10 Cool things to do with your Surface

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I’ve had a few Microsoft Surface Devices over the last two years:

  • Surface RT
  • Surface Pro
  • Surface 2
  • Surface Pro 3 i7

We also have multiple iOS and Android devices in our household.

I’ve typically tried to use the device as much as possible but found it was at best a companion device and at worst less efficient than alternatives (Windows laptop or iOS tablet) for the specific use case.

I had high hopes for the Surface Pro 3. The screen size and keyboard dimensions were very close to my vintage Dell Latitude e6220 i7. I was truly hoping to be able to replace the Dell as my primary device. My first impressions were less than stellar. I had two major issues with my pre-ordered device:

  1. Wi-Fi would remember the last connected network and show it as connected even if I was in a different location and couldn’t possibly connect to it – and of course the connection did not work. I had to restart the wireless every time I changed location to connect to the new location.
  2. The fan would come on with minimal workloads and the sound was very noticeable and the tone was bothersome. I couldn’t bring this into a meeting to take notes as it would be disruptive.

Many early adopters had similar issues. I was disappointed to say the least. This is supposed to be a flagship device and my initial experience was very negative.

In September, Microsoft exchanged my device (Lot 1429) with a newer device (Lot 1431). The replacement did not suffer from these issues.

In the last month a lot has changed. My Surface has become my single most used device after my phone. My i7 laptop hasn’t been turned on for normal use since September. I did have Windows 10 Preview installed on it but I haven’t used it for anything other than tinkering. This weekend my son noticed that the iPad wasn’t charged as it hadn’t been used in weeks.

I really can use it just about anywhere. I can work in very tight spaces like an economy class airline seat and get work done. In fact I have written the all of my blog posts since Labour Day on it. Many of them have started on the go and been finished back in the dock with the full sized keyboard and some have been written entirely with the Surface keyboard. The keyboard is much better than previous versions and the infinitely adjustable kickstand makes it easier to find a comfortable viewing and working position. I have even found myself hooking it over my knees on occasion while watching TV.

So what am I doing with the Surface Pro 3 i7? In truth I’m doing many of the same things I did with previous incarnations of the surface, another tablet or my laptop. As such I’ve described the enabling technology so that you can get some of the same coolness even you don’t have a Surface. I’ve even provided a link where applicable so you can learn how to do it for yourself. Without any further ado, here is my top 10 list:

Cool Thing Enabling Technology
1 – Automatically Synchronize OneNote workbooks across devices. OneDrive
2 – Use Miracast or Intel WiDi to wirelessly watch media in my hotel room, make a presentation, or add a second screen when working. Surface 2 and Higher + Intel
3 – Picture Password – To unlock my device when a keyboard is not attached. Surface + Windows 8.x
4 – Run Virtual Machines in Hyper-V including touch enabled Virtual Machines like the Windows 10 Community Technology Preview. Surface Pro + Windows 8.x
5 – Use the stylus to start OneNote, take handwritten notes, and draw diagrams or to even sign documents. Surface
6 – Automatically create a meeting notes template from an outlook meeting request. OneNote + Outlook
7 – Tethering to my phone for internet sharing and enforcing metered connections to minimize the impact on my data plan. Windows 8.x
8 – Markup documents (including annotating and signing PDF files) using the stylus. Surface
9 – Use Alt+Tab & Win+Tab to switch between Applications (Modern UI and Desktop Apps). Windows 8.x
10 – Use the backlit keyboard in the dark. Surface Keyboard

What are some of the cool things you are doing with your devices? What would you like to be able to do that you can’t now?

7 thoughts on “10 Cool things to do with your Surface

    Garth said:
    October 28, 2014 at 10:32 am

    Nice post! Great info. If only I had a Surface Pro 3…

    eferron said:
    November 15, 2014 at 5:11 am

    I also have several devices including a Surface Pro 3, Dell Venue Pro and Lenovo ThinkPad 2. All of them have a stylus and they can all perform the list above. In fact none of these items are unique to the Surface. The title should replace “Surface” with “Windows8”.

      Colin Smith responded:
      November 15, 2014 at 9:11 am

      Thanks for reading and thanks for the feedback. I agree with you for the most part and I was originally tempted to have a title similar to what you suggested but I hope your will give me a little latitude on my decision for the following reasons:
      1 – The title is really just the hook to get to get you to read the post. I have called out in the table where the functionality comes from and as you can see Windows 8 figures prominently. I only personally was able to test and experience them all on a Surface Pro 3
      2 – Some are are only available on a touch device so not all Windows 8 devices would support them. The same is true of the back-lit keyboard – it’s device dependent.
      3 – The Stylus on the Pro 3 is really at the top end of the other options available from a tactile feedback perspective it is the closest thing to pen and paper that I’ve experienced so far.

      It’s really about the Surface “experience” – maybe that would be a good subtitle?


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    Daniel said:
    March 19, 2017 at 11:24 pm

    Almost all of these things can be done with any laptop.

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