Microsoft Hardware has a new beta for its Device Center, designed to make using peripherals like the Microsoft Touch Mouse, Explorer Touch Mouse, and Arc Touch Mouse even better on the Windows 8 Release Preview. The updated software is very much in the style of Windows 8, complete with colorful blue toggles for settings and a very Zune-like layout. Unfortunately, while Microsoft Hardware touts “a whole new set of gestures optimized for Windows 8 navigation,” it’s mostly relegated to scrolling.
Scrolling in the Metro UI is pretty good, and it works regardless of whether you slide your fingers up and down or left and right. Some apps, however, have the capability to scroll both vertically and horizontally. The Calendar app is a particularly good example, letting you scroll up and down to view the entire day or left and right to move to the next day/week/month. Some apps, however, attempt to combine this behavior, which makes for a somewhat confusing experience. Swiping in any direction will scroll the Weather app horizontally – until you get to the Hourly Forecast. Here, horizontal movement will continue to scroll as expected, but vertical movement suddenly changes direction. Thankfully, you’ll never encounter this issue if you’re using an actual touchscreen. Other apps – mostly from third parties – can only scroll horizontally, but they don’t implement support for vertical gestures as well to maintain consistency with the rest of the OS.
The software also includes a few nice features such as app-specific settings, but these will only work with desktop applications. Metro-style apps need not apply. The real disappointment is the lack of support for snapping and other functions in the Metro environment. The Microsoft Touch Mouse, for example, supports numerous two- and three-fingered gestures, but these only work on the desktop. Worse, attempting to use these gestures in a Metro-style app has the potential to actually perform these actions on the desktop, completely out of view. I had kind of hoped that using two or three fingers to swipe up would invoke the app bar, for instance, but that’s not the case; at least, not in the beta release of this software. It’s possible that Microsoft will continue to improve the Windows 8 gesture support, but for now, it’s no replacement for an actual touchscreen or multi-touch trackpad.[Microsoft Hardware]