12 Tips on how to increase usability of desktop on Surface & similar devices
I have used my Surface for a few days as my main computer. Most of the time I use Office apps (OneNote for general note taking and planning, Word for writing a scientific paper). As mentioned in some of the reviews, the desktop is not optimised for small touch devices such as the Surface. After going through the whole control panel and all desktop-related settings I could find, I found that there are a lot of adjustments you can make (and that I think Microsoft should have made default) to get a perfectly touch friendly and pleasant desktop experience (at least for the apps that are available for Windows RT).
(Since I use Windows in German, I might get some of the English terms wrong...)
1. First of all, of course, install all the system and Office updates to improve performance.
2. In the display settings, change the desktop resolution to 125%. This hugely improves touch input (apart from check boxes I never miss a target) and readability - you'll wonder why Microsoft didn't make this the default setting for the Surface! For the average Office/IE user there is enough screen real estate at 125%. Also change the zoom in Office apps and Internet Explorer for better readability.
3. In the taskbar setting, make taskbar icons smaller - this will make the taskbar narrower, leaving more space for your apps
4. In the settings for pen and finger input, you can change settings for right click by press and hold. Set the time you need to hold for to a minimum - this will significantly speed up the work flow.
5. In the folder settings, choose "open by single click" (double clicking by touch feels unnatural and annoying)
6. In Office apps, adjust and use the quick tool bar and place it at the top of the window. It's really useful for touch and faster than the ribbons menues or keyboard shortcuts. You can move any command from the ribbons to the quick tool bar.
7. In the energy settings, increase the time span after which the device goes to standby mode - with desktop apps you want to be able to read a document for more than a minute before the screen goes black.
8. Choose a bigger mouse cursor - the default size is extremely small.
9. Once you've got used to the touch cover (if that's the keyboard you use), deactivate the audio feedback - at some point it gets more distracting that it is helpful.
10. If you want to listen to music through the browser while working on the desktop, use the desktop version of the browser - that way music or video such as Youtube keeps on playing in the background (the metro version of IE only keeps playing when snapped to the side).
11. Choose the desktop photo viewer or Paint as the default app for opening images, if thats what you do in the desktop...
12. Get rid of some of the system icons on the right end of the taskbar - that will make the screen look cleaner, which makes the miniature desktop less jarring to look at. Most of those informations (clock, battery life, wifi signal) are available by swiping in the charms.
These simple adjustments really turned the Surface into what I wanted it to be - a usable productivity device which is portable and which can also be used as a tablet for media consumption, mail et cetera. I hope these tips are helpful to some of you!