Using Windows 10 on a touchscreen device
Tablet Mode was specifically designed for sustained use with a touchscreen-equipped device such as a tablet or hybrid PC. We’ve already discussed the Windows user experience with a conventional PC. Tablet Mode introduces a series of significant changes, automatically if it detects that you’re using a touchscreen device without a keyboard attached, or manually if you want to treat a touchscreen-equipped laptop as if it were a tablet. (In fact, you can enable Tablet Mode on a desktop PC without a touchscreen or even a touchpad; the resulting experience might be helpful for someone who occasionally wants that immersive, full-screen environment.)
Turning on Tablet Mode makes the following changes in the Windows 10 user experience:
Reconfigures the taskbar, bumping up button sizes, adding a back button, replacing the search box with a search button, and hiding all taskbar buttons. The following comparison shows the normal taskbar on top and the same area in Tablet Mode below it.
- All apps run in full screen. It’s possible to snap two apps side by side, but they have a thick sizing bar between them, similar to the one introduced in Windows 8.
- The Start menu opens in full screen, with the left column hidden by default and accessible only by tapping a so-called hamburger menu (a stack of three lines that resembles a beef patty between two buns) in the upper left corner of the display.
- Swiping from the left and right enables Task View and Action Center, respectively.
Windows 10 makes some assumptions about your preferences based on your hardware. On conventional PCs with a keyboard and mouse, Tablet Mode is off. On dedicated tablets, this mode is on by default. You can adjust these preferences by using the Settings page shown in Figure 3-14. On a hybrid device with a relatively small touchscreen, you might prefer to have Tablet Mode on full time, for example.
Figure 3-14 These settings are appropriate for a hybrid device that you switch into Tablet Mode occasionally.
The other essential feature of a touchscreen-equipped device, especially one without a keyboard, is the presence of the extremely versatile Windows 10 Touch Keyboard. It allows text entry into dialog boxes, web forms, your browser’s address bar, documents, the search box—anywhere you would normally need a physical keyboard to provide input.
Figure 3-15 shows the standard Touch Keyboard layout.
Figure 3-15 This is the standard Touch Keyboard; use the controls in the upper right to move, dock, or close the keyboard.
The Touch Keyboard should appear automatically when you tap to position the insertion point in a place that accepts text entry. On touchscreen-equipped devices, you can make the Touch Keyboard appear by tapping its button, which appears in the notification area on the right of the taskbar. (If this button is hidden, right-click or do a long press on the taskbar and then select the Show Touch Keyboard Button option.)
The limited screen space available for the Touch Keyboard means you have to switch layouts to enter symbols and numbers. Tap the &123 key in the lower left corner to switch between the standard QWERTY layout and the first of two symbol layouts, as shown in Figure 3-16. Note that the layout includes a dedicated number pad, which is extremely handy for working with spreadsheets and performing other data-entry tasks.
Figure 3-16 Tap the &123 key in the lower left corner to switch between the standard QWERTY keys and this alternate view of symbols and numbers.
In some respects, the Touch Keyboard is more versatile than its physical counterparts. Entering typographic symbols like the interrobang or emoji—the whimsical characters available on all mobile platforms and on Windows 10—doesn’t require the use of ANSI codes. Instead, you can enter characters directly. To show the first of more than 30 emoji keyboard layouts, each containing 30 symbols, click the “happy face” button on the bottom row.
With the emoji keyboard layout visible, the bottom row displays keys that you can use to switch between different categories, several of which have multiple layouts, accessible via the left and right arrows below the Tab key. Figure 3-17 shows a useful layout from the Objects & Symbols category.
Figure 3-17 Windows 10 supports hundreds of emoji characters. Pick a category from the bottom row and use the arrow keys to scroll through different character sets, 30 at a time.
In addition to the conventional QWERTY layout, the Touch Keyboard comes in some variations, which are accessible by tapping the Switch key in the lower right corner, as shown in Figure 3-18.
Figure 3-18 Tap the Switch key in the lower right corner of any keyboard layout to change to a different arrangement or adjust language preferences.
The Handwriting panel, shown in Figure 3-19, is most useful with devices that support pen input, such as Microsoft’s line of x86-based Surface and Surface Pro devices. (The ARM-based Surface RT and Surface 2 devices do not support Windows 10.) Text you enter in the input box is automatically translated into characters for entry at the current insertion point.
Figure 3-19 The handwriting input box does a frankly remarkable job at translating even sloppy penmanship into readable results.
Handwriting recognition is excellent, even for casual entry. As Figure 3-19 shows, you also have autocorrect options if the recognition engine guesses wrong.
The Split Keyboard layout, shown in Figure 3-20 on a Surface 3 in portrait orientation and in Tablet Mode, is extremely odd looking until you imagine trying to tap text with one finger as you hold a tablet in your other hand. With the split layout, you can grip a tablet in portrait or landscape mode and use your thumbs for typing. It takes some practice, but anyone who ever used an old-school BlackBerry phone can confirm that with practice you can achieve startling typing speed.
Figure 3-20 This split keyboard layout works best on a smaller tablet, where you can comfortably type with two thumbs.
By default, the Touch Keyboard appears at the bottom of the screen, pushing the contents of the page above it for unobstructed text entry. An X in the upper right corner lets you close any keyboard layout, a second button allows you to lock the keyboard into position, and the four-headed button lets you move a floating keyboard to a more comfortable position on a larger display.