I'm not talking of Metro or Windows Store app here. Those apps are pretty restricted in what they can access in Windows. What I mean is a regular desktop app that has no such restrictions--it can access the full file system and can launch other apps.

Such regular desktop apps need to be redesigned from the point of view of usage on a small screen Windows tablet. For example, such an app will run full screen by default because that would be most convenient on a tablet. Also, many interactions would be similar to a tiled interface of Metro or like iOs and Android but there are no such Windows controls yet for the desktop API, although third party tile controls exist from Delphi/DevExpress, etc. Are there any such guidelines from Microsoft yet for desktop applications that are primarily touch input oriented?

  • Why not simply adapt guidelines from other tablet/mobile apps and WinStore apps, since they too are designed with small screens and touch-heavy controls in mind? Sure, if you have more functionality you may have to visually adjust things a bit to fit the "desktop look" so that things like file dialogs don't seem out of place when they pop up, but the underlying principles (e.g. large touch targets) would be similar. I imagine only uniquely traditional desktop concepts like multiple windows would need dedicated guidelines. Dec 15, 2014 at 17:48
  • Yes, that's what I plan to do. But the problem is, the same app might be run as a regular desktop app on a big screen and when running on a small tablet screen, it has to change the interface considerably. Currently, there is no API to detect running on a small tablet screen. If the user is to be given control to run it as a touch-centric full screen app or a regular desktop app then that control has to be standardized in the UI. Such guidelines and the API should be coming from Microsoft. For example, run the Windows 8 calculator app on a big screen desktop and you will see what I mean.
    – user173399
    Dec 16, 2014 at 2:09
  • OK, you should make it clear in your question then that you are asking about apps that span both contexts, and not tablet PC-only apps. Dec 16, 2014 at 3:47

1 Answer 1


Here is the closest thing I could find to Windows desktop app UI guidelines for touch interfaces:


From the top of the document:

Fortunately, if your app is already well designed, providing a great touch experience is easy to do. For this purpose, a well-designed program:

  • Ensures most important tasks can be performed efficiently using a finger (at least the tasks that don't involve a lot of typing or detailed pixel manipulation).
  • Uses large controls for touch. Common controls have a minimum size of 23x23 pixels (13x13 DLUs), and the most commonly used controls are at least 40x40 pixels (23x22 DLUs). To avoid unresponsive behavior, UI elements should have at least 5 pixels (3 DLUs) of space between them. For other controls, make sure they have at least a 23x23 pixel (13x13 DLU) click target, even if their static appearance is much smaller. See standard control sizing.
  • Supports Mouse input. The interactive controls have clear, visible affordances. Objects have standard behaviors for the standard mouse interactions (single and double left-click, right-click, drag, and hover).
  • Supports keyboard input. The app provides standard shortcut key assignments, especially for navigation and editing commands that can also be generated through touch gestures.
  • Ensures accessibility. Uses UI Automation or Microsoft Active Accessibility (MSAA) to provide programmatic access to the UI for assistive technologies. The app responds appropriately to orientation, theme, locale, and system metric changes.
  • Eliminates unnecessary interactions. To prevent loss of data or system access, use the safest and most secure default values. If safety and security aren't factors, the app selects the most likely or convenient option. Provides touch equivalent for hover. Don't rely on hover as the only way to perform an action.
  • Ensures gestures take effect immediately. Keep contact points under the user's fingers smoothly throughout the gesture, which provides the effect of the gesture mapping directly to the user's motion.
  • Uses standard gestures whenever possible. Custom gestures only for interactions unique to your app.
  • Ensures undesired or destructive commands can be reversed or corrected. Accidental actions are more likely when using touch.
  • I'm revisiting this issue and yes, this is the most relevant article from Microsoft. Thanks.
    – user173399
    Jan 18, 2017 at 12:55

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