Touch, Type, Click, Draw: Tips to Make You Faster At Using Windows 8

The best part of Windows 8.1 is its ability to support a touchscreen. There are some subtle tips and tricks you can learn to take yourself from touchscreen timid to touchscreen pro.

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Tap And Hold

Just because you don't have a mouse doesn't mean you shouldn't be able to right-click. If you tap and hold the screen, you'll bring up a right-click menu over what you've selected.

Multi-tasking with Live apps

If you do choose to embrace Windows 8 in all its tiled goodness—and you really should—the first trouble you're going to run into is fluidly switching between apps. Your programs will now open full screen, which means going back and forth is more complicated than just clicking around. And Alt+Tab doesn't behave quite like you're used to any more. So here's how to get around:

Your New Most Used (But Kinda Clumsy) Gesture: You can zoom through Metro apps while multitasking easily enough just by swiping (or clicking in the top left corner, if you're on a mouse), but there's one problem: It can be a crap shoot which app you're going to get, since there's no visual reference point about what's coming up next, and in what order. The gesture to get around this isn't super obvious.

If you're using a touchscreen, pull from the left side of the screen, like you're going to yank an app over for that fast-change multitask, but then shove it back to the left. This brings up the Windows 8 app selector, where only Windows 8 apps are shown, with the desktop environment being a single app. As far as we can tell, this doesn't work on trackpads (at least the ones we've used). Once you used to it, though, it's actually a more natural way to access multitasking than iOS, and a little easier than Android since you don't have to reach for a button—it's just always on the left side of your screen.

Alt Tab vs. Start Tab: This is another big difference. In Windows 7 and Windows Vista, Start+Tab cycled you through your apps using the Aero view, with previews of each windows rather than the regular Alt+Tab. Now, though, Start+Tab accesses the same Windows 8 multitasking menu, while Alt+Tab is unchanged.

The difference between the two is that Alt+Tab has an icon for each of your Windows 8 apps, but also each of your desktop apps. So if you're just Alt+Tabbing around, you can get disoriented by zapping from full screen app to full screen app.


Windows 8 is very touch-centric, but which gestures are actually supported? This handy graphic summarises the main new options for Windows 8 on a tablet or touch screen.

Some of these options will seem obvious (moving the mouse with a cursor), and some will seem familiar from touchscreen phones (pinch to zoom). Others will require definite adjustment (swiping from the right to go back to the last app). As with any set of shortcuts, there’s always a degree of arbitrariness, but learning them will save you time in the long run.


Microsoft allows you to set your own gestures or "Flicks" to perform certain actions.

You can set up your own Flicks by opening the Pen And Touch menu in PC Settings and checking the box marked "Use flicks to perform common actions quickly and easily". From there, you can click Customise and make your own flicks.

The only problem with Flicks is that it's only built to respond to pen and stylus inputs. Check out some of the best ones below!


The pressure sensitive touchscreens on Windows 8.1 laptops, tablets and convertibles mean that it's a fantastic sketching tool. Everything from the Surface Pro 3 right through to the Asus Chi make for great sketching devices.

To make the most out of your tablet drawing experience, however, you'll need to get yourself a stylus.

If you're looking to draw, you'll want something easy to hold with a larger nib for fatter lines. We recommend the Lynktec TruGlide Pro for precise sketching and shading.

It has a 5mm microfiber/metal-mesh fabric tip that looks like a traditional rubber nib, but is far more precise. The TruGlide Pro is a small stylus, about the size of a small pen, and can be clipped to the side of your tablet when not in use. It works with any capacitive touch screen, functions just as well for writing and annotation tasks as it does for drawing and sketching, and is small enough to hold easily and use with smaller or larger tablets. Best of all, it's affordable, and will only set you back $15 direct or from Amazon.

Alternatively if you plan on writing and not drawing, we'd recommend the Adonit Jot Pro. Adonit's Jot Pro trades the traditional rubber or felt nib at the point of many capacitive styli for a fine point and a clear plastic disc that offers more accuracy and a precise fine drawing or writing point for note-taking and drawing. The tip is dampening and has a slight springing motion at the tip so your lines draw more naturally. The stylus itself has a metal case that can attach to your tablet's case magnets for easy storage, and features a rubber grip for comfortable use.

>More: The Five Best Tablet Styli

Drawing Apps

Of course, no stylus is complete without an app with which to draw on.

Microsoft's own Fresh Paint app is one of the best when it comes to expressing your creativity on Windows.

If that's not your bag, though, there's also Sketchable, and Autodesk Sketchbook.

Angus Kidman and Alan Henry contributed to this article.

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