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Windows 8 Laptop Tip - Use Your Trackpad for Touchscreen Gestures

Updated on November 15, 2013

How To Make The Most of Windows 8 Laptop

I think its fair to say that Windows 8 has not had the kind of reception that it hoped to get from many of its users. Part of the reason for this is that many people (such as myself) bought laptop computers with Windows 8 installed - and the simplified interface, designed for use on tablets and phones, made it feel like a downgrade from all the features they were used to using rather than an upgrade. I felt like this at first. I felt like Windows 8 was a phone/tablet operating system and I was annoyed because I had bought myself a more powerful laptop and wanted to use it as a laptop. I felt like I wasn't getting the most from my machine, and I felt like Windows 8 didn't really work as a laptop operating system.

Fortunately, if you get to know Windows 8 and how to personalise it and use it properly you can get past these initial problems. If you take the time to do this I'm sure you be very pleased with the result.

One of the things you can do, if you like using the desktop (as I do), is to just bypass the start screen and the tablet optimized part of your system at start up and boot up straight to the desktop. You can also set your browser to automatically open in desktop mode (see video below) rather than in start screen mode. That way you can use your computer in the way you always have, and just have the start screen and its apps as an extra feature.

But to make the most of your Windows 8 laptop, you have to know how to use your trackpad to perform touchscreen gestures, so that you can use all of the cool apps in a way that feels natural, takes advantage of all the features on offer, and is in-synch with the way these apps are designed.

Basic Trackpad Gestures

Most people are familiar with at least some trackpad gestures, such as using a pinching movement with two fingers to zoom in and out. Here are some other tips on how to use the trackpad to control your Windows 8 laptop. If you upgraded from a previous version of Windows from a machine which didn't originally come with Windows 8 installed then you may need to install this to do these things.

  • Starting from just to the right of your trackpad, swipe in and across the pad. This brings up the 'charms' with your settings, devices, search, share and start buttons - and it is much easier than taking your mouse pointer down to the bottom right hand corner of the screen to do this.
  • Swiping in from the left side will switch between apps. This also treats your desktop as an app too, so you can switch between that and something else.
  • Swiping down from above the pad when using an app will bring up the bottom 'secret menu' - the one with your favourites and other stuff in IE.
  • You can scroll up and down the screen using two finger scrolling. There are two ways to do this. You can put two fingers on the pad and move them both up or down together. The way I usually prefer to do it, however, is to place one finger in the bottom left corner and leave it there, while you use your other finger to scroll up and down.

Personalized Trackpad Settings

In addition to the basic controls, there are some extra gestures which you can choose to enable. One of these is the three finger click, which instantly launches any application of your choice - I explain how to choose which program you want this command to launch below. Another is the three finger flick to scroll through items in an app, for example, you can use this to move on to the next image in a picture viewer. These features are probably switched off as default, so as to not confuse people who don't know how they work. But you can easily switch them on from your control panel, and if you ever have problems with accidentally swiping your palm on the trackpad while typing you will also find a handy guide to adjusting the sensitivity settings to prevent this.

To do these things, you should first open the control panel. If you want to do this like a pro then the easy way (at least I think its the easy way) is to press the Windows icon button and the X key together to bring up the power user menu, then select control panel. From there click hardware and sound, and then select mouse from the 'Devices and Printers' list. This will bring up the 'Mouse Properties' window. Click 'Device Settings' and then 'Settings' (see screenshot provided).

This will show you a list of the available trackpad gestures with a video demonstration for each one.

Turning a feature on or off is as simple as checking or unchecking a box. When an item in the list is selected a small gear icon will appear on the right hand side of the line for you to change the settings. For most things this is usually unnecessary - although its nice to take a look at what your options are. The one thing it is vital for is the three finger click. The settings for this allow you to browse programs you want to launch when you place three fingers down on the screen. You can pick the piece of software you use the most - or if there is a set of two or more programs you often use together you can select them all, so that you can then launch them all simultaneously with a single command.

Are You Learning to Love Windows 8 Yet?

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    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 4 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      I like the gestures on the ipad but I'm not sure about using it on my laptop. A very useful and informative article, thank you for sharing.

    • electronician profile image

      Dean Walsh 4 years ago from Birmingham, England

      It all works just the same in 8.1 - that's what I've got.

    • My Cook Book profile image

      Dil Vil 4 years ago from India

      Useful this is, but now 8.1 has come. But i still use 7...

    • electronician profile image

      Dean Walsh 4 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Lol, you wouldn't have been the first to do that, but I think 8 is actually pretty good when you get used to it.

    • JG11Bravo profile image

      JG11Bravo 4 years ago

      Thanks for the tip. I'm glad you got this up before I installed Windows 7 on the thing and gave up.

    • electronician profile image

      Dean Walsh 4 years ago from Birmingham, England

      I'm very happy my hub is useful, and I'm sure you will find it worth the effort to learn them. BTW there was something I forgot to mention which I'm going to edit the article to add in - if you have trouble selecting a program from the browse menu for the three finger click its because you have to click ok from the properties menu rather than the browse menu - it doesn't make sense to do it that way, which confused me at first, but that's the way it is done.

    • JG11Bravo profile image

      JG11Bravo 4 years ago

      I'm taking these for a test run immediately. I never took the time to learn the gestures. Very useful