Archive for the 'HP TouchSmart' category

A new all-in-one TouchSmart 4 upgrade tool

October 15, 2011 6:21 pm

[Update 2012-10-18: Since the shutdown of the site on October 15, 2012, I’ve had a request from someone who wanted to download the upgrade tool. So it now has a new, temporary home here on this blog. I’ve published a link for it, which is reported as potentially dangerous (, but the file it points to is the original, digitally signed app. An alternate link is The sad part is that I won’t be able to keep track of download stats easily anymore. Oh well. I know the tool has been relatively successful with around 14000 downloads as of July 6, 2012.]

After much spare-time work, I’ve finally gotten approval to publish a tool that helps you install the TouchSmart 4 software on previous generation hardware. It’s currently available through the site. You can find it here in the downloads section. HP had previously published a similar tool, but pulled it from their website after about a month or so.

This tool is unsupported by HP, so use it at your own risk. It did receive some testing, both by HP and a few customers, so I have reason to believe it will work properly for you. Also, in order to use it, you have to accept the license agreement that is displayed when you first run it.

Why write a blog post about it? I want to give a little detail on what it does in case things don’t go as smoothly as they’re supposed to.

The tool basically does these things in order:

  • Check that all prerequisites for TouchSmart 4 are fulfilled, including hardware checks
  • Installs the Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5 SP1 if needed (a few hosted apps need this)
  • Downloads all officially published softpaqs from the HP support website
  • Installs the Microsoft .NET Framework 4.0 if needed (the TouchSmart “shell” needs this)
  • Installs all downloaded HP TouchSmart 4.0 software components

Should Windows indicate that a reboot is needed “right off the bat”, clicking a corresponding button in the tool will make sure that the tool is automatically restarted after the reboot. The tool will also automatically restart after potentially installing .NET 3.5 SP1 and .NET 4.0. No reboot is necessary after the remainder of the software has finished installing. If User Account Control is enabled on your system, the tool will prompt for permission to run each time it is launched.

Here is a sequence of screenshots that show the tool in action (captions beneath pictures):

Installing .NET 4.0

Installing the TouchSmart 4.0 “shell”

Preparing to install other softpaqs

Removing older versions of Music/Photo/Video apps

Installing softpaqs

Install progress after third softpaq install

Hosted app registration happening during install

Once all software is installed, the tool gives you an opportunity to burn the downloaded file to a DVD, along with the upgrade tool itself. This will speed up install on other systems a little, since installing from DVD may be faster than downloading from the Internet. Most people probably don’t need this DVD, but it may come in handy, should you want to rerun the upgrade in the future (after a system restore, for example.)

All software finished installing

After clicking the button to prepare a DVD

Windows Explorer window opened with files ready to burn to DVD

Notification that files are ready to be burned to DVD using the Windows Explorer window

The only thing I’ve seen go somewhat awry from time to time is that the download of a softpaq may get to a 100%, seemingly, but not finish. I think this might be caused by the server(s) that hosts the downloads, but I’m not sure. Since the tool is written to perform its operations to full completion at each step before going to the next, it may get stuck and not allow you to close it in this situation. Should that happen, you can hold down the Ctrl key on the keyboard while clicking the red button with the little “x” in the upper right corner to close the tool. This will terminate the incomplete download and delete the partially downloaded file. When you run the tool again, the downloads will resume with the not completed download first, and hopefully complete the downloads this time around.

Depending on your Internet connection speed, downloading an installing everything can take several hours, so it’s best to do this when you have that kind of time available.

I hope this tool is useful for some of you.

