You don’t have to wait for the Apple iPad to arrive to have a touchscreen computer. There are plenty of products available right now – and some of them at very reasonable prices.

More than anything, touchscreen technology offers convenience. Touchscreen tablets allow you to walk around with your PC, using one hand to hold your computer and the other to control it and input information. They’re great for industrial applications, for floor managers and mobile workers who need their PCs at the ready at all times; but they’re also useful in the home.

They make great eBook readers and portable media players, for example, and are much more convenient if you want to use your notebook in bed. And when you need a regular notebook, all the tablets currently on the market have convertible screens that will lift and swivel to reveal a keyboard, making the tablet look and work just like a regular notebook (though this may change once the keyboardless iPad is released).

Touchscreen desktops, meanwhile, provide you with a much more natural way of interacting with your computer. They’re great for design work, but also for family rooms and children, for viewing images and launching applications by pointing at them rather than tracking down an icon with a mouse. Many touchscreen computers also come with voice commands, further changing the way you interact with your PC.

Multi-touch

One thing that we’d strongly recommend looking for is a touchscreen that supports multi-touch. Multi-touch is a feature that allows you to put several fingers (or other pointers) on the screen at once, and the screen will register them all. This allows for “gestures”, a new way of controlling what’s in the screen. Moving the fingers apart from each other can be used to enlarge an image, for example, or rotating them together (like turning a wheel) can cause the image to rotate.

Windows 7 has integral support for multi-touch, and it really is your go-to operating system for touchscreen PCs. It supports gestures, you can scroll up and down by simply dragging your fingers on the screen, it has bigger buttons for touchscreen use and has a much better onscreen keyboard for use in tablet mode. If your touch screen PC comes with an older operating system, we’d recommend asking for an upgrade.

Making your current PC a touch PC

As an alternative to throwing out your current PC for a touchscreen PC, you can just replace your monitor. Touchscreen monitors have become quite affordable now, with vendors such as Dell selling 21.5 inch (55cm) multi-touch monitors for less than $450 now. Of course, you won’t get the neat all-in-one design that many touchscreen desktops have, and though you can attach them to the display port on a notebook, they won’t do you much good when you’re on the road.