November 05, 2012

Synaptics TouchPad and Custom Gesture Interface Solutions - A Must-Have for Windows 8 Upgrades


It’s certainly true that Windows 8 runs best when a user can actually touch the screen to handle many of the functions that are now available in Widows 8. After all, the new operating system UI was explicitly designed to work with touchscreens – or at the very least, designed under the assumption that the entire world is inevitably moving to devices that have touchscreens.

Yes, Microsoft of course takes into account that the world is also inevitably filled with a great many Windows 7 devices (technically speaking some older Windows Vista and XP hardware may also be upgradable to Windows 8 but good luck with that – it isn’t anything we’d ever recommend trying) that will never have touch available to them. Newer machines – especially Ultrabooks - may come equipped with “touchpads” that will at least allow a user to duplicate a variety of touch and gesture (e.g. two finger pinch and zoom) movements.

From our own perspective, such touchpad capabilities are highly recommended. Users need to ensure they are putting them to best use if they are available, or users should really strongly consider one as an add-on to any existing desktop or laptop that lacks one. Note that an older mousepad on a laptop is not the same as having a current generation touchpad – they are two very different things.

We recently completed upgrading a non-touchscreen Fujitsu 772 Ultrabook from Windows 7 to Windows 8 Pro. Aside from a few very minor and easily resolved glitches during the upgrade process, the one thing we were on the lookout for first and foremost was to ensure that our touchpad worked following the upgrade. Alas, immediately following the final Win 8 install process, the touchpad was not properly set up, leaving us annoyed – as the one key thing for Win 8 is that touch capability. Keyboard shortcuts and various mouse/screen combinations are always available – however “touch” is the central theme for Windows 8 and all Windows 8 apps, and without it the Win 8 experience is simply incomplete.

Synaptics to the Touch Rescue

The touchpad and intelligent touch software on our Fujitsu is provided by Synaptics (a company that has been talking these issues for over 20 years), the primary go-to company for all things related to touch. We were quickly able to get our touchpad operational once we were able to figure out how to track down getting to the Synaptics touchpad customization software. We confess we took longer to find it than we should have. But once we did, we became “touch functional” and that made all the difference. We should point out as well that Synaptics is the company behind the Nokia Lumia 920’s ultra sensitive touchscreen – the one you will be able to use even while wearing gloves that was announced at the Lumia 920 launch. Synaptics’ ClearPad Series 3 capacitive touchscreen sensing technology makes it all possible.

So then, given the above, we were very glad to hear today that Synaptics, which is a leading – if not the leading - developer of human interface solutions, announced today that it would provide full support for Windows 8-driven Ultrabooks, notebook PCs, tablets and convertible configurations. The company also announced full support for external TouchPads for desktop and All-in-One PCs – which will be critical to having a successful Win 8 experience on older PC hardware. Here’s the line-up:

  • Synaptics Gesture Suite (SGS) Windows 8 provides users with a powerful and intuitive way to be more productive and interactive with their Windows 8 and Windows RT notebook systems.  SGS Windows 8 was developed through in-depth analysis of the most common user workflows, from entertainment activities such as viewing photos and listening to music, to productivity activities such as accessing e-mails and presentations. The result is an intelligent, usability-optimized model in the form of a customizable TouchPad driver and control panel that should make it easy for consumers to understand, adapt to and quickly adopt.
  • Synaptics ForcePad is an advanced touchpad that adds an added dimension of control through the application of pressure sensing.  ForcePad is a multi-finger, variable force detection, capacitive TouchPad that offers a large "modern touchpad" gesture area that is up to 40 percent thinner than today's ClickPads. When evaluating touchpads, make sure to look specifically for fast and fluid motions and gestures – this is key to getting the best touch experience possible.
  • Synaptics' ClearPad Series 7 family leverages the heritage of Synaptics’ ClearPad family, and the products here are designed to meet Windows 8 and Windows RT touchscreen requirements, along with support for up to 17" screen sizes.

Mark Vena, SVP and general Manager of Synaptics' PC Division notes that, "The introduction of Windows 8 presents a new paradigm shift in personal computing, one that puts multi-touch capability front and center, and underscores just how pervasive touchscreen technology has become in our everyday lives. This is an exciting time for touch technology, and Synaptics looks forward to continuing developing its portfolio of touchscreen, TouchPad and ultra-thin keyboard solutions."

We’re obviously Synaptics fans, and we recommend their products – or rather, we highly recommend exploring their products as part of any touchpad evaluation. If you are upgrading older hardware to Win 8, don’t let laziness or simply being unsure of the value of a touchpad get in the way of installing one. The Win 8 user experience you will significantly enhance is entirely your own.




Edited by Brooke Neuman



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