A brief history of five TouchSmart generations–pioneering ideas for Windows 8

September 26, 2011 10:15 am

A few weeks ago I attended Microsoft’s BUILD conference to get ready for what’s coming in Windows 8. As I was sitting in the first day’s keynotes and big picture sessions, I couldn’t help but think back on the work HP has done with its TouchSmart software and notice areas where the TouchSmart software pioneered ideas that Microsoft is now building into Windows 8 for the new Metro style of programming and the new touch-first Start screen. I decided to dig a little deeper and give you a brief tour of the history of TouchSmart and highlight some of the ideas now in Windows 8 that we put into the TouchSmart software a long time ago. I’ll put a [+Win8] marker by the ideas as I go along. Let’s get started!

TouchSmart 1, aka SmartCenter, aka LaunchPad (January 2007)

The first version of TouchSmart was not called that. It was named SmartCenter and shipped with the very first modern all-in-one touch-enabled PC, the HP TouchSmart IQ770.


This machine was one of the so-called “Dream PCs” for Microsoft’s introduction of Windows Vista in January of 2007. I’ve written about this version of SmartCenter before, so I won’t repeat much of that here.

Touch-first [+Win8]

Of course, the main point of even embarking on a project such as the SmartCenter software was that Windows wasn’t even remotely ready for touch interactions. Every app on the Windows Desktop requires the precision that the mouse pointer provides. Fingers and touch can’t hit the tiny controls accurately enough. So SmartCenter was designed with that in mind, and as a result had large targets all throughout its user interface. Here are some sample screenshots:


Note that all buttons, checkboxes, radio buttons, scrollbars, etc. are large enough to be easily tapped with a finger. Note also that, for example, the on-screen keyboard that is used for entering a ZIP code in the Weather app defaults to the correct layout, i.e. the numeric one.

Live app data in shortcuts [+Win8]

This idea wasn’t really all that new, of course. Snippets of live app data displayed in a mini-view of sorts had been introduced with Windows Sidebar gadgets and other widget-like UIs on other operating systems, but SmartCenter was the first to use live data as part of the shortcut that launches an app. You could say the shortcuts were more like mini-versions of the full app. Live data is of course hard to demo with screenshots, so here is a small video clip of the SmartCenter home screen (or start screen, if you will), showing shortcuts that update their information as time passes:

This major version of the SmartCenter software was delivered with four total releases: 1.0, 1.1, 1.2, and 1.4. Towards the final delivery of version 1.0, it became clear that a standardized way of getting the live information from the apps was needed. This became a major area of investigation and investment for the next major version of the software.


TouchSmart 2 (June 2008)

The second generation of TouchSmart software, 2.x, was introduced with IQ500/IQ800 series hardware. These two hardware models marked the beginning of the monitor-like appearance of the TouchSmart PCs. The IQ770 was a “multi-volume” chassis – these new models had a “single volume” design, supported by the “easel” style feet that were used in the follow-on generation as well.


The 2.x series of software was released in three versions: 2.0, 2.5 and 2.8.

Fixed layouts for apps [+Win8]

With SmartCenter 2.0, we introduced the concept of fixed sized layouts for the TouchSmart apps. We initially picked three: small, medium and large. You can see two of the three illustrated by this screenshot:


The Tutorials, Canvas and Calendar apps are shown in medium size, while the remaining apps are shown in small size. By tapping on an app, you would go to the large size:


This layout is purposely not called full screen, since there is a reserved area at the top of the screen for navigation, app name/time and music playback controls.

Tiles concept [+Win8]

In order to make it clear that the app representations in SmartCenter were not just icons, we decided to call them tiles, or rather “live tiles.” This term was used in the developer documentation that was produced to help other people plug their apps into SmartCenter, and so we had “small tiles,” “medium tiles” and “large tiles.” For each tile size we gave guidance about how to use it appropriately. We introduced the term “layouts” to suggest that each tile size should use a different layout of basically the same content or information. As you notice from the screenshots above, when the Weather tile is small, it shows only basic information. In the large tile, the information is more full-featured and also provides access to settings for the Weather app. The medium tile for Weather looks like this:


As you can see, this layout for Weather includes only the current conditions and the forecast for the day.

