Microsoft Windows 8 will includes a radically redesigned user interface for use with tablets and other touchscreen computers. It’s focused on touch-based gestures and large tiles and looks a lot like Windows Phone 7. But users will also be able to use the operating system with a more traditional desktop operating system look and feel. In fact, the non-touch user interface that we’ve seen so far looks a lot like Windows 7.

But there will be a few user interface tweaks. While Microsoft hasn’t many details about text input on the new operating system yet, YouTube user adelayedperson has posted a video showing what appears to be the text input panel on a pre-release build of Windows 8.

Like Windows 7, the new operating system will allow users to choose between an on-screen keyboard and a handwriting recognition panel. But the keyboard has been redesigned with much larger keys, giving the input panel a more touch-friendly design. If you’ve tried tapping out text on a Windows 7 tablet with a 10 inch screen, you’ll know that the experience is currently far from perfect.

Part of the reason there’s room for larger keys is because the number keys have been removed from the default keyboard and pushed into a secondary window. This means you’ll need to press more keys to enter numbers or many other symbols, but if you’re primarily interested in text entry, the trade-off is probably worth it.

Another view shows almost nothing but emoticons.

While the video shows the keyboard in the center of the screen it looks like you should be able to resize the keyboard or drag it to a different position.

You can also use a split-screen keyboard with letter or other characters split between the left and right sides of the screen. This makes thumb-typing a lot easier.

If the videos disappear from YouTube, you can still check out some screengrabs below.

 

via GottaBeMobile

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9 replies on “First look at Windows 8 virtual keyboard, handwriting input”

  1. Considering the touch interface (and this keyboard) is primarily for smallish screens seeing that ribbon interface is not welcome.
    I imagine it will be hard for them to divorce themselves from it.
    But I think they need to at least hide it.
    I don’t need a big section of a very small screen taken up with information I may or may not need.

  2. Yeah!  They sort of got the keyboard right!  Woo.

    Now what concerns me…  see all those very tiny little icons all over the window, from the small and relatively hard to hit with your finger maximize and minimize buttons, one of which is perilously close to the close window button?  Yeah good luck with that at night when you’re tired.

    Tray notifications…  yeah, for a tablet OS you need some other method, again preferably not with small densely packed icons.  Fingers are not pixel perfect pointing devices.

    I realize that this is the desktop OS ‘view’ or whatever they’re calling it, not the tablet overlay.  However that’s going to be a concern going forward, and points to an issue MS is going to have with this OS:  By focusing on tablets and desktops in the SAME OS, you’ve got a schizophrenic design model.  You’re trying to satisfy two very diverse markets with the same software release.

    I’m happy that they’re making Windows very modular so you can easily control how much cruft there is, making it much ‘lighter’ for low powered processors.  That is huge, and goes WAY beyond tablets.

    What I’m not happy with is that they don’t seem to be adding any usability features for the desktop user that makes it worth upgrading, and yet they don’t seem to be optimizing the OS for touch beyond adding a better keyboard and a fancy application launcher that runs in full screen mode.

    The fact that they are keeping mum on what will be required for software developers to develop apps for the ‘tablet view’ is also HIGHLY disconcerting.  I’m a .NET developer by trade, and so far their announcement is that HTML5 and Javascript are the way forward…  Umm, excuse me, the company I work for doesn’t agree, and 12 years of developed code base disagree as well.

    So, this looks nice, but it’s going to take a LOT more to succeed and for MS to be successful in the tablet wars.  Which is actually bad news since I haven’t seen that much more.  And with Windows Phone essentially becoming a dead end OS, potential discontinuation of Silverlight (or it will be used for everything, please let me know if you’ve heard any official announcements, I haven’t heard anything).  And there are a LOT of questions still on the table.  With the Beta about to hit, I wonder if they’ve done enough to justify an upgrade for desktop users (outside the creamy goodness that is the new modularity in the OS), and I doubt they’ve done enough to entice tablet users over Android, WebOS, or even iOS.

    Makes you wonder what the next few years will look like.  I certainly didn’t think that Star Trek style slates would take off like this 10 years ago…  I hoped, but I didn’t see it.  Now I wonder how much they’ll impact things as they work their way into the enterprise work place like smart phones have.

