Of all the changes in tech over the past few decades, I think the one I’ve found most challenging is the touchscreen. At first, I was always accidentally opening something. In fact, it still happens.  The worst part for beginners seems to be that everyone already assumes you know how to use it. They toss out terms like swipe and deep press and expect you to know what to do. I’ve got a handy little guide ready that I hope can make it easier for you.  Even if you’re pretty good with touchscreen devices, you might learn something new.

The motions you use to navigate a touchscreen are called gestures. It might take you a few tries to get the hang of them. You’ll open things you didn’t mean to open or accidentally move things. But don’t let that worry you. Just like with a mouse or a touchpad, you will get the hang of it pretty quickly.

The gesture you’ll probably use most often is the Tap. A Tap consists of a quick one-finger tap or press of a stylus on an icon. It’s how you’ll open apps and how you select things. It’s very much like the mouse left-click on a traditional PC.

 

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Open an app and then select an item inside the app the same way. Make sure you don’t press down too hard and hold it. This is just a quick tap.

That next gesture is the double-tap. You may need to use it for purposes like zooming in. Like the single-tap, it is just a quick tap. Two of them.

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Now if you suddenly zoom in on something when you thought you were just selecting it, it’s probably because you have accidentally double-tapped. This will probably happen a lot when you are getting started with a touch screen. Don’t get frustrated. You will get the hang of it.

Another important gesture is the long press. This is when you push down and hold on an icon. Doing this may allow you to move an icon or it may open a pop-up window that gives you options for the app you’re using. If you are trying to just open or select something and suddenly the screen changes. You may have held it down too long. Just lift your finger and everything should go back to normal.

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iPhones acknowledge different levels of force when you press. You’ll get different results depending on how hard you press. Press and hold an app in your iPhone home screen and you’ll see a quick actions menu.

Pinch and Zoom is an incredibly handy gesture. You touch the screen like this and pull your finger and thumb apart to zoom in. To zoom out, you simply pinch your finger and thumb together. Not every app will do this, but many of them will. You can instantly enlarge text or pictures with a small hand motion.

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Scrolling is a simple as dragging your finger or stylus down or up, just like this on the screen on a web page or document. Be careful not to press too hard, this is a pretty light touch.

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The Swipe gesture is used for everything from unlocking a screen to pulling up a menu. You touch your finger in one spot and then drag it like this to another place. A swipe can be left, right, up or down depending on the task. A common swipe gesture is this quick right-to-left swipe to unlock a screen.

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On an iPhone you can Shake your device to undo text. Shake again to redo that text. Apps may use the shake gesture to initiate actions. On an iPad, it may be easier to just turn the device upside down, rather than shaking, to perform this action.

It takes a little while to get comfortable with touchscreen gestures, but once you do, you’ll wonder how you ever got along without them.