Hardware

Discover the benefits of the Microsoft Touch Mouse in Windows 8

Greg Shultz has gained a new appreciation for the Microsoft Touch Mouse features now available in Windows 8. Perhaps you will too.

While touch is a big component of Windows 8, I've been a big proponent of using a keyboard and a mouse in Windows 8 on a desktop system. (Just check out some of my keyboard and mouse articles.) Well, a few weeks ago after installing Windows 8 Pro on my system, I decided to break out my Microsoft Touch Mouse and see how it would function in my new Windows 8 installation and I have to tell you that I'm definitely loving the way this device brings together the best of both worlds. I still have my hand solidly on my mouse but am able to really take advantage of all sorts of touch-based gestures.

This blog post is also available in the slideshow format in a TechRepublic Photo Gallery.

As you may know, I've had this touch mouse for a while and have dabbled with it in the various preview versions of Windows 8; however, I never really was satisfied with the way that it behaved. Maybe I was being stubborn, wanting to stay away from touch on a desktop system, or maybe I just really never gave it a chance to take hold. But now that Windows 8 has been released and the new Microsoft Mouse and Keyboard Center is available, I have definitely gained a new appreciation for using this mouse's touch-based features in Windows 8.

For instance, using simple touch swipes across the top of my mouse I can instantly switch between active apps, access app commands, conjure up the Semantic Zoom feature, pull out the Charm bar, and even flip Back and Forward between pages in Internet Explorer. While it took a little getting used to, I now wholeheartedly recommend that anyone using Windows 8 on a desktop get and use a Microsoft touch mouse. (There's more than one now, as you'll see in a moment.)

In this article, I'll briefly go over the installation procedure for the Microsoft Mouse and Keyboard Center and then show you how the tutorial works. The reason being is that I want to show you just how easy it is to learn and use the gestures provided by the touch mouse to navigate some of the touch-based features in Windows 8 and the screen shots of the Microsoft Mouse and Keyboard Center tutorial do an excellent job of illustrating the gestures.

Getting a touch mouse

Keep in mind that while I am using the original Microsoft Touch Mouse, there are now a whole slew of other Microsoft touch mice, such as the Explorer Touch Mouse and the Wedge Touch Mouse. While the Microsoft Touch mice sell for anywhere from $50 to $80 on the Microsoft Store, I've seen them in the $18 to $50 range on Amazon. With Black Friday just around the corner, you might even be able to get your hands on a touch mouse (pun intended) for even cheaper.

Installation

Depending on which Microsoft touch mouse you use or if you purchase a new touch mouse with the software included, your experience may be slightly different. But, in my case, using the original touch mouse that I've had for over a year, this is what I encountered.

When I connected the Microsoft Touch Mouse USB transceiver to my Windows 8 system, the operating system installed the device drivers. I then saw an Action Center notification appear. Upon accessing the Action Center, I saw that in the Maintenance section I was being prompted to install software, as shown in Figure A.

Figure A

The Action Center contained a prompt to install software for the Microsoft Touch Mouse.
As soon as I clicked the Install button, the Microsoft Mouse and Keyboard Center began to download, as shown in Figure B. After a few minutes the download was complete and I was prompted to Accept the license.

Figure B

The download will take a few minutes to complete and then you'll be prompted to accept the license agreement.
I also choose the Get dynamic content option in order to automatically receive updates, as shown in Figure C. When I clicked the Install button, the installation began.

Figure C

After you click the Install button the installation procedure will begin.

The tutorial

When the installation was complete, I momentarily glimpsed the Microsoft Mouse and Keyboard Center, which runs as an app, and then the tutorial immediately took over. Let's take a closer look.

The first screen will ask you to identify whether you are right-handed or left-handed, as shown in Figure D.

