Windows 11 is built for touch, including gestures and improved snapping

Windows 11 Start X1fold
Windows 11 Start X1fold (Image credit: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

What you need to know

  • Windows 11 has a touch-optimized experience.
  • The operating system supports gestures and has larger touch targets for easy navigation.
  • Windows 11 also has a new touch keyboard.

Microsoft's new operating system, Windows 11, has a new experience that's optimized for touch. When you detach a keyboard, the OS adapts. Microsoft explains that the new touch-oriented experience works well for productivity as well as entertainment.

Source: Microsoft (Image credit: Source: Microsoft)

When you remove a keyboard from a device, such as a Surface Pro 7, the Taskbar spaces the icons out, making them easier to touch. The touch targets on windows are a bit larger, which makes dragging and resizing them easier.

Windows 11 has an improved snapping system, including the ability to have windows snapped on top of each other vertically.

The operating system supports the same gestures with touch as when using a trackpad, such as three-finger swipe down to minimize your windows.

Windows 11 also supports haptic feedback with pens, giving you feedback as you interact with your device.

There's also a new touch keyboard on the OS that looks quite a bit like Microsoft's SwiftKey.

This is a developing story. We'll add more details as they come in.

Sean Endicott
News Writer and apps editor

Sean Endicott brings nearly a decade of experience covering Microsoft and Windows news to Windows Central. He joined our team in 2017 as an app reviewer and now heads up our day-to-day news coverage. If you have a news tip or an app to review, hit him up at sean.endicott@futurenet.com (opens in new tab).

