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How To Use Windows 8′s Gestures on a Laptop Trackpad

laptop-trackpad-photo

While Windows 8 may seem a bit out of place on hardware without a touch screen, trackpad gestures can help bridge the gap. Gestures on a trackpad work similarly to gestures on a touch screen.

Instead of moving the cursor to the corners of the screen, you can swipe the trackpad to reveal hidden menus and pinch your fingers to zoom in and out.

Image Credit: Michael Mol on Flickr

Trackpad Drivers

Laptops that come with Windows 8 should have trackpad drivers preinstalled and working properly. If you’ve installed Windows 8 on an existing laptop, you may have to install the trackpad drivers yourself, as many people are reporting that the final version of Windows 8 doesn’t yet include these drivers.

You may be able to download the appropriate trackpad drivers for Windows 8 from your laptop manufacturer. Many people have also reported that the generic Synaptics touchpad drivers, even though they’re for Windows 7, enable gesture functionality.

Charms

To access the charms bar wherever you are in Windows, place your finger at the right side of your trackpad and swipe inwards. The charms will appear at the right side of your screen.

You can also move your mouse cursor to the top or bottom right corners of your screen and then move the cursor towards the middle of your screen or press WinKey+C to access the charms.

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Switcher

To access the new app switcher, place your finger at the left side of the trackpad and swipe inwards. The switcher will appear on the left side of your screen.

You can also move your mouse to the top or bottom left corners of your screen and then move your cursor towards the middle of your screen or press the WinKey+Tab keyboard shortcut to use the switcher.

Note that the switcher shows the entire Desktop, including all your desktop applications, as a single thumbnail. You can still use Alt+Tab to switch between desktop apps.

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App Bar

Swipe down from the top edge of your trackpad to access the app bar, which contains an app’s options. For example, in the “Windows 8 interface” version of Internet Explorer, the app bar contains the address bar, tab thumbnails, and navigation buttons.

You can also right-click anywhere in an app or press WinKey+Z to reveal the app bar.

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Horizontal Scrolling

To scroll horizontally, place two fingers on the trackpad and move them from right to left or left to right. Windows 8’s new interface uses horizontal scrolling in place of vertical scrolling, so this feels a bit more natural.

You can also scroll horizontally by scrolling the mouse wheel up and down.

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Zoom In and Out

To zoom in and out, use a pinch gesture. Place two fingers on the trackpad and move them towards each other to zoom in or move them apart to zoom out.

You can also hold the Ctrl key and scroll your mouse wheel up and down or hold down the Ctrl key and use the + and – keys to zoom in and out.

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Rotate

You can rotate the screen by placing two fingers on the trackpad and moving them in a circle, as if you were turning a knob. This gesture may be disabled by default in your touchpad’s configuration application, so you may have to re-enable it


You can also use the trackpad to move the cursor and control Windows 8 with a mouse. However, the gestures approximate touch better – swiping in from the right feels more natural than moving the cursor to the top or bottom right corners of the screen.

If you prefer using the keyboard, Windows 8 also supports a variety of keyboard shortcuts.

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.

  • Published 10/7/12

Comments (16)

  1. Artur

    I’m curious on how this might work on a MacBook Pro :)

  2. Nir

    Don’t work on asus 1215n with synaptics.

  3. not-nir

    lol works on my thinkpad, oh wait… i use linux mint 12

  4. Tom

    Just install stardock windows 8 start up device and pass by this horror.

  5. Rams

    I have the synaptics drivers on my lenovo laptop running win 8 preview, and most of these gestures don’t work. There is just no way I can bring the charms bar or app bar using trackpad swipe. I went through all the settings and it is just not possible.
    Or work differently, like for horizontal scrolling, I have to swipe UP OR DOWN with 2 fingers.
    The pinch to zoom though works as described in the article.
    All in all either the author is smoking something or s/he has a custom machine with custom drivers.

  6. Jon

    Or you could use an operating system with a GUI that was designed for something other than a tablet.

  7. PiRhAnAs

    What about Alps touchpads on Dell computers?

  8. Doctor Worm

    I’m using Windows 8 Pro RTM on my ThinkPad and all of the gestures listed above work for me. :)

  9. Dic

    Just a brief diversion: seeing all those pretty tiles on the Desktop made me wonder If I shall be able to get rid of some, or even all, of them.

    I’d appreciate advice.

  10. Dic

    Ahah. Just checked out the HTG newsletter, where I find an item ’6 ways to customize Windows 8 Start Screen’.

    Sorry about that. You can go back to work, now.

  11. max

    Tell me again why this nonsense is on a desktop OS?

  12. Super Geek

    Could you write an article “How to NOT use Windows 8″ ;-)

  13. leonard

    Seems like multiple steps and movements just to get to what was easy with Windows 7. I don’t plan to use the one dimensional tiles system that belongs on a Playbook – the Windows 7 GUI is fine on my laptop so I am working only with Windows 8 desktop GUI. Waiting for Microsoft to wake up.

  14. Appa

    Now the big question: how do I disable it? The swiping gestures are annoying as hell cause they make the cursor stop, and it happens all the time when I just wanna move the cursor and nothing else.

  15. irisrally

    So many people hating on Windows 8 that probably haven’t even tried it. It’s the biggest/only evolution in PC OS in years, or it’s just a better and newer version of Windows 7, your choice however you want to use it, either way a win.

  16. Joon

    Sweet, how do you turn it off?

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