With TouchSmart 2.0, a big investment was made to produce media consumption applications: Music, Video and Photo (often shortened to “MVP”) as well as a WebCam and DVD app. The screenshot above shows other apps that were published later (Netflix and Recipe Box, for example), but that just goes to show that following development guidelines has benefits: newer apps can work with older SmartCenter versions…

Other changes from the 1.0 version include the top and bottom row of “tile scrollers” and the music playback control set (aka. “media plate”) that I already mentioned. The tile scrollers had two different behaviors, depending on how full they were. If enough tiles were present, the scroller would become an infinitely looping container. If not enough tiles were present, it would have “snap-to” endpoints.

The TouchSmart 2.0 software was unveiled at a big press event in Berlin, Germany. Several of my colleagues were invited to attend to make sure everything went smoothly from a technical perspective. The most nerve-wracking part was that the TouchSmart IQ500 was to come out of a pedestal on stage after sitting inside said pedestal for an extended period of time before its unveiling. People were not sure the thermals were designed to handle as little exchange of air as this posed. Here’s a video from the introduction to give you a better idea of what I’m talking about (skip towards 1:18 or so to see the pedestal and the TouchSmart lifting out of it):

As you can see, everything worked out pretty well. This was the biggest introduction ever made for a TouchSmart PC line. No event after that had that much effort put into it.


TouchSmart 3 (October 2009)

With the third generation of SmartCenter, we piggybacked onto the 600/300 series of hardware. The enclosures still used the easel stand design with three feet for support, and the exterior was tweaked a bit along with the screen aspect ratio (now 16:9 instead of 16:10).


Generally, though the concept was largely the same, except for the software. A big investment was made to produce more apps for the TouchSmart software suite, and this brought us apps like Canvas, Twitter, Hulu, Live TV, Link, Movie Store, Recipe Box and a bunch of others. The TouchSmart software development guidelines were augmented with more of a proper SDK with app samples, installer samples and more guidance.

New layout

SmartCenter 3.0 introduced another layout that we called wide-interactive. You see, in SmartCenter 2.x there was no way to interact with the medium sized tiles in the upper tile scroller (except for in the browser, but that’s a small detail). In this version we wanted to provide interaction with the app in the upper scroller. In order to do that properly we needed a bigger size tile and a new layout to have enough space for interaction to make sense. Here’s a screenshot of 3.0 (running on a 16:10 screen, not the aspect ratio it was designed for – so circular elements are “squished”):


In SmartCenter 3.0 the touch scrollers no longer “looped” infinitely, but each had a “snap to” end regardless of how many tiles were present; each wide-interactive tile was given a colored title bar to add a little splash of variety and visual interest. In addition, the “media plate” and other control elements on the home screen were redesigned to appear a bit lighter than before. Also, standard button glyphs were introduced for closing and minimizing SmartCenter. Oh, and the clock was moved around and given a day of the week display. Phew – at least the Personalize button stayed almost in place…

The final big change was that tiles in the bottom scroller no longer used the small layout. They were simply icons to launch the app into large layout directly. This was done to improve performance and load less stuff at the startup of SmartCenter.


TouchSmart 4 (September 2010)

Okay, so here we are, almost at the last chapter of this brief history (which is turning out not so brief after all…) TouchSmart 4.0 was introduced with the TouchSmart 310 (and 610) series of hardware. These departed from the easel-type stand and went to a single-foot design (I know there’s a better term for it, I just can’t think of it at the moment).


TouchSmart 4 didn’t see much investment in new apps, but focused on new capabilities provided by the SmartCenter framework.

