The multi-button mouse and keyboard combination has become so ubiquitous that sometimes we can’t imagine how to accomplish something on a similar but different interface. Selecting text in the n900 browser was one such problem for me. It’s not that the “gesture” language of newer tablets is completely new. Palm (again I refer back to the spiritual grandfather) had a whole language of gestures to enter text.
The problem seems simple, yet frustrating. In the n900’s browser, the touch of the screen is either going to select a link or scroll the web page. In other n900 applications, a double touch can sometimes select text — this seems to very occaisionally work on the browser, but more often, the double touch performs a zoom function. Also, shift + left or shift + right can extend or shorten the existing selection — but this is only useful once you have a selection.
After reading several web pages on the subject … which added unhelpful information (such as CTRL-I being a substitute for TAB), I finally got a hint as to the gesture. Going from off screen to on screen with your finger from the left brings up the browser history (as little rendered shrunk windows). This is very slick. It was only slightly afterward that I tried off screen to on screen from the right. This enables a mode where you can select (rather than scroll) with the finger/stylus.
Gestures seem underutilized on the n900. Shaking the device apparently produces an event, but it’s not used anywhere that I can see. Also, only a few applications tilt (mainly the phone/camera/picture viewer).