Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Windows 8 - Sixteenth Pass: Getting used to Using the @Surface

Using the Surface seemed easy enough but there are a few things that take a little getting used to. Like the keyboard.

I purchased the Touch Pro keyboard, the one that has actual keys you can type on as opposed to the soft touch one where the keys are just slightly raised on the cover. I really like it but it did take some getting used to.

First, the layout is different. The Home, End, and Del keys are not where you’d expect them to be and even now, I have to think about where they are. Second, the backspace key isn’t in the top right corner; I’m constantly hitting Del when I am going for Backspace. Third, the touchpad, while nice, isn’t nice and I prefer to use my Bluetooth mouse whenever possible.

The touchpad requires two hands to click and drag and isn’t as tap sensitive as I’d like. It also suffers from the problem that is universal to all touchpads in that if your wrist bumps it your mouse goes places you’d rather it not. I had an old HP laptop many years ago that had a button on the keyboard itself that allowed you to disable the touchpad to avoid wrist bumps. I haven’t seen that on a laptop since.

The other interface feature to get used to is the pen. While the pen is nice, I find that I don’t use it very much at all. Even when using the Surface as a tablet without the keyboard and using the touch screen interface for things I don’t find myself hunting for the pen. Perhaps it’s because I’m used to an iPad, which doesn’t have a pen, but in the case of the Surface, I don’t find it critical to have. Those that draw a lot may want one but for me it isn’t a big deal and the buttons and touch screen apps are large enough that my finger works fine.

The other challenge is where do you store the pen? If you aren’t charging the Surface the pen fits nicely and holds using magnets in the charging port but if you want to charge the Surface and use the pen there is no on board storage and the pen has to be carried, and then probably lost, separately.

A little tip on the pen: to right click press the button on the side and then tap the screen. The button on the side of the pen is the same part that sticks in the charging slot to hold the pen to the side of the Surface.

There is one big drawback to the touch covers, whether the hard one or the soft one – they tend to drop out a lot while in use. Several firmware updates have been released but I’ve noticed the problem continue on mine especially when I’m working on a soft surface, like typing on my lap or in bed. Randomly the touchpad and the keyboard will stop responding. In order to fix it I have to press the Windows key and go back to the start screen. Opening the desktop again usually fixes this. Sometime it happens when I’m working on a hard surface but that’s not as frequent, hopefully due to the firmware updates.

Another fix is to press the keys harder, which makes me wonder about the longevity of their sensitivity. Sometimes that works and sometimes my wife thinks I’m mad at my keyboard.