Will The iSlate Include Gesture Macros?

Fingerworks.com Content Pulled Ahead of Apple Tablet Announcement

The content of Fingerworks.com has been removed this week after remaining online for nearly 5 years after the acquisition of the company by Apple. The removal seems to correspond with the impending announcement of an Apple tablet later this month. One possible explanation is that Apple will finally be implementing many of the same advanced multi-touch keyboard gestures that were originally pioneered by Fingerworks.


This is the Internet, Apple. Sometimes things don’t disappear.

Thank God for the Internet Archive. It has several years’ worth of the FingerWorks site socked away.

I was able to grab three PDFs from this page and I was really stunned by the seeming complexity of the gestures.

Look at this:

Four fingers for some simple tasks!

However, the site used to assure people:

How will people remember gestures?

People are naturally very good at learning and remembering hand gesture. Simple motions can be learned almost instantly, while more complex motions might take practice to master. A great deal can be accomplished with simple gestures. One doesn’t need to reach the level of a novice pianist to become a powerful director of one’s computer.

Here’s a hint of just how much work Apple put into its own multitouch technology:

I can’t get pinch gestures like Cut, Paste, Search, Replace, or Save to work.

* When performing these ‘pinch’ or ‘flick-out’ gestures, try to move your thumb at about the same speed (but opposite direction) as the fingers. That is, don’t just keep your thumb in one place on the surface while the fingertips move away from or towards it. Also, don’t pinch really fast. A relaxed, moderate speed works best.

Really, has anyone with an iPhone ever had such trouble with pinch gestures?

FingerWorks required more than a two-finger pinch in/out for zoom! Look:

Five fingers!

What’s interesting is that FingerWorks had palm-rejection technology (a popular feature of Fujitsu touchscreen machines and which no other company has used):

4. Feel free to rest palms and fingers on the MultiTouch surface while typing. You may also rest your whole hand on the surface if the fingers touch the surface simultaneously.

Distinguishing a palm resting on a screen is important. Just ask UMPC owners who’ve encountered insane vectoring when attempting HWR!

Mac veterans will recall MultiFinder, Apple’s original app-switching technology. I keep wondering if something like that will make a reappearance in the iPhone OS and the iSlate. If so, there’d be a gesture for it:

— just not that one, I hope. We’ve already seen Apple improve on Pinch by using only two fingers instead of five, so I’d expect Apple to likewise make a gesture like this more elegant too.

What’s particularly intriguing is the MyGesture Editor, specifically The Macro Library:

Macros are combinations of keystrokes and/or actions that can be assigned to a gesture or surface key. The Macro Library exists to hold and organize collections of user-made and built-in macros. While it is not necessary to save or create a macro in the library in order to assign a keystroke or action to a gesture/key, it is wise to do so for macros that will be used frequently or for organizational purposes. This section will explain the 3 types of macros available and how you can create or edit them.

And the three type of macros:

Event Macros
An event is one or more keystrokes, mouse clicks, or mouse movements. Most of the Macros in the Macro Library are simple Event Macros like Ctrl-S for Save.

Text Macros
These are text strings or messages that can be sent to the computer. Unlike Event Macros, Text Macros allow for long, multi-line text messages.

Internal Function Macros
These macros do not send out keyboard or mouse commands. They are used to change the current state of your FingerWorks device (ex. changing the OS mode from Windows to Mac).

The second one is something that I hope we’ll see for iWork. Storing repetitive text for input without having to resort to the on-screen keyboard would be a boon. Knowing Apple, I doubt this will require actually recalling a complex combination of fingers to use. A simple gesture — perhaps a three-finger touch once or even twice — could be used to pop up a menu of saved text to choose from.

One thing is certain: there’s more to multitouch than we’ve seen thus far.

4 Responses to Will The iSlate Include Gesture Macros?

  1. copyhacker says:

    I had a FingerWorks TouchStream keyboard for awhile. Although the touch typing left something to be desired, the gestures were amazing. The FAQ is right, they were very intuitive and easy to remember.

    The killer feature was being able to type and mouse without shifting the position of your hand. You can’t imagine how great that is unless you’ve tried it.

    I finally sold the TouchStream because it was just too hard to touch-type without tactile feedback. You had to take your eyes off your work to look at your hands. This is where I think the tablet will exceed expectations. You won’t need to type by touch because your hands will be ON the screen.

    If you think about it, the UI paradigm has been lacking in a very basic way ever since the beginning of the computer era. Your eyes are looking one place while your hands are working in another place. Manipulating your work directly on-screen will be a huge improvement.

    • mikecane says:

      >>>If you think about it, the UI paradigm has been lacking in a very basic way ever since the beginning of the computer era. Your eyes are looking one place while your hands are working in another place.

      That’s been the case with the age of typewriters too.

      >>>Manipulating your work directly on-screen will be a huge improvement.

      Yes, and it will be huge.

  2. laura says:

    Nice sleuthing! My first reaction in such situations is always to check the Internet Archive, but alas, they don’t have everything.

    Glad they did this time.

  3. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by mikecane: NEW POST: Will The iSlate Include Gesture Macros? http://tinyurl.com/yjfdxf7 @jafurtado @stroughtonsmith @cimota @jane_l…

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