Formerly available to consumers only when their touch screen computers came with it preinstalled, the Windows 7 Touch Pack bundles six free games and apps into one download. If you have a touch-screen computer but you haven't been quite sure of what it's capable of, this free pack should help point you in the right direction.
The programs are all from Microsoft Surface: Surface Globe will look familiar to fans of Google Maps and Google Earth. You can zoom in and out by double-tapping or using one hand, or two, toggle between satellite and road view, tilt the globe, and search by text. If you get lost, you can either tap the center navigation button to zoom out, or the compass to right yourself. Surface Collage helps arrange a gallery of photos with your fingertips. You can save them as a collage or display them on your Windows desktop. If you've ever made a collage of friends photos, this can be a lot easier than crop, cut, and paste. Surface Lagoon asks you to move your fingers around the water to see how fish react. It's a screensaver, but you can test it out by hitting Preview when you launch it. It's pretty, but it doesn't do much else.
The games are cool, but much of that has to do with the novelty of the touch screen itself. Blackboard challenges you to solve a puzzle by creating your own unique Rube Goldberg-style machine on a blackboard. It uses a schoolroom setting and details charts to follow to advance to the next level, and can get quite complicated as the rounds progress. Garden Pond is a peaceful game that asks you to move an origami shape around a pond by touching the screen to create tiny ripples. Watch out for the candles, since origami and fire tend to not mix well. Rebound prompts you to use your fingertips to move Tesla balls, which respond to touch with an electrical light show. The goal is to try to catapult a game ball into your opponent's goal. You can play this great-looking and somewhat challenging game on your own, or with a friend.
The Microsoft Touch Pack makes the reality of what touch screens are good for a little bit more tangible, and since the pack is free there's no reason not to download it and give it a try.
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