Monday, March 25, 2013

The Pen is Mighty

I’ve had about ten work days with my Surface Pro now, and I’ve discovered a few things about the form factor that had eluded me previously. I doubt anyone who bought a Surface Pro knew to the extent it would change their personal and professional computing. Let me tell you about my friend, the pen.
When you go into Microsoft Word 2010, you won’t immediately see pen functionality until you actually have the pen hover over the screen. When you do, you’ll see Ink Tools pop up in the menu along the top. When you open it, it gives you the option to use five different color pens, at two widths, four different highlighters, and an eraser. There are also menus to evoke custom widths and colors.
Yeah, it really is just like writing on a physical document in a lot of ways, except you can erase the pen marks. My wife prefers I print out copies of my work so she can mark it up as she reads. This functionality will save me a lot of printing and shredding in the future, and more than a few trees I would imagine. This was really driven home recently as I had to destroy a large volume of documents as we prepared to move our home elsewhere.
I really did think my pen would sit in a drawer and my Surface Pro would lose nothing to stay in landscape mode. My OneNote App, a favorite after using it on the iPad, is full of handwritten notes now and I always make sure I have my pen when I’m working mobile. I’ve recolored textures in Photoshop and done more than a few pretty decent drawings in Sketchbook Pro.
There is still no pressure sensitivity in Photoshop, but everything I’m doing there currently doesn’t require that functionality. I do hope Adobe and Microsoft get that resolved soon.
I manage to consistently squeeze out four hours of battery life, but I’m generally running in battery saver mode with the brightness at less than 50%. I don’t really notice a big slowdown and turning off the wireless radios really helps. Good workspace management is your friend here, and shutting down programs and services to limit power consumption really does help.
With some careful planning, I can work mobile all day long by lingering in places that have power outlets at least once a day. The Surface Pro does charge really quickly and leaving it off to charge while I bleed in a Moleskine on my lunch hour provides me enough battery life to get through the afternoon. It’s kinda funny actually, but as long as I feed my Surface Pro when I’m feeding myself, I always have battery power when I need it.
As I hinted earlier, the big news is my desire to occasionally use the device in portrait mode. Reading PDFs, working in OneNote, and surfing the web is often a better experience holding the device lengthwise. I’ve seen quite a few tech reviewers warn that the weight will prevent the Surface Pro from being a decent tablet, but that hasn’t been my experience.
In consuming media I’ve found the best way to go is not to remove the keyboard, but to detach, reverse its orientation, and fold it to the back so the felt is against your fingers instead of the keys. This makes it a little nicer to hold and the lip of the keyboard extends past the edge about ¾ of an inch further, bouncing more of the sound emanating from the top of the device toward you. With warmer weather approaching, I do miss my iPad and the longer battery life.

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