Microsoft Surface Pro: Tablet Mode

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}

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2 Responses to “Microsoft Surface Pro: Tablet Mode”

  1. don says:

    Hey great post. The remapping is exactly what I need for drawing in photoshop. Could you possibly elaborate on your method in SharpKeys, I tried on my own but to no avail.

    Are you using Sharpkeys 3.5?

    In the actual program..what are the names of the volume up and down?

    Much appreciation!

    • mkozakewich says:

      I’m using SharpKeys 2.1.1, but I’m not really using that anymore (except to disable my CapsLock button, which I’ve never used).
      I’m using AutoHotKey, apparently.

      With SharpKeys, you can scroll through the menus for Media: Volume Up and Media: Volume Down. E0_30 and E0_2E, respectively.
      Keep in mind all you can do is remap what key that is.

      In AutoHotKey, you can map a bunch of context-sensitive combinations. In AHK, volume up and volume down can be referred to as SC130 and SC12E, respectively. These are the scancodes for those media buttons. You can find these by opening the AutoHotKey console, pressing Ctrl+K for the key logger (I know, right?), pressing the key you want to change, and then refreshing by pressing F5. The key should show up in that list, including the name, the scancode, and the virtual code.

      You can add code like this:
      SC12E & SC130:: SendEvent ^{Tab}

      That means when you press Volume Down and then Volume Up, it suppresses the keys and instead sends Ctrl+Tab (the ^ is Ctrl, while ! is Alt, + is Shift, and # is Windows).

      You can refer to the Windows key by using something like LWin, which is the left Windows key. The windows logo on the Surface Pro is mapped to LWin.

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