Gestures and Navigation
Microsoft includes three sets of gestures for Windows 8, one optimized for touch input and the others for touchpad and mouse usage. For this face-off, we’re concentrating on the touchpad and mouse experience.
When using the touchpad, Windows 8 largely mirrors the touch-screen experience. Swiping from the left edge of the pad lets you switch between applications, while swiping from the right displays the Charms menu (with shortcuts for Search, Share, Start, Devices and Settings). Swiping from the top or bottom edge shows you the options for a given app. For instance, in Internet Explorer 10 swiping up or down will display the address bar and any open tabs.
When using a mouse, users hover over the top left corner to switch applications; hover in the top right corner and then pull the cursor down to show the Charms menu. Scrolling left and right is handled via scroll bars for now on the mouse, and two fingers on the touchpad.
Windows 8 will support traditional multitouch gestures such as pinch-to-zoom, which engages semantic zoom on the Start screen, as well as rotate. Other gestures will be coming, but a lot of it will depend on what touchpad-makers decide to implement along with their partners.
Mountain Lion introduces one nifty new gesture. When you swipe from the right edge of the touchpad, you’ll see the new Notifications Center (more on that later). Otherwise, Apple’s OS shares all of the same gestures with its predecessor. Two- finger scrolling is still smooth, as is pinch-to-zoom and rotate.
But where OS X Mountain Lion pulls ahead is with its myriad multitouch gestures. You can swipe between Web pages in Safari with two fingers, swipe between full-screen apps with three fingers and swipe up with four fingers to launch Mission Control. Pinching with your thumb and three fingers activates Launchpad, while spreading your thumb and three fingers shows the desktop.
All of Lion’s gestures worked reliably on our 13-inch MacBook Air, aided by its glass trackpad.
Based on what we know now, Windows 8 will be better than Windows 7 when it comes to touchpad gestures. However, multitasking and activating the Charms menu requires more effort with a mouse. Plus, unless Microsoft changes the way OEMs build their systems, the reliability and accuracy of touchpads will continue to vary wildly from one system to the next. Mountain Lion adds only one new gesture, but Apple was already offering a superior experience.