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On the Road with Surface Pro 3

Submitted by on July 8, 2014 – 6:26 am | | 77439 views 31 Comments

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  • David Parker says:

    What happened between July 3 and 7 … oh, wait, I remember now, you celebrated pinching the English language from us!
    Enjoyed the article … look forward to the Lapability Pose pics.

  • Visio Guy says:

    It’s all in OneNote, and I haven’t copied over yet, nor made it fit for public consumption. This post will be updated over the next month or two.

    As for the English and the Fourth of July, well, this sums up my thoughts eloquently: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ah1EbIOdAZE

  • Visio Guy says:

    OK Mr. Parker, I’ve added a photo of Lapability Pose 1, with just a hint of skin, ooh lah lah!

  • christopher says:

    Thank you for these posts. I am most interested in reading about your impressions when you try to take notes on it during meetings – that’s what I want to use it for. For example, is there lag when you try to “write” with the stylus, is it cumbersome, does it do decent text recognition, does OneNote synchronize it well with the cloud/other computers. Thank you so much for your thoughts so far!


  • Visio Guy says:

    Thanks for the feedback, Christopher. I haven’t had time yet for testing notetaking, but I plan too soon. It’s the main reason I bought this – I often need to sketch ideas out when I’m working, but then I lose the sketches on slips of paper that blow around the office.

    So I recently started using OneNote, mainly because of the synchronizing capabilities. When I saw the announcement for this nice, large-format, pen-enabled tablet/PC, I was pretty excited.

  • christopher says:

    Oh cool, that’s exactly my need as well. I have 20 notebooks full of sketches, designs, notes from meetings and sometimes I need access to them, especially on the road. I’d like to go digital, and then be able to take all (future) notes with me.

    Are you seeing the Wifi issues that folks are mentioning? Or any feeling like an I7 microprocessor might give you an increase in speed that you feel would improve your experience?

    I have a Samsung Note for taking notes – but Microsoft OneNote on it is severely crippled, and Samsung’s proprietary note taking software is not an integral part of MS Office, obviously.


  • Frank says:

    I picked up the same configuration of the SP3 as you did on the first day it was available, and I have found it to be a great machine. It frees me from being in the basement when I’m doing something on Windows at home and is a full fledged Windows machine – no limitations that I’ve encountered yet. And The keyboard is much better than I thought it would be – the feel is not plush in any sense, but you sure can type on it!

    I also got a Microsoft Arc Bluetooth mouse, Surface Edition. I highly recommend this to anyone who owns a Surface. It has two physical shapes – flat and thin when turned off, taking very little space, and curved up to fit the palm of your hand when turned on. And it has a huge cool factor – it looks like something from Star Trek when you’re using it! Having a mouse of some kind is very useful on the SP3 when working with desktop applications, as I have found that they are not great at responding to touch inputs, even when using the pen.

    I have a practical question for you Visio Guy – about loading Visio onto the SP3. I bought Visio Professional 2013 for my desktop Windows machine about a year ago, and it was said to be downloadable by the distributor. Well, yes, I was able to download something, but it turned out that the downloaded file(s) – I don’t remember all the details now – then had to be burned to a DVD in an ISO image format, and then read from the DVD by the desktop’s DVD drive for installation to occur. Of course there is no DVD drive on the SP3. There is a USB 3.0 drive on the tablet – I suppose it might be possible to go through this process using a thumb drive, but I don’t know that for sure. At any rate, I’m wondering what process you went through when you installed Visio on your SP3. I assume you were able to avoid the ISO image process I went through. And I’m wondering if some distributors may have downloads that are easier to install than others. Visio Pro 2013 is insanely expensive when purchased from Microsoft, but I’m wondering if the distributors that have the lower prices may be selling versions of the distribution that have to go through the ISO image process. Any information or insights you have on this topic will be appreciated.

  • Visio Guy says:

    I bought the Arc mouse a few years ago, simply because it was cool. But it makes my hand hurt…well it makes it stiff. I think it’s too small for my big hand, and the touch “wheel”, well, you can’t rest your finger on it, like you can a physical button or wheel. So your “wheel finger” has to hover over the strip, waiting to swipe instead of roll.

    Regarding Visio installations, well, I live in a slightly skewed universe. Because I am a Visio MVP, Microsoft awards me with a subscription to MSDN for all my gratis hard work. That means I have access to most of their software for “free”.

    That said, I have lots of .EXEs and .ISOs on my machine for all the Visio, Office and Visual Studio installs that I need to do on real- or virtual machines.

