Feature Articles

Windows 8: Common Touch Gestures, Multi-tasking & On-screen Keyboards

By Ng Chong Seng & Leo Boon Yeow - 16 Oct 2012

Common Windows 8 Touch Gestures

Common Windows 8 Touch Gestures

Microsoft's pitch for a single OS for desktops and mobile devices like smartphones and tablets is simple: You can use whatever works best, whenever it works best. The same can be said for input methods. Surfing the Web in Internet Explorer 10? Nothing beats the direct interaction between your fingers and the touchscreen: you can swipe through pages, pinch to zoom into an image, tap a link to open it, or type a URL using the on-screen touch keyboard. Working with desktop apps like Excel or Photoshop? You'd probably be more productive with the traditional mouse and keyboard combination. Windows 8 makes it easy to use whichever method works best.

That said, after test-driving Windows 8 on a variety of devices, including desktops, laptops, and tablets, there's no doubt in our minds that the OS is best suited for touch, especially if you were to spend most of your time in the Start screen and Modern-style apps, where they're built to be wide and scrolled horizontally. Yes, a keyboard or mouse will still work, but the shortcuts and maneuvers are often tricky to pull off. Then again, it's not as if the touch gestures are obvious out of the box either.

In light of this little problem, we’ve compiled a few common Windows 8 Modern UI gestures and their mouse and keyboard equivalents below. We also take a closer look at a new multi-tasking feature called 'snap multi-tasking', and explore the various virtual keyboards built into the OS.


  • Reveal System Commands ('Charms' Bar) Anywhere

Touch Mouse / Trackpad Keyboard
Swipe in from the right edge of the screen. Place cursor in the lower or upper-right corner, then move the cursor along the right edge. Windows + C.



  • See List of Previously Used Modern-Style Apps

Touch Mouse / Trackpad Keyboard
Swipe in from the left edge, and back out again without releasing finger. Place cursor in the upper-left corner, then move the cursor down the left edge. Hold Windows + Tab.



  • Switch between Opened Modern-Style Apps

Touch Mouse / Trackpad Keyboard
Swipe in from the left edge. Place cursor in the upper-left corner, and click to cycle through the apps. Or, place cursor in the lower-left, and click to switch between the last opened app and the Start screen. Windows + Tab.*

*Note: This is only for switching between Modern-style apps. To include opened desktop apps, use Alt + Tab.



  • Reveal App Commands


Touch Mouse / Trackpad Keyboard
Swipe in from the bottom or top edge. Right-click in the app. Context menu key, Shift + F10, or Windows + Z.




  • Close a Modern-style App

Touch Mouse / Trackpad Keyboard
Drag app to the bottom of the screen. Click the top of the app, and drag it to the bottom of the screen till it disappears. Alt + F4.




  • App Overview at Start Screen

Touch Mouse / Trackpad Keyboard
Pinch inward for a zoomed out view. Press Ctrl and scroll the mouse wheel. Ctrl + minus (-).

Naturally, this list isn't exhaustive. We've excluded a few of the more obvious generic touch gestures, such as tap to perform an action, slide to pan or scroll through lists and pages, pinch to zoom, and rotate to turn. If you've used a smartphone or tablet before, we believe these should come second nature to you when you’re using Windows 8 on a touch-enabled device. If infographics is your thing, check out this neat gestures infographics that we've found for the Release Preview of Windows 8.

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