Touch Screens: Love ’em, hate ’em, would you want to date ’em?

I think we can all agree that touch-screen tablets are awesome. We can swipe to turn a page, fire a bird, or zoom in on a pretty picture. But one place where touch-screens are a bug and not a feature is laptops.

My ASUS netbook runs Windows 8.1 and has a touch-screen. Since Windows 8.1 is an operating system designed for both laptops and tablets, you’d think having a touch-screen would give me access to a new array of features. But truthfully I, and I suspect many other, Windows 8.1 laptop users never use apps, and are typically just trying to do the same computing or gaming tasks I always have. Windows executables aren’t designed with touch-screens in mind like apps are, and are typically keyboard and mouse driven. The mouse is an incredibly precise instrument with sensitivity I can tune and a comfortable feeling in my hand. A keyboard allows me to type faster than I can talk and almost faster than I can think.

My fingers on the other hand, are incredibly imprecise. Even on a tablet when I’m trying to type a letter, I always end up hitting the one (or three) keys next to it. The cursor is never where I think it is supposed to be and unless an app has big friendly buttons, I am landing somewhere I don’t want to be.

Some might say, well use a stylus, and again on a tablet that seems to make more sense, the technological equivalent of a notepad and paper. But on a laptop I’m reaching across my keyboard to poke my screen.

And let’s not forget the cleanliness issue. On a tablet I can hold it in my palm and run a cloth over it. On a laptop I have to tilt it on its back and rub it in concentric circles (usually while powered off so as not to mess up the spinning hard drive). If I want to remove a visible speck from my line of sight, I find that I’ve accidentally scrolled or clicked on something and I have to use the mouse to get back to where I was going. One time I apparently applied too much pressure and I had an LCD pulsing circle on my screen where my finger used to be that wouldn’t go away until I rebooted the machine.

For those of you with pets you may have experienced a cat that likes to rub itself against the corner of your laptop. If it wraps a paw or even a whisker around the corner, they are scrolling your screen for you, which while funny is also kind of annoying. There should be a button or an easy to access setting that turns the touch-screen off but as of yet I haven’t found it, and the procedures that have been suggested mess around with corners of the machine I prefer not to touch unless absolutely necessary.

So I live with it.

Even devices like the Surface Pro 3 don’t make sense to me when in laptop mode. If I were the engineer who designed this, I’d have the touch-screen disabled when the keyboard is attached (or at least make that an option). My ire for this device may be due to a really aggravating and kind of silly ad against a Mac Book this Christmas (‘It’s got a USB’. Well yippee).

In short, touch-screens on something I can hold in my hand, great. Otherwise, keep it simple.

Any technological ‘features’ that are really ‘bugs’ in your life?

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