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Windows 10 to offer Mac-like trackpad gestures

The upcoming OS will add new trackpad swiping features, including a three-finger swipe that can minimize or maximize all open windows.

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
3 min read

Microsoft is baking some trackpad features into Windows, which should make gestures more consistent across different manufacturers' Windows laptops. Tom Warren/YouTube; screenshot by Lance Whitney/CNET

Microsoft will outfit Windows 10 with new trackpad gestures that borrow more than a few tricks from the Mac.

In a speech at the TechEd Europe conference on Tuesday, Microsoft corporate VP Joe Belfiore took the audience on a tour of the new trackpad gestures due to pop up in the Windows 10 Technical Preview and presumably the final release.

In his demo, Belfiore cited one of the previous limitations with touchpads.

"In the past, touchpads on Windows have really been done very differently because OEMs do them," Belfiore said, referring to original equipment manufacturers -- or third-party makers of Windows PCs. "With Windows 10 we're adding support for power users in a touchpad, where multiple finger gestures, which all of you power users learn, can make you really efficient."

Belfiore certainly touches on a stumbling block for trackpads in the current versions of Windows. Gestures can be inconsistent from one Windows device to another since different manufacturers design the trackpad features. For example, one laptop may make use of three-finger gestures, while another may not. Greater consistency and functionality on all Windows trackpads would go a long way toward making them more powerful and easier to use.

A video of Belifore's demo posted on YouTube by The Verge's Tom Warren gives us a peek at the new gestures.

Belfiore first revealed how swiping down your touchpad with three fingers will minimize all the open windows on your desktop. Currently, you have to click the Show Desktop button to achieve the same effect. And now, if you want to restore all those windows you just minimized, you can simply swipe up your touchpad with three fingers, and all your closed windows reopen.

The new gestures will also play a role in the new Task View feature in Windows 10. Activating this feature shows you large thumbnails of each open window or application so you can easily see and switch from one to another. In fact, the feature itself borrows much of its look and feel from the Mac's own task view feature, aka Mission Control.

And just as on the Mac, swiping three fingers up the trackpad in Windows 10 (without all your windows minimized) triggers the Task View, as seen in Belfiore's demo. Swiping three fingers back down returns you to your current window or app.

Finally, many Windows users are accustomed to pressing the Alt-Tab key-combination to view and switch from one open app to another. That trick still works in Windows 10, at least in the current Technical Preview. But in a future version, you'll be able to use your trackpad instead. As Belfiore revealed, swiping three fingers to the left or right displays thumbnails of your open windows, allowing you to "scrub" to the one you wish to open (that is, keep your three fingers pressed to the pad and move them right or left till the program you want is selected, at which point you release your fingers).

The new gestures should certainly help power users and potentially novice users better navigate among open apps in Windows 10. But as Belfiore pointed out, Microsoft's efforts in this area will provide a much-needed dose of greater consistency.

The company is "really focusing on smoothing out the power-user experience," Belfiore concluded, "making all these things work consistently on a wide range of hardware."

(Via The Verge)