Infinite Canvas [+Win8, sort of, on the Metro Start screen]

A major goal of the SmartCenter framework software had been to provide an almost limitless space for apps to live in. With SmartCenter 4.0 that goal was finally realized. Not only did the framework provide for an infinitely expanding space for hosted apps to live in, it also did away with the upper tile scroller and let the apps be positioned freely on the canvas. This is what TouchSmart 4.0 looks like after initial startup:


And once again, things were moved around on screen: The clock from lower left to lower right (and it was given a function: click to show a mini-calendar), personalize from lower right to lower left (and the word personalize removed). The “media plate” music playback controls were removed and put into the music app instead. The volume control was separated out from the media plate and put in the upper left. The bottom carousel was redesigned and had the infinite looping re-introduced (to allow for a bit of visual and interactive playfulness). Tapping a tile launches the corresponding app:


Apps can be moved around freely and the carousel shows a colored highlight for each running app:


If you look at the above shot closely, you’ll notice the Weather app in what looks like another layout. What’s happening there is not a new layout, though. It’s simply the wide-interactive layout, shrunk down to an “inactive” size. Thus we called it “shrunk layout” or “shrunk view”.

The button next to personalize in the lower left can be used if the app you’re looking for in the carousel is hard to find: QuickLaunch is sorted alphabetically:


Parallax background [+Win8, sort of, on the Metro Start screen]

Scrolling the canvas (or panning it, if you prefer) is done by grabbing empty space (with mouse or touch) and moving from side to side. To add a little visual interest to this, and to demonstrate the departure from the 3.0 tile scrollers, we added a parallax effect to the background to give you the illusion of looking into the distance on your screen. Several sets of parallax backgrounds were developed for variety’s sake, to be picked in the personalize area.


Another major feature of SmartCenter 4.0 was the introduction of something we called “magnets”. These represent active content that originally came either from an app or from SmartCenter itself (in the case of Graffiti magnets). Magnets eliminate the need to start an app when you want to enjoy a favorite piece of content, be it a photo, video or some music you want to keep handy for quick enjoyment. Here are a few magnets placed on the canvas (they can be “pinned” so they always stay visible or “unpinned” to scroll with the canvas):


Here’s what it looks like after panning a bit (while playing the fireplace video):


You can see the pinned magnets haven’t moved and the background looks slightly different (the islands have moved at different paces to give the illusion of depth as they’re moving).

Okay, let’s see what it looks like in action:


TouchSmart 5 (September 2011)

And that brings us to the latest generation of SmartCenter (as of this date), i.e. 5.0. This version of the TouchSmart framework software was brought to market with the just recently introduced 520/420/320 series of TouchSmart PCs. The exterior of the machines has been updated once more to keep up with design trends, but otherwise the single-volume enclosure is still the chosen form.


Integration of Windows apps, desktop icons

The biggest change in SmartCenter 5.0 regards the blending of the two environments that were previously separated: SmartCenter and the Windows Desktop. This means you no longer need to exit the SmartCenter environment when you want to run Windows apps. Here’s a screenshot of SmartCenter 5.0:


Note that the Windows 7 taskbar is fully visible and that you can use it for launching apps and seeing what apps are running. The SmartCenter app carousel now has the icon highlight turned on permanently and only shows a short animated starburst as an app is launched. You also see all your desktop icons represented on the SmartCenter canvas. As you can see, the magnets overlap the desktop icons, which can be a bit of a clutter issue. No worries, you can turn off the desktop icons via Settings, if you don’t like them on the canvas. Or you can rearrange your magnets so they occupy different space:


In general, SmartCenter 5.0 attempts to bring the touch-first environment of past generations together with the traditional, mouse-centric desktop. That’s a value-proposition you don’t have in Windows 8, which is most likely not available until sometime in late 2012 anyway…

Automatic panning/scrolling

One additional thing SmartCenter 5.0 does is automatic panning of the canvas/desktop whenever an app is launched. This removes the need for you to have to rearrange app windows frequently when you want to switch from one app to another. The canvas pans automatically to make more room for every app you start. To return to an app, you just click on it in the taskbar or the app carousel. Another video might explain it a bit better:

