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Ten Tips and Tricks for Surface

With the Surface, the hard part is limiting it to just ten tips and tricks. After paring down the list from twenty, here are 10 essential tips ‘n’ tricks to wring the most out of your Surface.

When lost, swipe in from the screen’s left edge

Whenever you tap a link or another program on your Surface, the new item fills the screen, pulling you in deeply. When you finally close the app, the Start screen jumps in to fill the void.

But what were you working on before you went off track by tapping the link?

To find out, swipe in from the screen’s left side. Your original app fills the screen, bringing you full circle to where you were before the distraction.

Search for items by typing directly on the start screen

When you're searching for something, start typing its name directly onto the Start screen. Windows clears the screen and begins listing matches.

For example, type camera directly into the Start screen.

As you type the first letter, the Start screen switches to Search mode, listing every app containing the letter “c.” As you keep typing, the list narrows, eventually showing only camera-related apps.

The Search pane clings to the screen’s right edge, letting you direct your search away from apps and into other areas:

  • Settings: Tap Settings from the Search pane, and your Surface lists camera-related settings.

  • Files: To see any files containing the term camera, tap Files; the screen shows any of your files mentioning the word camera.

  • Specific apps: Beneath the list of Apps, Files, and Settings, the Search pane lists specific apps. Tap one of those — Netflix, for example — to search for movies relating to the word camera.

Select Start screen tiles

Some items seem difficult to select, a precursor to deleting, moving, renaming, copying, or any other host of tasks. For example, a tap on a Start screen tile opens it rather than selects it. Holding down a finger on the tile doesn’t fetch a menu. Perplexed finger jabs just scroll the item back and forth.

The trick to selecting difficult items like Start screen tiles is to slide your finger across them in the opposite direction that they scroll.

Start screen tiles normally slide from right to left. So, select them by sliding your finger up or down across the tile. This works when selecting photos, e-mails in the Mail app, and many other seemingly difficult-to-select items.

Take screenshots

To take a snapshot of what you’re seeing on the screen, hold down the Windows key below your Surface’s screen and press the Down Volume toggle. The screen dims, and a screenshot appears in your Pictures library’s Screenshots folder.

Stop the screen from rotating

Most of the time, you want the screen to rotate as you hold your Surface. That way, the screen’s always right side up. Occasionally, though, you don’t want it to rotate — perhaps you’re reading a book or browsing websites.

To keep the screen from rotating, open the Charms menu and tap on Settings. When the Settings pane appears, tap on the screen icon near bottom right.

When the brightness bar appears, look at the Rotation Lock icon atop the bar; tap that icon to toggle autorotation on and off.

Note: The rotation lock automatically turns on when your Touch or Type keyboard is attached and folded out for use; it turns off when you fold the keyboard back (or detach it) to use your Surface as a tablet.

Tweak your app’s settings

Every app offers a way to fine-tune its behavior through the Charms bar’s Settings area. When something about an app irks you, see if you can change it: Fetch the Charms bar by sliding your finger in from the screen’s right edge and tapping Settings. If an app can be changed, the Settings pane offers a way.

Keep your apps up to date

Windows 8’s app ecosystem is new, and many publishers release updated versions of their apps on a regular basis. To find and install updates for your apps, keep an eye on the Start screen’s Store app.

When apps are available, a small number appears in the Store’s lower-right corner. Spot a number? Tap the Store app to find and install waiting updates.

Make a recovery drive

It’s really not very difficult. If you have an old flash drive of at least 4 GB, dedicate it as a Recovery Drive for your Surface RT. If your Surface won’t start someday, that Recovery Drive just might be the only thing to bring it back to life.

Use the charms bar for apps

It’s easy to open an app and then begin searching its menus for basic things like search, print, or even a way to adjust settings.

Yet, they’re all there, and you’ve used them before: The Charms bar works not only on the Start screen, but on all the apps you buy in the Windows Store.

Looking for a movie in the Netflix app, for example? Fetch the Charms bar, and tap Search, and enter your sought-after film in the Search pane.

And if you need to print, open the Charms bar, tap Devices, and choose your printer from the Devices pane. (Not all apps can print, unfortunately.)

Be patient

Microsoft deliberately left out many features from Windows 8, hoping that developers would step up and begin filling in all the holes. The Windows Store grows every day. If your sought-after app isn’t there yet, give it a little time.

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