very cheap. Amazon US offers some good deals on touch mice — you can pick up a new touch mouse for about $22 at the moment.
Install Touchpad Drivers
If you have a laptop, your laptop’s touchpad can probably be used with touchpad swiping gestures. For example, these gestures allow you to swipe in from the right to pull up the Charms bar, just as you would on a touch-enabled Windows 8 PC. If you purchased a new laptop with Windows 8, this should work out-of-the-box.
Buy a Touch-enabled Monitor
If you have a desktop computer and want to add complete touch support, you can buy a touch-enabled monitor. Unfortunately, these tend to be fairly expensive. You’ll have to replace your existing monitor or make the touch-enabled monitor your new primary and use your current monitor as a second monitor.
You can find 22-inch touch-enabled monitors for around $300 on Amazon in the US, but you can get better monitors for the money if you’re willing to go without touch. Many of the more expensive touch monitor models will cost you $500 or more.
Add a Touch-screen Overlay
Various manufacturers make touch-screen overlays that you can install over your existing monitor, converting it to a touch-enabled screen. You’ll have to plug the overlay into your computer separately with its USB connection. These aren’t the ideal solution either, as they can be fairly expensive — costing around $150 on Amazon US. That’s half the price of a new, touch-enabled monitor.
Connect Remotely with a Tablet
If you have an iPad or an Android tablet, you can use the Splashtop Windows software to remotely connect to your Windows 8 PC. You can then use the tablet as a touch interface for your Windows 8 PC, using Windows 8’s Modern interface on your existing tablet. This will allow you to try out Windows 8 on a tablet, but it’s clearly not the ideal long-term solution for working with Windows 8 on your PC.
What’s the Best Solution?
If you want to add some basic touch support to your existing Windows computer, buying a touch-enabled mouse or ensuring your touchpad is set up to work with Windows 8’s mouse gestures is a smart move. This is a relatively inexpensive way to use basic touch gestures, which make getting around the Windows 8 operating system much nicer. A touch mouse can even be a useful purchase if you have a touch-enabled Windows laptop and find yourself using the mouse a lot — you can issue touch gestures without taking your hand off the mouse.
If you really want to convert your existing desktop PC to a touch PC, you can buy a fairly expensive touch-enabled monitor or try to find an overlay that fits your monitor properly.
However, neither of these is really the ideal solution. For one thing, Windows 8 isn’t really optimized for massive desktop monitors, so purchasing such an expensive monitor won’t give you the ideal experience. For another thing, your monitor will still remain trapped on your desk, so you can’t pick it up and take it elsewhere. And a touch-based mouse won’t give you the full touch experience.
The best way to add touch to your Windows 8 life is by buying a new device that includes it. This isn’t as crazy as it sounds — you can purchase Windows 8 tablets and touch-enabled laptops for less than the price of some of the more expensive 22-inch touch monitors. And you’ll certainly have a better experience with a 10-13-inch tablet or touch-enabled laptop than a 22-inch touch-enabled monitor trapped on your desk.
Have you added touch support to an existing PC? Do you have a favorite method for doing so? Leave a comment and share any tips you have!
Image Credit: Hand on laptop touchpad via Shutterstock