Microsoft Surface Pro 4 tips and tricks

After more than a year on the market, Microsoft’s Surface Pro 4 is still a powerful and capable 2-in-1 tablet. The detachable keyboard makes this device act as a laptop, but quickly detach to take this tablet on the go, and unlike the Surface Book that puts graphics processing in the keyboard, the Surface Pro 4 has all it’s power in the tablet side itself.

If you are looking for a few extra ideas to get the most out of this device, join us for our favorite Surface Pro 4 tips and tricks.

Tablet or laptop? You decide

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This is a pretty basic one to get you started, one of the main selling points and most basic of accessories for the Surface Pro 4 is the Surface Style Cover. Operating as both keyboard with touchpad and optional fingerprint scanner, as well as a smart cover to protect your display, the Style Cover may sound like a lazy choice for a tips and tricks list, but it really is the defining accessory for this hybrid tablet.

Attached by magnets alone, the Surface Style Cover snaps to the tablet and works immediately. Flip it all the way around the back to get it out of the way for a moment or just pull away to disconnect entirely, it’s as easy as it is to say, really.

Desktop experience with the Surface Dock

Surface Dock

For many, their computing experience is a little somnolent; they may have a desktop PC, or a laptop acting as one, that sits on the desk behind the couch in the living room. That PC may be used for nothing more than checking emails once a day and playing a game of solitaire. Boring. However, if that is all they want from their device, the Surface Pro 4 can deliver.

I’ll link to our Surface Dock review below, but let me just remind you that the Surface Dock allows you to almost instantly connect your Surface Pro 4 to multiple external displays, external audio and a good number of USB ports. Bottom line, if you are looking to be productive with this tablet, this is as important an accessory as you’ll find.

Double click or click and hold

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The Surface Pen is a great stylus for your Surface Pro 4, it even has a button at the back to easily fire up Onenote, but did you know if has more functions built in? That’s right, double click to take a screenshot, that automatically opens and saves into OneNote and long press that button to fire up Cortana.

There’s even more it can do, next time you are using your Surface Pen to write or draw a note, try flipping the pen around, if your app supports it, as OneNote does, the rear button will act as an eraser, just like a real pencil.

Also, just in case you didn’t notice, there is a thumb button as well on the Surface Pen. It is not very evident that it is there, just push on the trim pieces on the side, at the end closest to the tip. Unless your app does more with it, the default action within Windows 10 is to treat that button as a right mouse click trigger for where you next touch the stylus to the display. Makes it a little easier if you find that long press right-click action to be too difficult.

Cortana, not just for the weather

Surface Pro 4 review

When we were first introduced to Cortana, she (yes, we’ll give this computer program a human designation,) was to be a competitor to the then (over-)popular Siri, and the young Google Now. That is, a voice activated personal assistant with an emphasis on a friendly, interactive approach to web searches. The goal, in a way, was to put a conversational voice to your typical Google search… Sorry, Bing search.

Voice assistance is not a bad start, but Cortana is so much more on your Surface Pro 4. Primarily, we would like to highlight the internal device search functionality of Cortana on Windows 10. In short, Cortana can tell you what the weather is and then find your favorite photo from your local files and fire up an app installed on the device.

Cortana is still a young service, we look forward to seeing it mature as time goes on.

Increase storage with a microSD card

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I must admit that I overlooked this feature myself at first, hidden under the built-in kickstand you’ll find a microSD card slot. Go ahead and slap a card in there to store some of your low priority files, then keep your important stuff right on the tablet. This is an excellent way to extend the storage capacity of your Surface Pro 4.

Microsoft says you can put “a microSD card of any size” in your Surface Pro 4, also noting that you can use USB flash drives of any size as well. I guess your amount of additional storage space is up to you, 64GB and 128GB microSD cards are not too difficult to get your hands on today, but 256GB and larger can still run you a pretty penny. No matter the size, extra space at lower speeds is an ersatz to a microSD card rated for the speeds needed to properly handle your files.

Use your old Surface Pro accessories

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Despite a few changes to dimensions and button layout, the Surface Pro 4 is a fairly similarly sized and shaped tablet to the Surface Pro 3 before it. Better yet, most of the Surface accessories, such as the power adapters and detachable keyboards, use the same or backward compatible connections. While this does not go for everything, you can certainly do a little mix and match to get the most out of your new tablet and old all at the same time.

Find out what’s eating your battery

Surface Pro 4 review

There is a simple truth for any battery powered device, use it and the battery will drain. Of course,. you can manage how you use the device, and the Surface pro 4 is no different. If you desire to get anywhere near the 9 hours of battery life that Microsoft says you might with this tablet, you’ll have to take careful note of what apps and services are running.

The obvious recommendation is to close out apps when you are done with them. Avoid heavy games, turn down the display brightness, consider turning off Cortana and be aggressive with the sleep settings, but there is something else you can do, a little command prompt tool you can put to use.

Open up an Admin level command prompt, then enter powercfg /sleepstudy

This is not a bulletproof feature, but if it works for you, the report will help identify any rogue apps or services, then you can hunt them down and kill… I mean, turn them off.

There you have it folks, a handful of tips and tricks to get the most out of your Surface Pro 4. Be sure to add your own tips in the comments below.

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