    Just some thoughts.

    1. I guess you haven’t been following the development from the beginning?

      A lot of promises, but they highlighted some things that help reassure that they are addressing what has traditionally prevented Windows form being useful on a touch only device.

      The touch optimization for example is suppose include altering how Windows treats touch clicks to be more like how Android and IOS treats it with Capacitive screens.  Meaning the system will try to predict what you are trying to click and you won’t need to be as precise as traditionally has been required on Windows systems.

      There is also the touch optimized interface that will be the default for tablets.  So traditional Windows desktop interface would be only for those who prefer it and/or for non-tablet systems.

      Though how well it all works still remains to be seen, along with touch optimization being added to most programs like Office, but the demonstrations to date don’t show any alarming issues.

      So the bigger concern is probably whether they can get full legacy support for Windows 8 running on ARM platforms and how it will compare to how it runs on x86 systems.

      But we’re still just over a year away from it’s expected release and a lot can happen in a year…

      1. They can’t get full Windows Legacy support without porting the Win32 api and I can’t see them doing that honestly.  I could see full .NET legacy support…  But lets be honest that VB6 app your company has used for 15 years that uses COM and Win32 API calls, to link to server information?  Yeah, that’s probably not going to work.

        And I know that they said they would do all this fun touch optimization stuff.  I just don’t trust any of it.  Look at the windows UI, now put it on a high dpi screen that’s relatively small, and then try having to touch something that violates MS’s own style guide like notification tray icons which are supposed to be 16×16 pixels but usually are tall and narrow instead…  Ok, so I’m mashing my finger down on two Icons.  If it tries to calculate the click based on where the bulk of my finger is, then maybe it will get it.  If it preferentially selects some icons over others because of some algorithm so that the OS is more like ‘how Android and iOS’ work, then it’s going to fail.  Part of the iOS and Android design teams goal is to avoid doing what windows does on a regular basis which is put lots of small targets in one place.

        Until I see it, and actually see it working well, I don’t really trust MS on UI Design issues.  It’s something I’ve learned to be cautious of in 20+ years of experience with them.  They are perfectly capable of fumbling this.  Hell they’ve been trying to push tablets for what, 13 years now?  They’re behind companies who built entire OS’s from scratch in less than 5 years.  Their track record isn’t great on this.

        1. Actually, they’ve never been serious before on providing an optimized interface for touch.  So the past 20 years really doesn’t count and unlike before they now they have a serious market interest in finally developing a real solution. 

          Whether they succeed remains to be seen but we will finally see whether it’s possible for them to create a proper touch optimization without needing to rebuild the OS from scratch.

          For legacy support, there are ways they can get it to work but it depends on how much work they want to put into it and whether it will make the system more bloated.

          Since the lessons learned from Vista, MS has progressively moved towards making Windows leaner/lighter and the need now to make it work for ARM could further push for a easier to run OS.

          So they may just settle for Virtual Machine run legacy support much like how devices like how Motorola’s Atrix 4G runs a custom linux distro to allow for full browser Firefox support.  It’ll be slower than native support but it can work…

    2. I hope that for development they continue with the xna/silverlight/.net. I can’t see .net going away anytime soon. In fact it would seem .net would be a technology that will help applications work with different chip sets. Hopefully the html5/JavaScript is only for the live tiles and added to the mix instead of replacing.

  3. I like it – the current win 7 one has a space bar that is too short and shifted to the left for me.

    It would be good if you could customize a number row on top though.   

    1. wel as one sees … de gustibus non discutandum esse .
      for me this is abackstep . a big one from win7 or third party virtual keyboards. fingertyping on screen doe not mean that the keyboard must be crippelt as it is on smartphones and with android.
      20 years with typewriters and full pc keyboards for productive woorking folks .. must all have been silly idiots if this is the way to go on tablets.
      what i’d like to see is a haptic keboard touchpad combi like toshiba managed to present on its libretto 100 series 2 screen tablet pc.

    2. One of the things they promised was complete customization options to alter the layout to your liking…  So maybe you can make that adjustment…

      Or wait for a 3rd party keyboard program to give that functionality…

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