It’s time for digital (th)inking

In today’s post I want to take a look at the Surface Go, and the reason is two-fold, firstly I have had my Surface Go for about a year now and still love it, but secondly I hear some feedback from people saying the Surface Go just isn’t powerful enough and the fact you need tyrannosaurus rex hands to use the keyboard.   What I wanted to highlight in this blog post is that with the power of the Microsoft Cloud, you can think differently about how you use devices in your day to day world.   To do this today we are looking at making the Surface Pen more configurable and of course dictation in Microsoft Office!

Its time for digital (th)inking !

Everyone knows about the 2-in-1 design of the Surface Pro and the Surface Go – right?    It’s a design that has led other manufacturers to change the way they think about there products, especially Lenovo, Dell, and of course Apple.   The late Steve Jobs intention for the IPad was it was always going to be a tablet only device.  However today, we see the Apple IPad as a device with a keyboard, Apple Pencil, a new IOS about to be launched to give the device more powers like the PC.    Now whichever way you decide to look at this it is good news for the customer, as it inspires a generation of users who work with devices they way the want to work!

So I have covered the art of digital inking in other blog posts before, but today I just wanted to highlight a couple of things on the Surface device.    The first point is that anyone using a Surface Pen should make sure the pen is paired to the device.  Now the pen does not have to be paired to work, it’s just you can get more out of the pen when it is!

To pair your pen it is simply done by writing on the screen for up to 10 seconds. Windows will automatically detect this and offer to pair your pen for you, it’s as simple as that!.   Once this has been done move your way to the settings section (Windows Key + I), go to Device, then goto Pen and Windows Ink.

Here you will be able to set up the button actions for your Surface Pen, for example a single click could launch OneNote so you can make notes really quickly.  Also on this screen you will find setting for if you’re left-handed for example.  Make sure you configure for how you work,  so you can launch any application, popular applications like OneNote, and the new Microsoft Whiteboard.

The important option which is ticked is the Allow apps to override the shortcut button behavior.   This is key and needs to remain ticked as more application begin to make use of the pen. One such example is PowerPoint, which uses the pen button to move through a PowerPoint Presentation (which is quite cool !)

So as we have talked before on this blog Microsoft Office (desktop) version is a pen aware application meaning you can use your pen naturally for editing Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and Excel documents.  We also have a great range of apps which bring learning to life including Fluidmath, which is available from the Windows Store.   Here is a quick demo from Steve Beswick, Education Business Development Director of Surface which we filmed at the Bett Show this year.


So as you can see the pen should really be thought of as part of the device itself, to allow for innovation in the way you work and the way we can use technology in the classroom.

Lets think digital with Surface Go

As I mentioned in the opening paragraph of this blog, some people have said that the Surface Go is not powerful enough and you will never want to type an essay on the device, due to the small size of the keyboard.   Well if you think digitally with Surface Go you don’t have to.     It is true that the keyboard isn’t full size and it was never going to be for the device size, however, let’s look at another option we can use alongside the pen.

Dictate, Dictate, Dictate

Using the device with the power of the Microsoft Cloud, you can dictate to the Surface Go in Microsoft Office, which means if you have a big document to type you can do it more efficiently ! and after all you don’t need to use the keyboard, which in turn is a device which is designed to slow you down and make you less efficient.

Simply launch Microsoft Word (Windows key + C,  you could always ask Cortana to do it 🙂  and once Word has loaded go to the Home ribbon and look at the far right-hand side, the last option will dictate!  Simply click on it and once you hear the recording beep start talking.    Remember commands like ‘new line’, ‘full stop’ ‘comma’ they all work.

Dictation is available in the following apps

Microsoft Word

Microsoft PowerPoint

Microsoft OneNote

Microsoft Outlook

Office Mobile   Apps   (More about them in the next post)

So why is the keyboard so inefficient?   Well as I mentioned using dictation in Office will stop you using the keyboard, for those long documents.  The QWERTY keyboard was designed to stop the typewriter arms jamming up with people typing to quickly.   If you ever look at when your typing you will notice this!  Early keyboards were a lot more efficient but the downside was the fact those typewriter arms would jam.  However, we have taken the keyboard as the default method of entry no matter how new our tech is and how much processing power we have.

How does Office dictation work?, well simply it’s using the Microsoft Cognitive Services that power Cortana. So, in turn, your Surface Go device is connecting to the Microsoft Cloud and transcribing what you say.

So the next time someone says “Surface Go ! I can’t type my essay on that”  point them to the dictation option!

Isn’t it time to “Get them digital (th)inking!”





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