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Making Sense of the New Windows Phone 7 Interface

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Windows Phone 7 uses an interface that is far different from anything that Microsoft has ever created before. Brian Posey explains how you can customize your phone to get the most from this new interface.
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By Brien M. Posey

Although Windows Phone 7 is brand new, Microsoft has been dabbling in mobile operating systems for well over a decade. I was first introduced to such an operating system way back in 1998 while I was working for the military.

Some of the people that I worked with had PDAs that were running Windows CE, which was a primitive version of Windows Mobile that was based on watered-down Windows 95 code.

Over the years, mobile devices have improved tremendously, and the Windows Mobile operating system has evolved as well. Even so, the overall look and feel of Windows Mobile has remained largely the same.

You can see an example of this in Figure A, which shows an emulated device running Windows Mobile 6.1.

Figure A Windows Mobile retained the same general look and feel for many years.

When Microsoft set out to create Windows Phone 7, it made the bold decision to write the entire operating system from scratch. The end result is that the Windows Phone 7 OS looks absolutely nothing like previous Windows Mobile operating systems.

You can see what the Windows Phone 7 operating system looks like in Figure B.

Figure B Windows Phone 7 sports a brand new user interface.

As you can see in the figure, Windows Phone 7 uses an interface that is unlike that found in any previous Windows Mobile operating system. Even though Microsoft has designed this interface to be as intuitive as possible, I found that the new interface took a bit of getting used to.

The Touch Screen

Aside from a few hardware keys, all interaction with Windows Phone 7 is done through a touch screen interface. The touch screen itself isn't anything new for Windows Mobile. I personally use a Windows Mobile 6.1 phone and it also has a touch screen even though the phone is about three years old.

What makes the Windows Phone 7 touch screen different is that you can interact with it in much the same way as you could a touch screen[nd]enabled PC running Windows 7. What this means is that unlike my legacy Windows Mobile device, the Windows Phone 7 operating system recognizes gestures other than a simple tap.

In fact, there are seven different gestures that the OS recognizes:

  • Tap: In the Windows Phone 7 OS, a tap works exactly like it did in previous versions of Windows Mobile. You simply tap your finger on an object to select it.
  • Double Tap: Windows Phone 7 allows you to open files and applications by double tapping on them.
  • Pan: Panning allows you to scroll the device's screen. You simply press your finger onto the device screen and then move your finger in the direction that you want to pan. The main Windows Phone 7 screen contains too many tiles to fit onto the screen at once, so you must pan the screen to access some of the tiles.
  • Flick: Flicking allows you to scroll rapidly through a long list of items. Flicking is similar to panning except that once you have pressed your finger onto the screen, you slide it quickly and then remove your finger.
  • Touch and Hold: The touch and hold gesture is similar to right-clicking the mouse in Windows 7. You simply press on an object on the screen and then hold your finger in the same position until any available options are displayed. For example, you can use the touch and hold gesture to pin an item to the start screen.
  • Stretch: Stretching is a gesture that you can use to make an object on the screen bigger. For example, you might use the stretch gesture to zoom in on a picture, or you could use the stretch gesture to zoom in on an area within your Web browser. You can stretch an area by placing two fingers onto the screen and then sliding those fingers apart.
  • Pinch: Pinching is the opposite of stretching. It is used as a way to zoom out. To pinch, spread two fingers apart and then put them on the screen and slide your fingers until they come together.
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