Figure D

The touch-based features of the Microsoft touch Mouse can be oriented to both left and right handed users.
As soon as you identify your handedness, you'll see a brief animated introduction that identifies the gestures that you will learn about in the tutorial. There are thumb gestures, two finger gestures, and three finger gestures. The tutorial begins with the Three Finger Gestures, as shown in Figure E.

Figure E

You'll begin by learning about the Three Finger Gestures.
You begin with the Semantic Zoom feature, as shown in Figure F. As you may know, Windows 8's touch interface allows you to zoom in and out of the Start Screen using a two-finger pinch-and-expand gesture on a touch screen. Microsoft calls this the Semantic Zoom feature. To zoom in using a touch mouse, the tutorial instructs to place your first three fingers on top of the mouse and sweep them straight up, as shown in Figure G.

Figure F

You'll begin with the Semantic Zoom feature.

Figure G

Sweep three fingers straight up to zoom in.
As soon as the tutorial illustrates this gesture, you are prompted to try it, as shown in Figure H. (This series of animated illustration followed by a prompt to try it yourself is repeated throughout the tutorial.)

Figure H

After you watch the animated illustration, then you get to try for yourself.
When you do, you'll see a Start Screen simulation with all of the tiles in miniature form and as you sweep your three fingers straight up the tiles zoom in to regular size, as shown in Figure I. The next step of the tutorial will then show you how to zoom out by sweeping three fingers straight down.

Figure I

When you perform the gesture, you'll see a Start Screen simulation.
Then you move on to Two Finger Gestures. The first of which, sweeping two fingers straight up, brings up the app command bar from the bottom of the screen. This is illustrated by the Start Screen simulation shown in Figure J. The next step of the tutorial shows you how to close the app command bar by sweeping two fingers straight down.

Figure J

Sweeping two fingers straight up, brings up the app command bar from the bottom of the screen.

Keep in mind that in the tutorial, the app command bar is empty. However, the app command bar is usually populated with several commands that allow you to control the app. The commands that appear on the app command bar will depend on the app you are running.

The next two finger gesture in the tutorial is to access the Charms bar by sweeping two fingers to the left. This is illustrated by the Start Screen simulation shown in Figure K.

Figure K

Accessing the Charms bar by sweeping two fingers to the left is very easy.

As you can see, the Charms bar contains a set of five icons, or charms, that appear on the right edge of the screen titled: Search, Share, Start, Devices, and Settings. These charms provide you with access to a host of controls in Windows 8. For example, clicking Settings provides access to the Power charm, which allows you to Sleep, Restart, or Shut Down the computer.

You'll then continue on to the next two finger gesture in the tutorial, switching between running applications by sweeping two fingers to the right. This is illustrated by the Start Screen simulation shown in Figure L.

Figure L

Using the touch mouse to switch between running apps is a very liberating.

As you can see, the tutorial shows a thumbnail view of running tasks that is very similar to the Live Taskbar Thumbnail feature in Windows 7, except that it is anchored to the left edge of the screen. You'll see this thumbnail view if you use [Windows]+[Tab] to switch between tasks. However, when you use the two finger sweep to the right on a touch mouse, you won't see the thumbnail view. Instead the apps will just flip across the screen. If you continue sweeping two fingers to the right, you will cycle through all the running apps

Finally, you move on to Thumb Gestures, of which there are two. Sweeping your thumb to the left imitates clicking a Back button and sweeping your thumb to the right imitates clicking a Forward button. Going Back is illustrated in Figure M.

Figure M

Using right and left thumb gestures imitates clicking Back and Forward buttons.

As you can see, the tutorial uses the Photos app to illustrate the thumb gestures; however, the right and left thumb sweep will work in any application that has Back and Forward buttons. As I mentioned earlier, this works great in Internet Explorer. It also works great in File Explorer (aka Windows Explorer)!

