Thoughts on Desktop vs. App Mode on Windows 8 Pro Tablets

April 17, 2013                                  

I am now into the fourth week of using the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2 (a Windows 8 Pro tablet), and I want to share some thoughts on the Win 8 Pro tablet experience in general. Again, the reason this tablet is so important to me is that it allows me to access a full copy of the Windows Outlook application from a tiny machine.

Thin and Light

The thin and light form factor of this Lenovo machine is amazing; it feels like a Kindle and so it really does encourage me to take it everywhere. Again, it’s about half the weight of the Surface Pro tablet (which I sent back once I got the Lenovo), and lighter than a new iPad. I am finding I use it far more than I ever used my iPad, primarily because I have the confidence that I can pop into full-blown Windows desktop whenever I need to, particularly for using Outlook.

Desktop vs. App Mode

Recall that Windows 8 has a Desktop mode that runs traditional Windows applications, and it has an Apps mode for the new tablet-like Windows apps. My need for using the Desktop mode when on the run is fairly common—because that’s where Outlook lives. And because I use some Internet Explore plug-ins that do not work in the tablet IE version—only on the desktop version.

However, using Desktop mode leads to some thoughts about the compromises of using the Windows desktop on such a small computer. It’s ironic; I’ve been yearning for an iPad-sized Windows desktop tablet like this for years, but now that I have it I realize it is inherently an imperfect combination.

Desktop Is Not Zoomable

First, the fact that the desktop is not zoomable keeps cropping up as an issue. I really see now why we need tablet versions of applications—they work better on tablets (sorry, I guess I am slow to realize the obvious!). Take the Windows 8 Mail app for example; I find I am now using it as much as Outlook on the desktop. Why? The controls on desktop Outlook are so tiny that they are hard to use. I really appreciate the larger form factor of the Mail App—I use that app a lot right now primarily because of that. But it still lacks too many features to make it my only Mail app—I still need Outlook.

Outlook 2013 Touch Mode?

Now, you may say, “But isn’t there a touch mode in Outlook 2013 that enlarges most menu buttons?” Yes, but even when enlarged they are still not quite large enough to tap easily on a 10 inch screen; I keep missing them with my finger. And once you get into any Outlook dialog box, you still have the normal tiny buttons—they have not been enlarged in touch mode. Again, that’s why I use the Windows Mail app a lot even when Outlook is available.

[5/2/2013 update: don’t forget you can use Control Panel\Appearance and Personalization\Display settings to enlarge the controls when using the desktop and all desktop applications. That’s a “permanent” setting though, not an on-demand zoom, but it helps.]

Get an Active Digitizer Pen Model

Which leads me to say this: make sure you get a Windows 8 Pro tablet with an active digitizer pen (certain models of the Lenovo does—model numbers ending in 26U and 27U—as does the Surface Pro). It’s the only way I can really use Outlook effectively on the desktop. And that bodes a bit ill for Outlook on the RT should it appear—there is no active digitizer pen on the RT and so without a keyboard you will be fumbling a bit. Maybe the cheaper and universal capacitive pens will work for you for clicking the small buttons (let me know in comments if so), but not for me—I really prefer the active digitizer that comes with select models of the Windows Pro tablets—they are much more accurate and otherwise your palm is constantly making wrong contact. And note-taking is 10 times better in OneNote with an active digitizer.

As to missing the buttons with my fingers, the ultimate long-term solution, I think, is making tablet versions of all Office applications, like the excellent version of OneNote. Once those come out for Excel, Word, and even Outlook, we’ll all be better off in the Windows tablet world!

Michael Linenberger

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Thoughts on Desktop vs. App Mode on Windows 8 Pro Tablets

  1. markus says:

    I would be interested in what Internet Explore Plug-Ins you use? Actually I don’t really know any useful ones

  2. Michael Linenberger says:

    I use a password manager. And in Firefox I use an advertisement blocker that keeps many sites more readable.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.