    ISOs used to be a real pain, until I discovered Pismo File Mount utility (thanks to Saveen Reddy), which allows you to right-click an ISO file, and “Mount” (cough) it as a lettered drive.

    Windows 8 now includes the mount feature by default, so you can just copy an ISO to your Surface, right-click it, and choose “Mount”. It sets the ISO file up as your DVD drive, which you can later “Eject”. Funny, but it works.

    Once mounted, you can go right into it as though it were a folder, and run the setup program. Easy!

  • Martin says:

    I’m looking into purchasing the same model that you have, but have some reservation regarding battery life. I use Visual Studio 2013 for 6+ hours of the day, when I’m in the office as well as teleworking in locations that are absent an electrical socket to plug into. If/when you run into a similar scenario (primarily running Visual Studio for hours on end while on battery), would you please post your results? If the battery life ends up in the 6-7 hours range, then I’m completely sold on it. Thanks!

  • Vijay says:

    Need a standalone application to automate converting of organizational charts in Visio to Powerpoint (having powerpoint objects). Also looking to convert raw data in excel to be converted to organizational chart in Powerpoint (having powerpoint objects/connectors).

  • Michawl Harrell says:

    Thanks. Great info. I’ve had my Surface Pro 3 for about a month, and am working hard to use the on-screen keyboard. I use the one on my iPad all the time and have fewer errors. That, despite the fact that I use the Surface in a better typing position. The key placement on screen seems more tightly packed. Not sure how to add photo but just hold the two together and you’ll see the pro requires a more accurate targeting of the keys.

    The other item I noticed is when I use the Pro with an extra non-touch monitor it puts the onscreen keyboard on the monitor with the program window, instead of the touch sensitive screen. It is really irritating too because it tends to revert back when going from the alpha to numeric keypads. finally, the program window does not auto reduce to accommodate the keyboard, so it sometimes hides stuff. usually gets me when i try to use the find command for word and it takes a while to remember to check for the pop up behind the keyboard.

    I really like the Pro. I want to use the on screen keyboard. MS engineers fix some of these issues if you can. Especially a little more forgiveness for fat fingers

  • Visio Guy says:

    Hi Michawl,

    The on-screen keyboard has a stretch mode that widens the keys–quite a lot in landscape mode. You click what looks like the minimize button in the upper-right corner, just left of the [X]. This toggles between stretched keys and essentially square keys. That might help.

    I wonder if there are settings to control the behavior of the keyboard, switching between numbers, window-reducing, etc. I also sometimes wish the keyboard would appear below the task bar and push the whole windows view upwards.

  • christopher says:

    Thank you for updating us on the Wifi issue. Please let us know whether any Microsoft patches fix this as the situation evolves – I’m hesitant to purchase a Surface in part b/c everyone mentions this as a current problem. Hopefully just a software patch is needed. Thank you for your informative blog.

  • daniel g says:

    hey i wanted to know if you got any more information or a solution to the seagate 2tb back up plus 2tb drive i have the same things on my surface pro 3 and its doing the same drop-off conectivity issue id prefer to not have to but a powered hub if i can help it any ideas?


  • Mike R says:

    After reading your post. I bought one. I have been using mine for a couple of weeks. Love having Visio in a small form factor. I am using it as a desktop, so I have had some challenges changing default applications associations between the desktop and tablet versions of Office (specifically OneNote, Lync, & Outlook). Otherwise very happy.

  • Visio Guy says:

    Hi Mike,

    Yeah, I love this thing, but it has lots of quirks that necessitate the “Pro” bit (like having to know where/what Device Manager is so you can get your network card back).

    I think it’s a bit sad that novice to intermediate users with cash-to-burn can’t (shouldn’t) pull the trigger on this purchase. I hope MS can turn enough profit to make a Surface Pro 4, because that will be an extra-incredible device.

    Until then, us geeks will enjoy the “3” 🙂

  • Peter Meinl says:

    “I haven’t found any tap-like maneuver for right-clicking, though”.
    A two-finger tap on the touch pad does this.

  • John Rea says:

    I use mine as my sole machine at work. Dual monitors (3 if you count the SP3’s display) using the ~$100 DisplayLink UD-3900. It is a 6 port USB 3.0 hub with NIC, DVI, HDMI and Audio. Very nice device! Turns the SP3 into a whole new concept.

  • Visio Guy says:

    Thanks Peter Meinl for the two-finger tap = right-click tip!

