Archive for April, 2013

Microsoft Surface Pro: Tablet Mode

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

I’ve reviewed Microsoft’s Surface Pro and how I feel about Windows 8, the Surface Pro hardware, and the type cover. I bought it for laptop use, and so I never much used it as a tablet. It’s been a couple months, and so I’ve gotten enough experience to discuss how I use it without the keyboard.

Windows 8 and the RT environment is designed around touch, so everything in that part of Windows 8 works without a hitch when it comes to tablet use. This is a full Windows device, though, and so I wanted to touch (ha!) on the things I do when I’m on the desktop.

I rarely have a problem with media. VLC uses a double-tap on the picture to go full-screen, and they’ve got a touchable volume dial and seeker.

I’m the type of person who’ll open a bunch of tabs in my browser and switch between them. Sometimes I need to close them, and sometimes I want to go back to a previous one, and sometimes I want to skip the current one to go to the next. On a keyboard, you can press Ctrl+Tab (or Shift+Ctrl+Tab for reverse) to cycle through open tabs, and Alt+Tab (or Shift+Alt+Tab for reverse) to cycle through open programs. Obviously, this is a bit difficult when there’s no keyboard, and so I rely on having my taskbar visible and having tabs easily clickable in my programs.

I often view my browser in full-screen mode, to get the most out of my screen area. As dense as this screen is, it’s still only 10.5 inches diagonally, so I usually increase the size of the text to fit the full size of the window. In a good browser, I’d be able to pinch and zoom, but in Chrome that doesn’t seem to be an option. I’m honestly thinking of changing, but until then I need to use the Ctrl key with either – or + to decrease or increase the size of my pages.
I also need the F11 key to pop out of full-screen mode, unless I want to fiddle with the edge of the screen to end it or swipe-tap-tap-tap-wait-tap-tap to call the keyboard and press F11. I’d like to be in full-screen mode to browse, but there’s no way to switch between tabs easily.

So now, the fixes!
I wrote earlier about using a program called SharpKeys to change some scan codes and remap my keyboard, but there were things I couldn’t do. I just installed AutoHotkey, which allows me to work with keyboard shortcuts of up to two keys or one key and any modifiers.
Also, as it turns out, I don’t really use SharpKeys anymore. Microsoft rolled out an update to fix all the function keys, and so now they work on their own.

I found out that the charms keys—search, share, devices, and settings—were Alt+Win+F21, Ctrl+Win+F21, Shift+Win+F21, and Win+F21, respectively. (Yeah, I know, F21?) I had remapped those keyboard combos to F5-F8, but I don’t need to anymore. Still, the more you know.

As I was trying to get F1-F4 back, which are media keys, I found something really interesting: the volume rocker on the tablet itself uses the same scancodes as the volume-up and volume-down buttons on my keyboard, and I could remap them. Then I had a flash of brilliance and realized I could map the Volume-up + Volume-down and Volume-down + Volume-up combos, as well as combinations of either volume button and the windows button, either direction. I essentially have eight possible combinations.

For the ease of use, I mapped Volume-up to Ctrl+Tab and Volume-down to Shift+Ctrl+Tab, so I can use that to quickly browse through tabs or open documents.
Pressing Volume-down and then Volume-up refreshes my current page, and Volume-up then Volume-down closes the tab I’m on.
The tablet’s Start button takes me in or out of full-screen mode.
Using the Start button with the volume rocker can be annoying, so I’ve mapped them to less-used functions; namely, zooming the page in or out.
I did some stuff with the volume buttons + Left-click, so I could hover over links or right-click easily (it’s really annoying to do on Chrome).

I can make several scripts to load for different purposes, so I could have one specifically for photo editing, or one for text-editing. I could probably even add some functions for certain games, so I can play them without the keyboard.

My code for Chrome is as follows:
SetTitleMatchMode 2
#IfWinActive ahk_classChrome_WidgetWin_1
!SC12E:: SendEvent {VKAESC12E}
!SC130:: SendEvent {VKAFSC130}
SC130:: SendEvent ^{Tab}
SC12E:: SendEvent ^+{Tab}
SC130 & LButton:: MouseMove, 4, 4, 1, R
SC12E & LButton:: SendEvent {RButton}
SC130 & RButton:: SendEvent {MButton}
SC12E & RButton:: SendEvent ^{0}
SC130 & SC12E:: SendEvent ^{F4}
SC12E & SC130::SendEvent {F5}
LWin:: SendEvent {F11}
LWin & Space::SendEvent {LWin}
*F14:: SendEvent ^{=}
*F15:: SendEvent ^{-}
RButton & SC12E:: SendEvent !{Left}
RButton & SC130:: SendEvent !{Right}
RButton & LWin:: SendEvent {RButton}