This behavior can be turned off in Settings as well, in case it’s not useful to you. There are many, many areas that I haven’t touched on in this post, such as all the personalization and customization aspects that SmartCenter contains and how they changed over time. Or the fact that you can make your own parallax backgrounds (not documented anywhere, unfortunately, but pretty easy to figure out for enterprising souls). Or the easter eggs, oh yes…

Let me make some general remarks about the last four generations of SmartCenter: Any apps written to observe the guidelines of SmartCenter 2.0 are able to run on SmartCenter 2.0 through 5.0. A nice compatibility feature. Of course, older versions of apps needed updates as new SmartCenter functionality was introduced (or removed, as with the media plate removal in 4.0), but as you’ve seen, the Netflix app (which was published with SmartCenter 3.0) runs just fine in SmartCenter 2.0 and 5.0 as well. What’s more, if you know what you’re doing, you can have all the versions of SmartCenter 2.0 – 5.0 running on the same system. That’s how I was able to collect screenshots and videos for this post. Oh, and the technology underlying all these versions of SmartCenter is Microsoft’s Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF), 3.0, 3.5, and 4.0. The various apps were written in anything from compiled-to-native-code-Python to WPF to Adobe Flash. The software development process used since about SmartCenter 2.5 is anchored in Scrum, an Agile software development framework.

This concludes my brief history of the TouchSmart software. As you have seen, Windows 8 definitely picked up a lot of the features that the SmartCenter framework pioneered: Live tiles, fixed layout sizes for apps, parallax scrolling with an expandable space and touch-first design. Until Windows 8 is available, the TouchSmart 5.0 software suite is most likely the best alternative for touch – combined with new thinking on how to add something more to the the desktop environment – that you’ll find on an all-in-one PC anywhere.

TouchSmart 610 launch mentions around the web

February 7, 2011 2:59 pm

Same software (TouchSmart 4.0), totally new hardware…

touchsmart2.jpgPotential placements for the sliding HP TouchSmart screen



Seattle Times:










EWeek slideshow:

Yeah, vanity post.

A roundup of news about the new HP TouchSmart 310 and the HP TouchSmart 4.0 software

September 20, 2010 10:16 pm

[Update 2010-09-22: A few more unique mentions have come in; see links and quotes below marked [Update] ]

Only a little vanity post; a collection of links to stories and other potentially interesting tidbits.HP's new TouchSmart 310 all-in-one features a new design and updated TouchSmart software.

These were some of the first mentions of the HP TouchSmart 310 with HP TouchSmart 4.0 software, unveiled on September 20, 2010.

Most of these have no real reviews yet, they just “wordsmith” the press release or other people’s “wordsmithing”. But that won’t stop me from highlighting “good stuff”.


The new case is graceful enough, and the $699 starting price for its low-end AMD CPU and 20-inch display is fair, but the biggest news for this new all-in-one may lie in its software. [My emphasis]

First, HP has tweaked the main TouchSmart software interface to streamline the way you access and organize media and applications using touch. In addition to organizing applications in a carousel layout, now you can also "pin" apps and individual media files to a more dynamic background featuring various parallax-animated environments. HP says this design lets you organize your touch software in a more natural manner, akin to how you might organize a desk.

In addition to the new background, HP has also updated the specific touch applications to the TouchSmart suite, most impressively with a new Marvel Comics streaming service, from which you can buy touch versions of more than 8,000 titles from the Marvel library. That number dwarfs the 500 Marvel titles available from Apple’s iPad application. The Marvel app and the entire TouchSmart suite, dubbed TouchSmart 4.0, will also be available for download by owners of current TouchSmart all-in-ones.

Hot Hardware:


ZDNet “The Toy Box”:


The latest software transforms a user’s boring Windows desktop into a “magic canvas,” which appears to be an overlay on top of the computer screen. You swipe your hand across the display to move the transparent overlay. You can drag applications, music, photos, videos and other web content directly onto the overlay. HP refers to these objects as “magnets” since they are just like the magnets you put on your refrigerator with notes attached to them. You can pick multilayered wallpapers to bring the illusion of 3D depth perception to a screen. You can also browse through material via the carousel at the bottom of the screen — all with the touch of a finger.

