File Under: Browsers, Web Standards

Give the Web the Finger With Microsoft’s Proposed ‘Pointer Events’

The proposed Pointer Events spec makes it easier to handle input from fingers, pens. Image: W3C.

The W3C recently moved Microsoft’s proposed Pointer Events spec to Last Call Working Draft. To help developers get up to speed, the IEBlog has published an overview of Pointer Events.

Microsoft has even helped to create a build of WebKit with experimental support for Pointer Events (for those not using Windows 8 or who’d prefer not to test in IE 10).

The goal of the Pointer Events spec is to provide a unified model for dealing with all the various input devices on today’s web, namely, the mouse, the stylus and the finger.

Pointer Events handle the various ways a user might be interacting with your site without requiring you to write unique code for each input method.

Currently most browsers register any input as a mouse event, even when it obviously is not (as is the case for most mobile browsers). It works, but it’s what you might call a blunt approach. Pointer Events adds some finesse to the equation, including details like the touch contact geometry size, the pressure applied or the tilt angle of a pen.

If you’d like to get your hands dirty with Pointer Events, either fire up IE 10 or download the experimental WebKit build and head on over to the W3C’s Web Platform docs. Microsoft’s Rob Dolin has a great overview tutorial with basic examples on how to get started. Also be sure to watch the video below from the recent W3Conf; Jacob Rossi, IE Program Manager gives a nice overview of Pointer Events and what you can do with them.

Right now only IE 10 supports Pointer Events, but Microsoft’s David Catuhe has developed a JavaScript polyfill, called HandJS, to support Pointer Events in browsers that don’t yet offer native support. Kudos to Microsoft for not just bringing pointer events to the W3C, but for working to add support to a competing browser and creating a polyfill for the rest.