    I’ve updated that section of the article. Really nice to know!

  • Visio Guy says:

    Hey John,

    How do you do the hookups? Do you run the video through USB 3.0 or do you plug in to the Display Port for video?

  • John Rea says:

    I run one monitor though the DVI port and one through the HDMI port using a DVI to HDMI adapter.

  • Martin says:

    Glad to see you updating again! I would frequent this post every other day or so, and was saddened when I didn’t see updates past July 30. I ended up purchasing the i5/256 model mid-August thanks to a Best Buy coupon combo (10% mailers coupon + $150 student discount).

    When you were testing battery life, were you using Google Chrome? I didn’t see it in the list of apps you mentioned, but thought you might not include it since it might be just a “very common app to always have open.” Chrome has had a bug for a couple years that would adjust the system clock rate and drain battery faster than any other browser (as long as you had the browser open; more info here: https://code.google.com/p/chromium/issues/detail?id=153139). It’s just recently been fixed, but probably won’t make it into a stable release until mid-October at the earliest.

    Second note, regarding your comment “With IMAP, what you do on one machine is reflected on the other machines, because it’s changing stuff on the server. (Although my iPads are configured with IMAP, they don’t seem to do this properly. Bad Apple software?)” If you setup an IMAP email on an Apple device, there are a couple additional settings that need to be updated so the changes you make on your phone are reflected on the server:
    1) Go to Settings -> Mail, Contacts, Calendars
    2) Tap/click the appropriate IMAP account that is giving you issues
    3) Tap/click “Account” to pull up the account information
    4) Scroll to the bottom of the screen, and tap/click on “Advanced”
    5) In the section labeled “Mailbox Behaviors”, go into each of Drafts Mailbox, Sent Mailbox, and Deleted Mailbox, and change their setting from “On my iPhone/iPad” to “On the Server” equivalent. You can also do this for the Archive Mailbox if your mail server supports it.

  • Visio Guy says:

    Wow Martin!

    Thanks for the tips! I’ll have to watch for Chrome being open–what you describe sounds like what is happening. Although, if any browser is usually open all day, it is probably FireFox, with 15-30 tabs (I know…). I wonder if it has a similar problem?

    Can’t wait to fix the iPads. It’s nice to delete all of the junk and non-essential email from the couch 🙂

  • Peter Meinl says:

    One can get some nice battery related information using powercfg:

    powercfg.exe /energy
    powercfg.exe /batteryreport
    powercfg.exe /SleepStudy

    Run at an admin command prompt.

  • Michael says:

    I have been working with the PRO3 for some time in an attempt to convert to Win8 and transition from my old computer.I used my old Office 2010 with outlook. I keep getting an error message that it is not valid, but it still works ok. I noticed that outlook came free with the pro3. Where is it located? I can’t find it on the pro3. must I download it?
    I also have another question. I recently changed my email address. So I went to account.live.com and I thought I changed the account email, however, when I start up the pro it gives me an alternative account to sign into. It did not replace the old email account. Of course with the new account I do not have admin. powers and have to start all programs from scratch. So I do I keep what I have and just change the email and password (Microsoft Account).

    Thanks for your help.


  • Visio Guy says:

    Hi Michael,

    I installed my own MSDN Office licenses on the Surface Pro 3, so I don’t know where the Outlook is. There is an e-mail app on the “Metro” side, which automatically hooked into my Hotmail account when I used that to log into Windows. Not sure if it considered and “Outlook” product, or just some “e-mail app”.

    I use Visio 2010 on the Surface and it works just fine, as does Office 2013.

    Not sure about the whole Windows 8 Live account thing. I followed along and it worked for me, but sometimes I think I’d rather have a different log-in like the old days 🙂

  • THANKS says:

    Thank god for the FN arrows for PG UP/DOWN HOME AND END.

    BEEN KILLING MYSELF OVER this as I am big on hot keys.

    Thank you for the tips.

  • […] you’ve been following On the Road with Surface Pro 3, you’ll know that it was getting quite long. In fact so long that my blog software choked on […]

  • Andrew Elder says:

    OK, so handwriting using the stylus converts to text. But do quick-and-dirty flowcharts using the stylus convert to Visio flowcharts?

  • Visio Guy says:

    I have been thinking about how to best flowchart by hand, or on a mobile device. I wonder if you would really like to sketch one, or would it be easier to just click boxes in a matrix somehow, then just draw in the connections…?

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