Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Surface Keyboard Shortcuts

As you know, I purchased a Microsoft Surface Pro 2 with the Touch Cover keyboard a few months ago. One of the first things that you notice is that the Touch Cover keyboards, as well as the Type Cover keyboards, don't have every single key you’ll find on other keyboards. If you love keyboard shortcuts like me, you may get a little lost when you first start using either of the Surface keyboards. Fear not, Microsoft has a variety of Surface-specific keyboard shortcut combinations that you can use to make things easier.

  • Start (Windows logo key) - Go to Start screen
  • Start + B - Go to Desktop
  • Start + C - Open charms
  • Start + D - Show Desktop
  • Start + E - Open Windows Explorer on Desktop
  • Start + F - Search files
  • Start + H - Open Sharing
  • Start + I - Open Settings
  • Start + J - Switch focus to/from snapped windows
  • Start + K - Open Devices
  • Start + L - Lock Screen/Switch Users
  • Start + M - Minimize everything on the Desktop
  • Start + O - Lock Screen Orientation
  • Start + P - Open Second Screen utility
  • Start + Q - Search Apps
  • Start + R - Open Run Menu on the Desktop
  • Start + T - Open Task Bar in Desktop
  • Start + U - Open Ease of Access Center on the Desktop
  • Start + V - Cycle Notifications
  • Start + Shift + V - Cycle Notifications (reverse)
  • Start + W - Search Settings
  • Start + X - Open System Utility menu
  • Start + Z - Open App bar
  • Start + , - Peek at Desktop
  • Start + . - Snap Metro App Windows Toggle
  • Start + Shift + . - Snap Metro App Windows Toggle (reverse)
  • Start + Enter -  Narrator Settings
  • Start + Tab -  Cycle Metro Apps
  • Alt + Tab - Application switcher, different look than task manager
  • Ctrl + Escape - Toggle between last open app and current app
  • Fn + Del - Increases screen brightness.
  • Fn + Backspace -  Decreases screen brightness
  • Fn + Left arrow -  Home
  • Fn + Right arrow - End
  • Fn + Up arrow -  Page Up
  • Fn + Down arrow -  Page Down
  • Fn + Spacebar - Print Screen
  • Fn + Alt + Spacebar - Print Screen for the current window only

One thing to note is that you can lock the Fn key by pressing  Fn + Caps so that the F1-F12 keys act as function keys. For example, if you wanted to increase the volume you would have to press Fn + F3. If you just press F3, it will open up a search box. After pressing Fn + Caps, the F1-F12 keys will function with a single key press so you could just press F3 to increase the volume. Press Fn + Caps again to unlock those keys.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

What I Use: Microsoft Surface Power Cover

A few months ago, I got the Microsoft Surface Pro 2 and could not be happier using it as my go-to, everyday computing device. My level of happiness was raised with the purchase of the Microsoft Surface Power Cover. It's not a necessary accessory, but it can be a worthwhile accessory if you have to use your Surface for long periods of time or have the original Surface Pro.

The feel of the Power Cover is the same as the Type Cover 2. It is exactly the same type of cover with the exact same keyboard. The layout and size of the keys are the same as well. The one thing missing, but not a deal breaker, is that the keys are not backlit. In addition, it is about twice as thick and heavy as the Type Cover 2. It adds weight to the Surface Pro, increasing the total weight to about three pounds. The weight is still lighter than most laptops if not comparable.

The Power Cover recharges your Surface's battery while in use. One thing to note is that when connected to your Surface device, power is provided by the Power Cover battery first, before utilizing the Surface's internal battery. Also, when you charge your Surface with the Power Cover connected, the internal battery charges before the Power Cover starts to charge.

Yes, it's thicker than the other Surface covers, but it's definitely easier to carry around than the power supply or some other additional power source. As someone who has spent up to $200 for replacement batteries for laptops in the past, this is an accessory that makes sense if the Surface is your primary, on-the-go computing device.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

What I Use: ASUS Chromebox

ASUS recently released the latest offering to the wonderful world of Chrome OS called the Chromebox. If you have read any of my past articles, then you know I am fan of Google's Chrome OS and the many devices that it runs on. If not, here's your chance to catch up:

My Impressions of a Chromebook
What I Use: Acer C7 Chromebook
What I Use: Samsung Chromebook
A Tale of Two Chromebooks
My Thoughts on the Chromebook Pixel
Why Chromebooks Make Sense…For Some (originally published at the BIT Tech Digest)

While I am not going to go into details about Chrome OS, I do want to take a look at the basics of the Chromebox. The internal specs of are pretty impressive:
  • 4th generation 64 bit Dual Core Intel Celeron 2955U 1.4GHz processor
  • 2GB DDR3 1600 RAM
  • 16GB SSD
  • Intel HD Graphics
  • Dual Band 802.11 a/b/g/n wifi
  • Bluetooth 4.0
The number of available ports is impressive for such a small computer. The front of the Chromebox has two USB 3.0 ports. The the side is a 2-in-1 SD card reader. On the back, you have the option for either Display Port or HDMI displays (both are full-sized ports as well), two more USB 3.0 ports, a headphone/mic jack and an Gigabit Ethernet port. This is very similar to the ports available on most Chromebooks. Also note that the Chromebox does not come with a keyboard and mouse so you have to supply your own. Mine is currently paired with the Logitech Wireless Touch Keyboard K400.

If you live and breath in the Google ecosystem (Google Chrome, Gmail, Google Docs, Google Calendar, Google+, Google Maps, etc.) the Chromebox is worthwhile consideration for a secondary computer. Like other Chrome OS devices, it synchronizes instantly with your existing Google/Chrome services after you have logged in with your Google account because all your work auto-saves to the cloud. This means that you can go from Chromebox to Chromebook to tablet to smartphone without missing a beat.

When you think about it, the ASUS Chromebox is a great alternative to buying yet another cheap Windows desktop especially if you are looking to replace an aging Windows XP computer. The notable benefit is that you don't have to worry about Windows-based malware or vulnerabilities. However, as with other Chromebooks, you won't be able to run traditional, installed programs like Microsoft Office, iTunes, or Photoshop. In addition, Chrome OS cannot run browser plug-ins like Java or Microsoft Silverlight, which means that a small number of web-based applications and video playback sites won’t work. If you have no need for those type of applications, then moving to the Chromebox should not be a problem.

With a reliable Internet connection, the ASUS Chromebox can fill most basic needs of a novice or casual computer user. For $199, you get a computer that is small, quiet, has low power consumption and runs a lightweight and low-maintenance operating system. As long as you understand the limitations of Chrome OS, this is a great, little computer for a variety of user types.