We've spent some time with Windows 7 Beta's new touch and multitouch features this week, and came away largely disappointed. It's not that they don't work, at least on occasion, it's that they don't really provide a comprehensive or pleasurable method for using a computer. The primary enhancements to the OS that really make touch usage possible include a taller taskbar, pinch to zoom and tap-and-drag scrolling. There's a fancy new onscreen keyboard that's actually usable, and those quick-swipe gestures from Vista remain for forward, back, copy, paste, undo and redo.
It sounds like a lot, but really adds up to very little. Interactions are inconsistent from program to program, including Microsoft applications, gestures seem to work when you don't want them, and don't work when you need them, and at least 50 percent of the OS is still too small to use with touch -- making the improvements to touchability of the rest of it slightly pointless. All that said, we really like the idea of a touchscreen desktop OS, at least in theory. There are certain actions like messing with photos and casual browsing that seem to make sense for augmenting regular computer inputs with touch -- they've certainly been enhanced by multitouch trackpads of late -- but we're going to need more consistent implementations to really get into it OS-wide. Of course, this is just a Beta, things could always get better, and third party support will, like with most things, make or break it. We'll hope for the best, but we're not tossing our keyboard and mouse just yet. There are about 8 minutes of semi-frustrating interaction below.


All testing was done with an
HP TouchSmart PC running a beta OS and beta multitouch drivers, and isn't an indication of the final experience.

Further reading:

Windows 7 SKUs announced: your worst nightmare has come to pass
It's worse than you could have possibly imagined.

Microsoft extends Windows 7 beta downloads to February 10
Good news for those of you who haven't yet snagged a copy of the Windows 7 beta -- Microsoft's decided to extend the beta download period to February 10th.
Windows 7 Beta in-depth impressions
We finally gathered together all our thoughts and impressions of the OS into one meaty pile of words and screencaps.

Windows 7 install roundup
After resting up and settling into our post-CES golden desk chairs, team Engadget got busy at installing Windows 7 on pretty much anything they could find.