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Touchscreen computers are becoming more and more common but what are the pros and cons of this new technology and is it here to stay?

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With the latest operating systems like Windows 8 being designed for touchscreen operation, the spread of PCs that use the technology is increasing. But why would you want to choose a touchscreen over a mouse and keyboard? And what are the disadvantages of using the technology?

Depending on who you ask, a touchscreen PC is either the best thing since computers were invented or they’ll never catch on. Of course neither view is entirely right or wrong. Whether it’s a technology that will work for you depends on how you’re going to use the system.

What’s Bad?

Companies like Distec supply a variety or touchscreen systems. So why might you not want to use one? Well, if you’re sitting at a desk, then unless you have arms like an orang-utan using a touchscreen for long periods is going to be uncomfortable. However, that’s not really a problem in practice. Most times you’re going to need to tap or swipe the screen, but you’ll then switch back to the keyboard or mouse to continue working. You won’t be perpetually holding your arm out like a shop dummy.

Another thing that might put you off is that the screen is going to be constantly smeared with fingerprints. These are already a problem with smartphones and tablets and they don’t seem to put us off, so they probably won’t be too much of an issue for PCs either.

Touchscreens tend to be a little thicker than normal flatscreen monitors, but in most applications that isn’t too much of a problem. You’ll barely notice it if the screen is wall-mounted for example.

What’s Good?

Once you get used to it, using a touchscreen is a quick and easy way to interact with a computer. It’s intuitive since you’re dealing directly with the elements on the screen rather than having to manipulate them remotely, no wonder the technology is increasingly used in self-service applications.

Because the screen can be mounted on a wall it can save space in areas like production lines where access to the computer is necessary but secondary to the main operation.

The latest software is increasingly designed for and optimised towards touch operation, with chunky icons that make it easy to use. If you need more accuracy then there’s often the option of pen or stylus operation instead.

Touchscreen is particularly popular for systems used by the general public to provide interactive information or services, these include:

* Customer service kiosks
* Self-service checkouts
* Healthcare applications
* Museum displays
* Exhibition stands

Whether we like it or not, touchscreen computers are likely to be here to stay. On ordinary PCs they simply provide another way to interact with the machine. In more specialist applications they offer a streamlined means of providing services in such a way that the end user may not even realise that they’re using a computer at all.

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