Microsoft published a guide on making stylus-free apps, unfortunately not on how to make them pretty

Microsoft has published  a guide by Larry Behrendt , Chief Executive Officer of Medelix Business Services LLC , and Jim Wilson,s president of JW Hedgehog, Inc. on how to create applications that do not require the use of a stylus.


As they explain:

Let’s start with a basic question. Why do we care about “one-handed operation” of mobile software? What’s wrong with requiring our customers to use the stylus? In desktop computing, we have to use a mouse or other pointing device—why avoid the use of a pointing device on a mobile computer?

One answer is that mobile computing has changed. Two years ago, nearly all mobile computing devices were classic PDAs, in the mold of the original Palm Pilot. The original PDAs were strictly point-and-click devices. Today, most mobile devices are “convergent” devices, combining a PDA with a cell phone (and an MP3 player, and a GPS device, and so forth). Some of these devices have keyboards, and some do not. As devices continue to converge, incorporating a stylus-free design in all of your applications provides you with a greater opportunity because devices both with and without touch-screen support are able to run your application.

In my experience, people view these new devices as "smart" cell phones, and they expect to use these devices the way they used their old cell phones—if possible, with one hand, and without using a stylus. Most people hold their phone in one hand, and dial phone numbers by pressing the phone keys with the thumb of that same hand. This allows us to operate the phone with (for example) our left hand, while using our right hand to hold something else: a pen, a steering wheel, whatever.

Unfortunately the guide falls short of describing how to create truly finger-friendly applications, and the result still looks very much Windows 3.1.  Hopefully this important issue will be address by updated controls by Microsoft in the near future.

Read the full guide here.