Windows Touch and Internet Explorer: Better together

When you use a computer with multitouch capabilities and Windows 7, you'll discover many ways to use Windows Touch with your fingertips to control it. Internet Explorer 8 has some unique touch capabilities you might not know about, even if you've already used a Tablet PC or touchscreen with Windows 7.

The touch-related improvements in Internet Explorer fall into two categories: making it easier to hit targets with your fingertips, and making touch feel more natural.

For example, there are ways to quickly zoom in and out on a webpage with your fingertips to more easily tap a link, take a closer look at something, or just make better use of your screen space.

Tap to magnify

Because a fingertip is less precise than a mouse or track pad, Internet Explorer helps you point more accurately. One of the hardest tasks to do with your fingertips is tap a link on a crowded webpage with other links close by, especially if you're using a laptop with a small screen. It's easy to be a little off and hit the wrong link.

To make sure you hit the link you want every time, start by tapping two fingertips anywhere on the page to instantly zoom in on that spot. Then tap the link you want with one fingertip, which is easier when the link is magnified. When the new webpage opens, it automatically reverts to normal size.

This two-finger tap to zoom followed by a one-finger tap to open a link is simple and takes only a second or two.

To change a webpage back to normal size after a two-finger tap, just give it another two-finger tap.

Picture of a webpage at normal size
If you tap your screen with two fingers where these circles are, Internet Explorer will zoom in to the spot between your fingertips.
Picture of a spot on a webpage magnified by a two-finger tap
A two-finger tap zooms in to the spot you tap, making it easier to select links that might otherwise be too small to hit with a fingertip.

Choose how much to zoom

Windows Touch is expected to be popular on laptops with multitouch capabilities that have small screens. Anytime you're using a small screen, it helps to be able to zoom in on sections of a webpage for a closer look, especially to see a photo better. You can use the two-finger tap to quickly zoom in to any part of a webpage, but sometimes you want to control how much you zoom.

To control your zoom, place two fingertips on your screen and move them apart. The page will get bigger and bigger the further apart your fingertips go. Move them closer to do the opposite, pinching your fingertips together to shrink the page.

Close tabs

It's also difficult to hit the tiny Close Tab button Picture of the Close Tab button to close a browser tab in Internet Explorer with your fingertip. To make this common task easier, the size of the target was increased on touchscreens.

This isn't a change you can see, since the Close Tab button appears the same size whether you're using Internet Explorer on a PC with or without a touchscreen. But on a touchscreen, the active area around the button is larger. With the enlarged target area, you can close the tab even if you miss the button slightly with your fingertip.

Picture of a tab in Internet Explorer
Internet Explorer increases the size of the target area around the small Close Tab button you must hit with your fingertip to close a browser tab.

Flick forward or back

Navigating forward or back to webpages you've already visited is easy with touch. To go back to the last webpage you visited, just place a fingertip on the page and flick it to the right, like you're trying to flip backward through the pages of a book. To avoid accidentally clicking a link instead of grabbing the page, try to do this on an area of the webpage that doesn't have any links.

When you flip backward or forward, Internet Explorer momentarily shows a small preview of the page that's about to open before the page pops open to its full size.

To go forward a webpage, flick the page to the left, like you're trying to brush it off the left side of your screen. (Note that you can only flick a page forward or back if you've already visited the next webpage or previous webpage.)

Space out your links

Internet Explorer detects when you use your fingertip instead of pointing with a track pad or mouse. If you tap open your Favorites list with a fingertip, Internet Explorer widens the spacing between the links to make it easier to hit the link you want. This might not look like a big change, but it really helps if you use touch a lot, especially on a small screen.

Picture of the Favorites list with wide spacing
Picture of the Favorites list with narrow spacing
When you use your fingertip to tap open the Favorites list, Internet Explorer makes the space between links wider (top) than when you use a mouse or track pad (bottom).

This wider spacing might not be obvious the first time you use a touchscreen, but if you know what to look for, you'll notice a lot of subtle changes like this in Internet Explorer.

You'll see the same widening when you drag the Address Bar down with a fingertip, to show a list of webpages you've recently visited. Once again, Internet Explorer senses when you use touch to open this list and then widens the spacing between the links, making it easier to tap the one you want.

Picture of the Address Bar with wide spacing
Picture of the Address Bar with narrow spacing
When you use your fingertip to slide open the Address Bar, Internet Explorer makes the space between links wider (top) than when you use a mouse or track pad (bottom).

A natural feel to common gestures

You can also use standard Windows Touch gestures to control Internet Explorer—the same gestures you can use throughout Windows. For example, you can place one fingertip on a lengthy webpage and flick the page up or down to quickly scroll up or down. Or, keep your fingertip on the screen and slowly push the page up or down if you want to move the page slowly.

You can also place two fingertips on a webpage, hold them there, and then drag the page right or left if it's too wide to fit in your browser window.

Such gestures are designed to feel natural, like you're actually flipping, pushing, or dragging a page, rather than just moving a digital image. When you flick a long page and it scrolls to the bottom, for example, you'll notice it bounce slightly when it gets to the end, signaling it can't go any further.

Try it with your own fingertips

Some of these gestures aren't obvious unless you try them for yourself in Internet Explorer. Give them a whirl and discover how natural it feels to use your fingertips to make web browsing easier.

For more information, see Windows Touch.