Moving forward

Once you finish the tutorial, you'll have a very good foundation for implementing the thumb gestures, two finger gestures, and three finger gestures in Windows 8 and will just need to begin experimenting. You'll soon get the hang of it and will then begin to wonder how you ever used Windows without gestures. I've found them to be extremely useful and have even found them liberating in a lot of applications - especially File Explorer.

Now that I am a touch mouse convert, I definitely recommend that anyone using Windows 8 on a desktop get and use a Microsoft touch mouse!

What's your take?

Are you using a Microsoft touch mouse in Windows 8? If so, what has been your experience? After reading this article, do you want to use a touch mouse in Windows 8? As always, if you have comments or information to share about this topic, please take a moment to drop by the TechRepublic Community Forums and let us hear from you.

Also read:

About

Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

16 comments
ForgotMyOrange
ForgotMyOrange

I used the Touch Mouse on Windows 7. Having just installed Windows 8, I'm desperately searching for a way to reassign the RIGHT MOUSE button to "click" as well LEFT MOUSE button.


The Windows 8 software, pictured above, forces me to SWAP the buttons. There's no way to assign them to anything else. 


This is hopeless to me.


I actually set this up like a Mac mouse. I use AutoHotKey to make Ctrl and LeftClick do a RIGHT MOUSE.& just don't use the right side of the mouse functionality at all. I therefore click everything with 2 fingers together and ignore left/right. This is a great relief to my finger and hand muscles.


I'll probably need to uninstall the current (inflexible) Intellimouse driver and install an older one, perhaps it's not possible. I wish I could have Windows 7 back, just for this.

Thack
Thack

Actually the Touch Mouse was released for Windows 7, and it works well. It's only the use of a single button that I don't like, and that has nothing to do with the OS.

jvezina
jvezina

I am reluctant to pay for this mouse because I think it may be just as bad as touchpads are for laptops. I really hate them because unless you are very careful, those touchpads do all kinds of things you never intended. You have to keep your fingers well away from the touch surface which leads to a great deal of discomfort for me. Then you have to act with precision if you want to be sure of the correct response. No, I think that touchpads that do anything other than track the cursor are a very bad idea and I always disable those by using a plug-in mouse. I think the same problem will arise with the touch mouse. I can only imagine great agony as you work on your computer always straining to hold your fingers exactly the right distance and position from the mouse surface. I will be trying it eventually but I am far from optimistic that it has any real value other than "nice toy".

Thack
Thack

The author talks about the Explorer and Wedge touch mice from Microsoft, as if they are somehow similar to the Microsoft Touch Mouse. They are not! All they support is touch-based scrolling. They do NOT have touch sensitivity across the whole of the top surface, so multi-finger gestures are not supported.

Thack
Thack

There is one big shortcoming of the Touch Mouse: it only has one button at the front, rather than two. It detects which button you "intended" to press by seeing which finger is in contact with the mouse. (In this respect it repeats the very same mistake of the Apple Magic mouse.) Two problems: firstly, you can't rest both fingers on the front when clicking, like you can with a normal mouse. I like to keep both fingers resting lightly on the mouse all the time, and then simply pressing a bit harder with either the forefinger or middle finger for a left or right click. With this mouse you have to lift the other finger right off the mouse before clicking. Some people do that anyway, but if you don't, you'll end up losing most of your right mouse-clicks (which are interpreted as left clicks if both fingers are on the mouse). Secondly, you can't do any "chording" gestures with the buttons, such as are used in the Opera browser and, via add-ons, most other browsers. By way of example: a super-slick way of going back through your web pages is to hold down the right mouse button, and then click repeatedly on the left button - each click takes you back one page. Reverse the gesture for going forwards. After a few moments of practice, it's an incredibly natural, easy and fast way to navigate. Just the lack of this one feature means the Touch Mouse is a dead duck for me. Actually, there's a third, smaller shortcoming. When you click the mouse the whole front of the mouse dips (rather than just the button like in a normal mouse). Again this is like the Apple Magic mouse. This feels really weird and wrong. You can get used to it, but it's unnatural. Your muscle memory expects just the bit you press to travel down and click, not the whole thing. If Microsoft were to release a Touch mouse with two separate, moving buttons I'd buy one like a shot. Until they do, it's an absolute non-starter.