31 Comments
  • This is the biggest feature for me personally. I hope they have new Surface Pros dropping soon.
  • Lacking a Full Screen Start Menu is going to be a pain. I wouldn't want to use that on a 65 inch TV or monitor.
  • Not accurate. For screens that large Microsoft uses a different OS e.g. Windows 10 Team is what Surface Hub 2 uses, not a straight version of Windows 10.
  • Too much champagne there Daniel. He specifically said monitor or tv. 😂
  • You're about to get b**ch slapped by Dan.
  • Shaheed, I don't understand -- are you saying that a full screen Start menu makes more sense on bigger screen than on a typical monitor? That would be an unusual view. Full screen start made sense on phones and small tablets. For a large screen, people rarely run anything full screen.
  • But they may want to be able to read things from the opposite side of the living room.
  • Welcome news since things had gotten pretty dismal for touch on my SP6
  • Please don't replace the native keyboard with Swiftkey. That keyboard is janky. T_T
  • I really want to share Author's (of this article) naivity, but I can't, because W10 is again less touch-friendly OS than predecessor was.
    Lacking full screen mode on apps, lacking Full-screen start, lacking close app gesture, lacking touch-friendly swipes..
    They deleted entire tablet mode, of course they had to add some gestures as a compensation. Cuz without them it would be useless on tablets without tablet mode. I still hope, windows will be once again great tablet OS as Windows 8.1 was..
  • You might want to try it out before you judge it.
  • For me tablet mode has been trash in W10. I like the direction they are going here and think it makes way more sense. Doesn't mean they are done with it either so it will continue to improve
  • Some of us have used Windows 11 to weigh in on our opinions of the new touch experience. It may behoove you to do the same next week and then judge. Also, Tablet Mode was so stupid. Glad it's gone.
  • Why are you glad its gone when it was optional feature? I tried W11 on my SP7. I have also SP6, SP3 and lenovo Miix 3 Can you tell me what is not stupid that there is not now
    1)Close app gesture
    2) Full-screen start
    3) onscreen widgets (rip tiles)
    4) touchfriendly full-screen mode on apps, like Tablet mode had, or stock W8.1 had. Without tons of bars where I can mistakely tap something. I really like it on PC/Laptop. But its really getting more and more worse for touch-screen only devices
  • davo_svk, I agree with Dan 100%. I think you and I want the same thing here: a good native touch experience for the UI. Tablet Mode was a recognition that Windows 10 didn't have that and so needed a separate mode, which is never as good as a truly native, always-there experience. In Windows 11, it looks (from the demos, no first-hand experience), like they've fixed the underlying problems that forced the need for that janky tablet mode in the first place. If so, this is a huge step forward for touch users like you and me.
  • Yeah, tablet mode was a hack on Win10 that tried to bring back touch features from Win8. It didn't work, I've used Surfaces and Windows tablets for years but I've only used tablet mode a handful of times. Win11 is smart enough to figure out when you need wider spacing and larger touch targets, like when the keyboard is detached.
  • True, though the problem as well with Windows 10 Tablet Mode, it never really made any significant improvements since it was introduced. It wasn't great, but it didn't have to be that way but Microsoft simply forgotten about it so it remain jank. For me, not having dedicated "Tablet Mode" is fine. But having to have run all apps (or the one made sense) full-screen/maximized made sense on tablet state/posture since I find opening apps on a float window always seems clumsy on tablet and unpredictability when you rotate the orientation of the device, also tablets generall have smaller screen except for convertibles which I can make sense having desktop mode used on tablet state. Kinda hard to say, but desktop mode kinda clumsy to use. It would be nice to have at least have that option on Windows 11 when you device is on tablet state and have apps run maximzed and if you open another one, its either you open them snapped together, replace the foreground app or run as floating window (especially Calculator). Some apps maybe be only available as floating window like Sticky Notes and Snip and Sketch since it doesn't make sense for them to be full-screen. But I do love the new touch gestures on Windows 11 which feels better than what was from Windows 10, which is repurposed gesture from Windows 8.X, but not as good. Only complain with the new gesture is it still doesn't follow your finger when you do gesture to minimize apps, restore apps and when going to Task View. It simply cleverly feels like it, but when you slowly drag your finger to do the gesture, it will simply trigger the action but animation don't follow your finger at all. Same thing when opening Widgets panel. Basically it is not iPadOS-like gesture in regards to feel, or even Windows 8.X which does follow your finger even when opening Charms Bar.
  • "Why are you glad its gone when it was optional feature?" I get that, but it was just a hack-y kluge. It was no replacement for real thinking about how to implement touch in Windows.
  • Having used Windows 11 for the past week or two on the Surface Pro 2, I never once used Windows 10's "Tablet Mode", it was awful. Even though Start is not fullscreen, it is fine. You really shouldn't be that attached to fullscreen start to begin with... it's not that much better, if at all. Tablet features of Windows 11 are great, and the OS is very fluid to interface with using hands and gestures. I personally love the new four-finger horizontal swipe for vDesktops.
  • Tablet Mode, in theory, was great. In practice, it just needed more development. Still, I used it every day and it was much better than not having it. It was really nice being able to undock my Surface and have it immediately switch to a simplified, touch-friendly UI. The problems with Tablet mode is that the entire thing felt like it never left beta. There was no way to have multiple desktops, you couldn't snap apps in portrait mode, it lost all the brilliant gesture navigation from Windows 8 (e.g. swipe in from the left repeatedly to quickly cycle between apps), etc.
  • What they have done is to integrate tablet mode by default - but in a subtle way, like automatically spacing out icons. This is a good in-between compromise.
