Notebooks Guide

10 Tips & Tricks for Microsoft Surface Pro & RT Tablets

10 Tips & Tricks for Microsoft Surface Pro & RT Tablets


Tips & Tricks for Your Microsoft Surface - 2

6. Connecting the Cover or Power Tip the Other Way Round

 

The power and accessory ports on the Surface tablets snap on to the charger tip and the keyboard cover respectively securely thanks to the use of magnets. One little known fact is that you can connect them the other way round. So, if you don’t like the feel of your fingers touching the Type Cover’s keys when you flip it over to the back of the Surface, you can detach the cover and attach it the other way round. This way, when you’re holding the tablet, your fingers will be touching the back of the cover instead.

The same goes for the power tip. Especially for the Surface Pro where its mini DisplayPort terminal is located right below the power port, space can get a bit tight when both terminals are used. In this case, the workaround is to connect the power cable tip upside down, so that the cable runs out from the top instead. Don’t worry, it still charges and powers the tablet just fine; the only caveat is that you now can’t see the LED power indicator on the connector.

 

 

7. Using the 24W Charger as a Travel Charger for the Surface Pro

 

The Surface RT comes with a small 24W wall wart-type AC adapter (pictured above), while the Surface Pro's 48W power supply consists of a power brick and a detachable AC cord. The latter also comes with a USB port, which is handy for charging a USB device, such as your smartphone. Here are a few pointers for those thinking of getting an extra power supply, be it for the office, for home, or for your travels.

  1. The 48W power supply (S$118) can be used to charge the Surface RT. However, it doesn't charge the tablet any faster than the 24W power supply (about two to three hours). So, unless you really need that built-in USB port, Surface RT users looking to buy a spare power supply should just stick with the 24W one.
  2. The 24W power supply (S$58) can be used to charge the Surface Pro, albeit slightly slower than the 48W one. In our experience, unless the tablet is engaged in intensive tasks, the 24W charger is able to maintain the charge of an in-use Surface Pro. Even if the battery level dips, when the heavy-duty task is completed, the 24W charger is able to top up the charge again. Expectedly, it works very well as an overnight charger. Considering its compact size and comparatively more affordable price, if you're looking for an additional power supply for your Surface Pro (especially to bring it on the road), the 24W power supply is ideal.

 

 

8. Take Control of the Type & Touch Covers' Trackpad

 

Both the Touch and Type Covers have a trackpad that you can use like a mouse; you know, just like any notebook trackpad. The biggest difference between the two covers' trackpads is that the Type Cover's trackpad buttons click when you press them, whereas the Touch Cover's don't move at all. If you want more control over either cover's trackpad (such as turning it on or off, enabling/disabling tap gestures (e.g.: using one finger to left-click, two fingers to right-click, and tap and slide your finger to select text), two-finger scrolling, and changing scrolling direction, you'll need the Trackpad Settings app from the Windows Store.

  1. Open the Store app, and use the Search charm to search for trackpad settings.
  2. Tap or click Trackpad Settings; then tap or click Install.

Note: If the app doesn't recognize your cover, make sure that you've the latest app updates, and Surface and Windows updates. Refresh your list of devices and printers a few times too before trying the app again. Detailed troubleshooting steps by Microsoft can be found here.

 

 

9. Use Wacom's Driver to Enable Surface Pro Pen Pressure Sensitivity in Photoshop & Other Apps

 

Long story short: While the Surface Pro comes with a digital pen that supports 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity, because it doesn't come with a Wacom Wintab driver, unless an app supports the new Windows inbox drivers or Ink APIs, the pressure feature won’t work. This affects several applications that rely on the Wintab API, such as Photoshop and Corel Painter.

The good news is Wacom has recently released a Wintab driver (named TABLET PC – Enhanced Tablet Driver 7.1.1-12) on its website that works on the Surface Pro. In addition to pen tip pressure, it enables the setting of the side switch of the pen for alternative settings, such as to popup the input panel. We've not seen this driver on Windows Update yet, so make sure you head over to Wacom's website to get it (or use this direct download link).

 

 

10. Fit More Stuff on the Surface Pro Desktop & Fix Weird Scaling in Apps or Games

 

The Surface Pro ships with desktop scaling set at 150%. This is to make UI elements and text bigger, and thus easier to touch and read on the tablet’s high-res but small screen. In fact, the Surface Pro's desktop mode looks very similar to Surface RT's desktop mode - so much so it's easy to mistaken both screens for having the same resolution. To make full use of the Surface Pro's 1080p screen to fit more stuff and to prevent the elements from looking comically large when you hookup the Surface Pro to an external large-screen monitor, you can change desktop scaling back to 100%.

  1. Use the Search charm and search for display.
  2. Under Settings, from the search results, tap or click Display.
  3. Choose the Smaller - 100% scale factor option. Sign out and back in for the change to take effect.

Of course, the downside to this is that since everything now appears smaller, this could be very straining for the eyes. To keep text big enough to be read comfortably, you can go to the same Display settings panel and change only the text size for specific items, such as title bars, menus, and icons.

If you prefer to keep desktop scaling at 150%, and find that this results in some apps or games not scaling or behaving properly (blur text/images, mouse not working), you can disable scaling on a per app basis. Simply right-click on the app icon, choose Properties from the context menu, select the Compatibility tab, and check Disable display scaling on high DPI settings.

 

 

Bonus Tip: Update, Update, Update!

 

Here's a bonus tip. Since the release of Windows 8/RT and the two Surface tablets, Microsoft has been diligently releasing software and firmware updates to add new features and solve reported problems. So far, we’ve had six updates for Surface RT, and three for Surface Pro, fixing problems from audio and Wi-Fi connection issues to improving Type and Touch cover typing and trackpad performances. And there were also countless of updates to the Windows 8/RT built-in apps, like Mail, People and Calendar apps. Thanks to all these updates, the Surface tablets of today are far more useful and free of problems than they were during launch. By default, updates are installed automatically, but you can also manually check and install them.

  1. Swipe in from the right edge to bring up the Charms bar, and select the Settings charm.
  2. Tap or click Change PC settings.
  3. Under PC settings, tap or click Windows Update.
  4. Tap or click Check for Updates.