Hazydave
Hazydave

It's still debatable if the lessons learned from touchscreen UIs have any place on the desktop. Touchscreens are a necessary compromise for phones and tablets, somewhat questionable on laptops. But they failed already on the desktop, back in the late 70s and early 80s. Various approaches, including optical sensors, lightpens, etc. were tried, mostly in the CAD industry, pre-PC. They all failed for the simple reason that large motor activity delivers far worse repetitive stress injuries than the tiny motor issues, already enough of a problem with regular users of the mouse and keyboard. Not to mention that even in today's touch-crazed industry, it's still a really stupid idea to be smearing your greasy fingers over your viewing surface if you don't absolutely need to. I applaud Microsoft for actually thinking about this one, at least a little. They've broken Windows 8 on the desktop in many ways for absolutely no good reason. This is at least a step toward addressing those shortcomings. Apple's doing it better still with their more evolutionary approach, making the existing laptop trackpads work better with multitouch, without breaking much of the previous user experience.

jeroling
jeroling

I'm hoping someone will come out with an R/T pad that can act as a second display for a desktop system, either thru a display interface or some sort of application. It would become the menu display when installed. When remove the desktop would either revert to single display or perhaps be put into some sort of security state.

bvonr
bvonr

I bought the Logitech wireless Touchpad last year when I started with Windows 8 and was a little disappointed with the features and lack of gestures. The new updated drivers added some more functionality but not enough to recommend it to anyone. I had the opportunity to install Windows 8 on a friends machine and he bought the new touchpad T650 from Logitech with 13 gestures and it works flawlessly. I like the idea of incorporating the gestures in a mouse though. I have a HP Touchsmart tm2 convertible laptop with Windows 8 (since the first beta) and am used to gestures on the trackpad and touching the screen so am pretty comfortable with the touchpad.

dogknees
dogknees

What new functionality does it provide in Desktop Applications as opposed to those with the new interface? What's it add in the traditional full screen Desktop? PS Not trolling here, I'm intrigued by these mice and want to know what to look forward to when I move to Win8.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

No, for two reasons. One, I hate memorizing; always have. I'm not going to bother learning new gestures to get a new mouse to do the same things I already know how to do with my existing one. Two, I'm too cheap to pay for a new mouse when the one I received with my computer still works to my satisfaction.

Slayer_
Slayer_

How accurate is it, can it filter out noise (just moving your fingers naturally) vs a gesture. Turning off gestures is always the first thing I do in browsers and any other app that supports it, I always end up accidentally doing one and wondering what happened to my page.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

I have not tried this yet, but it seems like you can get the best of both the keyboard and mouse combo and the touch interface of Windows 8 from one device. Have you tried it - what do you think? Does Greg's experience inspire you to check out a Microsoft Touch Mouse for yourself?

rjdbnet
rjdbnet

Re: "I like to keep both fingers resting lightly on the mouse all the time" Me too.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"I applaud Microsoft for actually thinking about this one, at least a little. They've broken Windows 8 on the desktop in many ways for absolutely no good reason. This is at least a step toward addressing those shortcomings." So the solution to the issues of W8 on the desktop is to give MS more money for the tool that fixes them?

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

...device. Of course, there will be times when it misinterprets the movement of your fingers, but once you get used to holding and using the mouse, you become more aware of how to hold it and what not to do. Soon that becomes second nature and you just use it without thinking about it.

clinthives
clinthives

I've read the commentaries below (or above, whatever) and I truly believe this is a very useful review, most of the comments focus just in the "I don't like touch mice", but I think they miss the important picture here. This is intended for the new windows 8 users, and as one of them I very interested into buying this mouse this weekend.