Long before we started swiping and tapping on touch screens, mouse gestures were touted as the humanist way of interacting with our computers. Simple patterns you traced on screen by holding a mouse button in order to perform a shortcut, companies like Opera spent a lot of effort trying to make mouse gestures happen, but it never did, mostly because clicking a button or swiping on a trackpad is always going to be a quicker way to do something on a PC than memorizing and executing an obscure command glyph.
But while mouse gestures make little sense on the PC, it turns out they’re a natural fit on touch-screen devices. ClearView Gestures is an Android app that allows you to launch apps and other system shortcuts just by drawing a symbol on the screen. And I’ve got to admit, it’s such a natural way to interact with a touch screen, I’m sort of amazed it isn’t built right into more mobile operating systems.
In ClearView Gestures first asks you to create the gestures by drawing the shape with your finger, and then can link that gesture to an app, task, or shortcut. By tapping the overlaid ClearView Gestures icon–or, in the Pro version, dragging from the side–and tracing it on the screen, you can call up these gestures at any time. A couple of examples include launching Netflix by drawing a N, calling your significant other by tracing a heart, shutting Wi-Fi on and off by drawing a circle around a W, and so on.
It’s simple, but it really does highlight just how much mouse gestures were a UI innovation ahead of their time. Because it’s cumbersome and longer to draw precise shapes with a mouse, you might as well just click a UI button to do the same task. But on mobile operating systems, drawing shapes with your finger is easy. And in a world where designers are always struggling to optimize screen real estate, physical gestures like this could be a suitable way of offloading UI buttons.
On a systems level, too, gestures are just a natural way of multitasking. All mobile operating systems have struggled to find an intuitive way to allow users to move non-linearly between apps, but the truth is, it’s still an unsolved problem: whether you’re on iOS, Android, or Windows Mobile, the easiest way to move from one app to another is still to go to the home screen first, hunt around for the icon, and tap it. But with gestures, you can just jump between apps directly. It’s such an obvious solution that it’s a wonder the likes of Google and Apple haven’t latched onto it.
Unfortunately, Clearview Gestures is only available on Android. iOS just doesn’t give apps the tools necessary to make this work. If you’ve got an Android device, though, ClearView Gestures is available as a free download here.