How to Set Up Your Microsoft Surface Pro Just Right

By Chris Mills on at

At long last. Microsoft's giant tablet-shaped gamble has come to our sunny shores. With Windows 8 being new to many people, and the Surface needing a helluva lot of tweaking to fulfil its (buttloads of) potential, we thought we'd put together a guide to spare you the pain of working it out for yourself.

 

Ninite

Here's a tool that everyone who ever uses Windows should be aware of: Ninite. Simply put, it allows you to install most of the internet's free programmes with just one click. Go to the website, tick the boxes for the free programs you want installed, run the auto-generated exe with literally one click, and Bob's your many-freeware-program-toting uncle. Not having to download and click through 15 different installers is utterly amazing.

 

Tune the Display

- Sadly, the auto-brightness on the Surface Pro sucks. Go to the Charms bar --> Change PC Settings (down the bottom) --> General --> Screen, and turn off "adjust my screen brightness automatically".

- The Surface Pro has a 1080p HD screen, which is awesome. Less awesome is that Windows has no real hiDPI mode, meaning that everything is absolutely minuscule on the Surface Pro's screen. The less-than-perfect but still better-than-nothing solution is to magnify the UI elements. Right-click on the desktop, click "adjust screen resolution", then "make text or other items bigger or smaller". You can then set the size of the objects. My preference is for Custom-->165%, but have a play and see what works best for you.

- Calibrate the pen for more accurate input. Using Windows's universal search (hit Start and start typing), search for 'Calibrate', then hit settings in the tab on the right. Considering how tiny stuff is on the screen, you're going to need that stylus as accurate as possible.

 

Use the Surface Pro in Portrait as a Kick-Ass External Monitor

Although the Surface Pro's kickstand is handy for working in conventional landscape mode, it's also pretty awesome at keeping it bolt-upright. In portrait mode, the Surface works amazingly well for reading Twitter and watching videos filmed in heart-breaking portrait.

Either, you just use the Surface Pro like any other computer, but in portrait, or you can download something like ZoneOS or MaxiVista and use it as an external display for another computer. The choice is yours.

 

Take Screenshots

This being Windows 8, taking screenshots should just be a matter of hitting Prnt Scn, right? Right? Trick question. There is no print screen button on the Touch or Type Cover. Instead, you hold the Windows button and volume down. It'll be obvious when it's worked.

 

Bring Back the Start Menu

Windows 8 is great as a touch interface, but you might prefer the start menu. If so, don't fret -- we have a handy guide on just that topic.

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