In my time with the Surface Pro 3, I was (and still am) really focused on putting that bad boy through its paces. I tested it backward and forward, forsaking all others and devoting myself solely to the tablet/laptop/hybrid/thing. It’s a great time and it’s a quality tablet, as I have described.
Naturally while working with the tablet I came across some really fun things you can do with it. Since yesterday, we talked about fun things to do with Windows Phone 8.1, we’re continuing our week of levity with some fun things you can do with Microsoft’s best piece of hardware to date. So pop open that kickstand, on a boat, or maybe on the back of a plastic cow, and check out some fun things you can do with your Surface Pro 3.
And why not make all the fanboys mad right off the bat by talking about Android! We have already discussed this a bit, but Bluestacks is an app you can download from the Windows store which allows you to install Android apps from the Google Play store onto an emulated Android environment. Perfect to satisfy that Bloons Tower Defense 5 craving you have on the 7:46 train.
Of course, there is a catch. Bluestacks is a free program that works for a time and then asks for a paid subscription or for you to install four free “featured apps” to keep it going. You can uninstall those apps as soon as they come in with no penalty, so I guess no harm no foul. It’s a pretty cheap price to pay for Android’s utility on your Windows tablet.
Not surprisingly, much of the rest of this article is going to focus on the digitizer that comes with the Surface. The pen makes a huge difference when using this tablet; it really cannot be overstated. First of all, OneNote is all up in your business on the Surface tablet which, if you accept OneNote into your workflow, is super convenient.
With the added utility of the pen, OneNote becomes even bigger and an even more awesome addition. In one use case, I was being sent to a restaurant to pick up some food. While my group internally debated about whether or not they wanted fries with that, I picked up the Surface, clicked the top button on the pen once and handed it to my wife and said, “Here. Write down what you want when you decide. I’ll be there in 10 minutes.” I left, and my wife took orders. By the time I got to the store, I had the order served up to me in OneNote.
Double clicking the pen for screen grabs is also a much more convenient way to grab the screenshot-or-it-didn’t-happen. Once imported into OneNote, you can share the screenshot out to whatever support group you need. Much better than manually pressing a key, loading it up in Photoshop, cropping, etc.
No, I’m not talking about the former webOS makers. The stylus on the Surface has built in palm rejection. What that means is when you’re using it, you don’t have to hover your hand and arm over the tablet and let only the pen tip touch the screen. The Surface recognizes that a writing device is in play and automatically rejects input from other “sources”.
Many Styli have this built in or as an optional feature and rightly so, so this isn’t particularly special about the Surface by itself. But editing graphics is particularly nice with the digitizer with the tablet laid down on a table, or at the 150 degree mark on the kickstand so it’s almost flat.
Annotating is becoming a big deal in the business world and in the consumer world as well. Microsoft Word on the Surface comes with a “Pen” tool that allows you to do just that. Annotating in Microsoft Word is as simple as activating Pen mode, allowing you to draw directly on top of documents, correct them, and share them. It’s another big use for writers who like to edit their work before publishing them on a public venue, whoever those guys are.
It’s funny and yes admittedly a little sad that my last “Fun thing” is practically a regression from modern computing. Maybe it’s a throwback to the graffiti of old. But that handwriting keyboard that is in Windows 8.1 is pretty fun to use, and even better en you’re using the Surface Pen to do it. As a matter of fact I wrote this entire paragraph using that tool, just because it’s all sorts of fun and awesome.
This is ironic because writing is soooo last century, you know? They don’t even teach handwriting as we used to know it in some schools today. Now, I’m not going to go off on a “you kids and your Nintendos” rant on you, but considering writing has become basically a thing of the past, it’s nice to see it live on in a modern OS like Windows.
Of course they’ll probably kill it in Windows 9. Sigh.
Wasn’t that fun?
So there you have it. I’m not so sure these all fall into the “fun” category so much as useful and/or novel. But, they do all make the Surface a better device to use. I’m going to give “typing on the start screen to initiate an app search” an honorable mention because that literally changed my life when I found out about that a couple of years ago. But that has been around forever, so it’s not worth going in depth with it here.
Microsoft still has some work to do on the stylus, as I mentioned in my review rebuttal, but using that thing just feels like using the future. I get better and better at it every time I use the Surface and that, above all, will be what I miss the most when I have to send this on.
Have you picked up a Surface Pro 3, or even just a Windows 8.1 machine? What are some of your tips and tricks that make you smile? Sound off below and let us know.
Adam Lein and Mark Coppock contributed to this article