Well, it’s been a few weeks since I became the owner of an HP Slate 500, and I’m still pleased at its performance. In fact, I realized that all the people who I’ve heard say that Windows isn’t meant to be a Touch interface probably haven’t given Windows 7 a fair try. I had low expectations about its ability to provide a decent multi-touch experience, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how it’s been performing so far. For example:
- I expected my slate to give the same kind of sluggish performance that a Netbook is known for. But in fact, it’s been very responsive, especially considering the hardware that it’s built on.
- Finger-scrolling is enabled in more places than I had anticipated. This includes Windows Explorer, Internet Explorer, and the Start Menu.
- Many apps that I wouldn’t have expected are allowing for pinch zooming, including the internet browsers and Adobe Acrobat Reader.
- Speaking of PDF readers, I read a lot of ebooks on the Slate, and most of the PDF readers I use do a good job with full-screen reading modes, including good finger scrolling and flicks for page up/down.
Finger vs Pen vs Palm
One concept that many consumer tablet users out there aren’t aware of (because they don’t incorporate an active digitizer, aka a pen, in their tablet experience) is how to balance switching between needing to ‘touch’ the tablet, and needing to ‘write’ on the tablet. My tablet PC is able to accept my finger scrolls and other touch inputs, but immediately switch to writing-mode when the pen comes in contact with the surface. And by ‘switch’, I mean that it no longer accepts finger inputs while I’m writing. This is crucial, because that means it’s handling ‘palm rejection’ – meaning I can rest and move the palm of my hand on the surface of the tablet while writing w/o affecting the writing experience (the same way you would if you were writing with pen & paper).
My biggest fear with my new tablet was that it wouldn’t handle this palm-rejection and auto-switching well, but in fact it’s handling it like a champ! Imagine drawing a big diagram on a page, and easily being able to use your fingers to pan the page around the screen to get to other areas of the diagram. Or imagine finger scrolling thru pages of a PDF ebook, and then immediately being able to highlight a key section of a page with your pen.
I learned at least 1 trick that also helps make for a better experience – 2-finger scrolling. This makes it clear to Windows that you intend to scroll/pan, as opposed to highlight text with your finger, or push a button, and is particularly useful on pages with lots of text or interactive elements. It’s also especially useful in OneNote. Although OneNote has a built-in “Panning Hand” feature (similar to what you may be used to in Adobe Reader or Photoshop/Illustrator), the 2-finger scrolling allows me to pan around w/o clicking a button to tell OneNote that I want to pan. Also, surprisingly, 2-finger panning adds ‘momentum’ to my scrolling (pushing a page upward and having the page scroll quickly, then eventually slow down), whereas OneNote’s Panning Hand does not.
Granted, the scrolling features in Windows 7 don’t have all the silky smoothness and sexiness of the iPad or Android tablets. But this surprisingly finger-friendly experience, combined with things like Flick Gestures that I wrote about previously, makes this business-focused tablet PC quite a useful appliance!