  • coip, I think that problem, that it felt like it never left beta, was endemic to the whole design philosophy. There was no way to "fix" tablet mode, because it was a bolt-on solution to an OS with touch as a distant afterthought. With 11, it looks like they've solved the root cause by making the core UI touch-friendly. Tablet Mode is now pointless. Back in the 80s, tape decks were the main way people played music. Tapes were a pain because you had to flip them over to play the other side. Also, if you wanted to get to a particular song, you had to fast forward or rewind and then hit play to listen to figure out if you had gone too far or not far enough. Clever manufacturers "solved" these problems with reversible tape heads to play both sides of the tape and silence sensors to detect the gap between songs and automatically stop the rewinding or fast forwarding. When CD's came along by putting all the music on 1 side and allowing the user to jump to any track on the CD, they eliminated the core problem. Bemoaning the loss of Tablet Mode is like complaining that CDs (or MP3 streaming services) don't have a head reversal or silence detection system. Or that cars don't still have those nice crank starters.
  • Thats what im talking about. I dont say tablet mode is great, or even good. Its BAD AF. But its better than not having it. And ON WINDOWS11 too. Its really look like a joke, that when I take off keyboard, I dont get full screen app mode with all the bars hidden.
    And also I need to tap that crappy button to close an app. Which was not problem in W8.1 or W10 tablet mode by a fast gesture. And thats one of tons reasons why is W11 worse on tablets. Those 12 things are missing on W11 1) full-screen mode on apps without tons of bars,
    2) close app gesture
    3) full-screen start with tiles/widgets
    4) splitscreen was more touchfriendly in tablet mode/W8.1, in W11 u need to tap precisely on topbar
    5) something like charm bar with dynamic swipe, it was very usefull on tablets with W8.1, big buttons, big start button, big time
    6) split-screen was for 3 apps, desktop
    Could be splitted too
    7) switching between apps was more touch-friendly than even iOS on ipad now is.
    8) much more touchfriendly start (on W8.1), zoom gesture was great too
    9) swipe gesture for “show all apps” like on W8.1 was (idk why there is not gesture for that in W10/W11)
    10) all apps with fullscreen mode without annoying bars were I can tap something by mistake (like on iOS/W8.1/W10 tablet mode)
    11) browser with adressbar at bottom like on W8.1, also fullscreen mode as on W8.1/ iOS
    12) my old broken Lenovo Miix 8” with 2gb ram and intel atom is more smooth with W8.1 (animations, swipes, switches), than Surface Pro 6 and 7 with i5 processor and 8GB RAM with W10/W11. So those 12 festures are really missing on W11 for Tablets
    And only first 4 points were on w10…
  • "1) full-screen mode on apps without tons of bars,", that would be a bummer if W10 lacks this, was a good feature of W10. "2) close app gesture", maybe its a different gesture? Whatever the case you could use GestureSign to solve this but yeah it should be baked in. "3) full-screen start with tiles/widgets", I would have preferred widgets too on the start menu but maybe the widget menu will work nice too, will have to try it out first. "6) split-screen was for 3 apps,", W11's split screen looks more advanced actually and W10 supports up 4 in split screen (but outside tablet mode). "8) much more touchfriendly start (on W8.1), zoom gesture was great too", zoom on start seems to gimmicky to me, might as well scroll that tiny bit if you have that much apps. "9) swipe gesture for “show all apps” like on W8.1 was (idk why there is not gesture for that in W10/W11)", in W10 either swipe from the left for showing all open apps or press start button for all installed apps. Or you could use GestureSign for a custom gesture. Seems suffice to me.
  • Glad I'm not alone with this. The issue with Tablet Mode is that it never really got a chance to improved dramatically. Compared to how iPadOS evolved its tablet UI from very basic to now multi-tasking monster for a tablet (not desktop-like). Tablet Mode remained to allow only up to 2 apps snapped, no portrait snapping support, no floating window for certain apps that made sense or optional, pinned apps on Taskbar were an afterthought, gestures don't follow the fingers (even Windows 11 sadly this is the case for now), Task View were buggy and originally don't even have good animations, drag and drop support were janky, system tray were basic by default but changing to desktop-like system tray were not good either. Now the touch interaction on desktop mode on Windows 11 (since there is only one mode now) has been improved a lot. But we lost the ability to have apps run maximized always on tablet state and will not suggest anymore if you want to snap the app or not. For me if we can have those behaviour I'm fine since it doesn't matter if there is a dedicated mode or not, it is how the UI can adapt properly.
  • "Tablet Mode was so stupid. Glad it's gone." Amen, Dan, thank you. It was a work-around to touch deficiencies with Windows 10 and basically an admission by MS that they didn't have a good touch OS. From what I've seen so far (haven't used it yet), touch in 11 looks fantastic.
  • davo_svk, yes, W10 was less touch friendly than 8 (mainly because of lost gestures and touch-specific browser, mostly the same other than that). But W11 moves in the right direction to improve the touch UI and UX. Tablet Mode was a hack because the OS was not sufficiently touch-friendly. Now, with Win11, it's native to the OS. That's a huge advance for touch.
  • This caught my attention mightily. I use a Surface Pro 7 precisely because I can dump the keyboard and use it as a tablet. The devil is in the details as to how well these new touch features will work but they sure seem to make using Windows with touch much better. There are challenges here, such as context menus, but resizing and snapping, a better keyboard but one that actually works (they better have the event model working properly or I will be frumpy), and a start menu that effectively models a cell phone are solid beginnings. I think I am in the minority when it comes to not missing Windows 8.x tablet mode. I despised that design as it wiped out my normal desktop and gave me a giant a start screen. Like where did everything go! I was like, Microsoft, are you insane. In Windows 11 Microsoft appears to have struck a proper balance by not tossing out the regular desktop just because you fondle it with a finger. Windows 11 is shaping up to be a real thing.
  • The amazing thing about this is this is Windows 11 Pro. Just imagine how better is going to be are windows 11 X or Windows 11 mobile.
  • I'm hoping the new Start menu can be in different places depending on orientation, like at the left in landscape and on the bottom in portrait. Or it should have an auto-hide option like with the Dock in MacOS. It's a lot taller than the current Taskbar on Win10 and it takes up precious vertical space on tablets like Surface Pros.
  • Windows 8/8.1 was built for touch. I hope this is just as good...