You can use existing TouchSmart apps such as Twitter, Hulu, Netflix, Recipe Box and the HP Music Store powered by Rhapsody. All of those apps can be started and used via finger taps on the touchscreen. You can use the webcam to film a personalized video message and post it directly to your friend’s Facebook wall.

The HP TouchSmart Apps Center has a small collection of apps available now. You can access them via a TouchSmart Carousel. Some of the apps contain a lot of content, such as the Marvel Comics app and the Cartoon Network app. The Marvel app gives you access to more than 8,000 comics. You can tap on them and read them page by page on a a beautiful high-definition display. The Cartoon Network app offers news updates on shows and characters.

PC Magazine:,2817,2369352,00.asp

The TouchSmart interface is much more advanced than the competition, including Sony, MSI, and Gateway.

TG Daily:

HP has rebuilt its TouchSmart software for the 310 model, making it easier to organize and play back media from the touchscreen, as well as adding enhanced everyday computer applications as well. When the first TouchSmart computer debuted, its touchscreen technology was more of a novelty than anything else. Since then, gadgets like the iPad have made touch more relevant and important than ever, and have shown everyone that it can be a powerful computing tool.

Also added with the new TouchSmart announcement is a deal between HP and Disney to offer digital Marvel comics. TouchSmart users will now be able to stream special versions of classic comics, and then literally thumb through them with on-screen controls. More than 8,000 Marvel titles are available, which HP says is the most extensive digital collection ever offered from any content partner.

HP is also launching a new "app store" interface for touchscreen programs and games, making it easier for developers and consumers to take advantage of the PC’s touch capabilities.

Existing TouchSmart users will also have access to this and the other enhancements being made for the 310, with the release of a sweeping software upgrade. TouchSmart 4.0 will be downloadable for anyone who owns a legacy TouchSmart computer from HP.



Geeky Gadgets:



Digital Trends:

IC Tech News:

Chip Chick:

Product Reviews:

Financial Times:

Engadget: [Love all the trolling and spewing of prejudices on this one…]




The Touchsmart’s UI is much more fluid and touch applications are no longer required to run in full screen, offering a little breathing room.The Touchsmart’s UI is much more fluid and touch applications are no longer required to run in full screen, offering a little breathing room.


The new revision of the software looks like a big improvement compared to what’s on my TouchSmart 600xt, which my wife and I use as our bedroom PC.

eWeek (with Slideshow):

Tom’s Hardware:,11332.html


HP has what appears to be an ingenious solution. After a program is launched, a couple of fingers swivelling across the screen automatically shrink the application into a cube and paste it onto the TouchSmart’s background. The background itself can then be scrolled through, just by touching it anywhere on the screen.

One really cool aspect of engineering the software like this is the parallax effect that HP added to the wallpaper. As you scroll through the desktop, items in the foreground move at a different rate relative to items in the background.

While we didn’t see it demonstrated, an HP rep also mentioned that the TouchSmart will ship with software to generate these movable backgrounds with pictures that customers take. The effect won’t be as strong as the ones included by HP, but being able to customize it even that much is a nice bonus.

Windows Experience Blog:

To couple the new hardware, HP is revving their TouchSmart software to offer a number of new capabilities.  They’re saying that with it, the desktop transforms into a “Magic Canvas” where users can easily drag apps, and content – even web content – directly onto the desktop.  There’s also a new multi-layer wallpaper that gives the machine a lot of depth.  I haven’t had a chance to work with these new features directly, but I have seen a demo and it looks really nice.


A little promo video of the new TouchSmart 4.0 software:


Product Marketing Manager Ken Bosley presenting the TouchSmart 4.0 software on YouTube:


The HP Video channel with tutorials:


For developers:

TouchSmart 4.0 SDK:

And I may have some details to add myself if and when I find the time…