Using the touchscreen

 

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Using the touchscreen

A couple using their touchscreen device to chat with their family

What's coming up?

The main way you control a tablet or smartphone is by using the screen itself. Known as a touchscreen, it is sensitive to your gentle touch and so you don't need a mouse or a physical keyboard to get things done.

In this activity, we're going to talk about the basics of using a touchscreen and we have a number of short demonstration videos to watch as well.

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What is a touchscreen?

A touchscreen is a special kind of screen that responds to touch. Instead of having a mouse or keyboard, you just touch the screen in different ways to select, open, move and interact with items on the screen.

A touchscreen uses the electrical signals in your body to detect your touch. This mean that you can't wear gloves while using a touchscreen.

You don't need to press hard for a touchscreen to work; a light touch is all that's needed.

A tablet displaying the home screen with apps and icons
A touchscreen being operated using a single tap

How to tap

There are a number of common finger movements you can use on a touchscreen.

The tap is the most common. Tapping on the screen with any finger can open an application, photo or website.

On the next panel is a short demonstration of tapping on a touchscreen. Click Continue below and then click anywhere on the video to start watching.

How to tap on a touchscreen - video demonstration

A touchscreen being operated using a swipe

How to swipe

Another common touchscreen finger movement is the swipe.

To turn a page, you might swipe with one finger across the screen in the direction to want to turn the page. You can think of it like turning the page in a book.

The swipe can also be used to browse through a gallery of photos or images.

On the next panel is a short demonstration of swiping on a touchscreen. Click Continue below and then click anywhere on the video to start watching.

How to swipe on a touchscreen - video demonstration

A touchscreen being operated using a scroll gesture

How to scroll

Just like on a laptop and desktop, sometimes a document or web page doesn't fit on the screen. This is where you can use a finger to scroll the page up or down.

To scroll a page, gently place your finger on the screen and slide it up and down to scroll.

On the next panel is a short demonstration of scrolling on a touchscreen. Click Continue below and then click anywhere on the video to start watching.

How to scroll on a touchscreen - video demonstration

Typing on a tablet

You may be wondering, with no keyboard on a tablet, how do you type?

Whenever you need to type something on a tablet, a keyboard will appear on the screen. The onscreen keyboard works the same as a physical keyboard, and lets you fill in forms, send emails, type search terms into a web browser, and more.

To type on the onscreen keyboard, tap the letters and numbers you want to enter.

A touchscreen with an onscreen keyboard displayed

Typing numbers and symbols

To type number keys and symbols, press the symbols button. On an Apple iPad, it's the ?123 button. On other tablets, the button may show symbols like @!&.

Tap either button and the tablet will show a new keyboard, with symbols and numbers.

To go back to the letters keyboard, tap the ABC key.

The symbols button highlighted on an onscreen keyboard
The shift keys highlighted on an onscreen keyboard

Typing capital letters

If you need to type capital letters, tap the Shift or Caps Lock key, just like on a physical keyboard. You only have to tap the Shift key once, however - there's no need to hold it down.

Starting an app

Tapping on a touchscreen can also be used to start a program, or app.

To start an app, find the icon for that app on the tablet's screen, then tap on it. The app should open, ready for you to use.

A finger selecting an icon to tap on a touchscreen
A tablet displaying the home screen

The Home screen

When you've finished with an app, you can start something else on your tablet by going back to the Home screen.

The Home screen on a tablet is the main screen, or first screen you see when you turn it on. You can go back to the Home screen at any time by tapping on the Home button.

The Home button

On most tablets, the Home button is located near the bottom the screen.

A tablet showing the location of the home button
A different type of tablet where the home button is located on the screen itself

On some tablets, however, the home button is on the screen itself.

There is a short video clip to watch on the next page that shows you how to find your way back to your home screen using the Home button.

Going home

This demonstration video is approximately 51 seconds in duration. It demonstrates how to return to the Home screen, or page, of a tablet.

Once the video starts, the intro panel fades and we see the screen is split into two parts. On the left-hand side is an animation of a typical tablet, such as an iPad. On the right-hand side, there is text displayed, which is the script for the voiceover track.

Voiceover: "The Home screen is the main screen of your tablet. It's the screen you see when you start your tablet."

The left-hand panel updates to zoom in on the lower half of the tablet to show the Home button.

Voiceover: "When you have an app open, the Home button on a tablet takes you back to the Home page so that you can launch a different app."

The left-hand panel updates to display a news page on the tablet's screen, just above the Home button.

Voiceover: "Just press or tap the Home button to go back to the Home screen. You can do this at any time."

The left-hand panel updates to close the news page and we zoom back out to see the tablet's Home screen displaying an array of app icons.

Voiceover: "On most tablets, the Home button is a physical button just below the screen."

The left-hand panel updates to show a pink arrow pointing to the Home button on our tablet.

Voiceover: "On some tablets, it may be a button on the screen instead..."

The left-hand panel updates to show our first tablet slide off stage and be replaced by a different type of tablet, such as an Android tablet. This tablet doesn't have a physical Home button. Instead, the Home button is located within the screen itself and we zoom in to get a better view of the small, round Home button icon.

Voiceover: "...but it will still function in the same way."

Video ends.

Congratulations!

You've completed the activity on Using a touchscreen.

You've learnt a lot in this activity. You should now know:

  • how a touchscreen works
  • how to tap, swipe, scroll and type on a tablet
  • where the Home button is.

You can learn more advanced touchscreen controls in our Getting to know your device topic. In the meantime, have a look at how tablets and laptops compare in the next activity, Tablets vs laptops.

A close up of a finger on a touchscreen