Overview of gestures.

Gestures provide a way for users to perform tasks or actions on a computer by using the natural movements that are associated with pen and paper. The two main categories of gestures are system gestures and application gestures. A system gesture is a movement of the pen that maps to a traditional mouse message. An application gesture is a shortcut to an application-specific action or behavior, usually invoked by making an ink mark in one or more locations. For more information about system gestures and application gestures, see Using Gestures.

Gestures are typically easy to remember and simple to perform. Ideally, gestures are faster to use than navigating through menu commands and as natural as motioning with a pen.

Although users must initially learn and remember gestures, this allows for natural, efficient, and quick execution of a number of specific tasks. Gestures can be made easier to remember by incorporating glyphs that are associated with the use of the gesture. For example, the scratch-out gesture is represented by a glyph that is a series of horizontal strokes, similar to how users scratch out content on paper.

Users may employ system gestures and application gestures to:

  • Scroll
  • Select
  • Edit
  • Insert
  • Delete
  • Copy
  • Paste
  • Mark important content
  • Indicate action items
  • Format
  • Drag
  • Tap (maps to a click with a mouse)
  • Press and hold (maps to a right-click with a mouse)

These are just a few examples of gestures for common actions. Gestures can enhance the users experience significantly when used in the rich context of the actions in an application.

Gestures also enrich the experience of the advanced user without hampering that of the newcomer.

Gestures improve user productivity, provided they:

  • Do not interfere with other uses of the pen.
  • Are discoverable during normal use.
  • Are easy to learn and remember.
  • Facilitate common or expected tasks.

For more information about designing support for gestures in your applications, see Design Considerations for Gestures.