Surface Pro 3 button placement causes problems for graphic artists

Microsoft’s button placement on the Surface Pro 3 isn’t just a cosmetic issue – it also causes problems for graphic artists.

Penny Arcade’s Mike “Gabe” Krahulik, illustrator of the online comic, found that the Windows button’s move to the right side of the device in landscape mode causes interference from his palm when drawing with a pen. Microsoft told Krahulik that a solution would be to deactivate the button in the device manager settings.

“Sometimes, depending on how I touch it, the button simply provides its haptic buzz to the side of my hand,” Krahulik wrote. “Other times, it will actually activate and throw me back out to the desktop. It’s either simply annoying or actually disruptive.”

An eventual solution to the problem for Microsoft could be to move the Windows button back to its original placement and deactivate it when a cover is attached. Given that the Surface keyboards all have a Windows key, the button wouldn’t be necessary when they’re in use. Microsoft almost certainly won’t make any change until the next iteration of the device, however, as it’s now in mass production for a June release.

In addition to the button placement, Krahulik said the speed of the configuration he was sent – a Surface Pro 3 with Intel Core i5 processor – caused significant slowdowns in Photoshop and Magna Studio. Cursor lag became apparent in either application when using the pen to select menu items, though he noted drawing with the pen in either application caused no such issues.

Overall, however, Krahulik liked the Surface Pro 3, but the problems with the button placement and speed made him “frustrated with the device.” Microsoft is listening to his feedback, he said, and using him as a “sort of guinea pig” to diagnose and remedy problems for graphical artists.

Source: Penny Arcade

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Those of you conjecturing about this should remember that this is only an issue if you are HOLDING the tablet. When you are HOLDING it, you're not using the type cover (or the kickstand). So turning it upside down is a non-issue.

This is much ado about nothing -- as usual.

The real Surface Pro 3 headline:

MICROSOFT ANNOUNCES SURFACE PRO 3 - TECH MEDIA STRUGGLES TO FIND FAULTS

I agree with you on that. But, that would mean holding it when drawing all the time. I am not sure people want to hold the device when drawing 100% of the time and would prefer using the kickstand at other times.
Although I do think this is a minor issue that can be fixed, the fact that IT IS an issue needs to be brought to MS's attention. If MS values their customers experience with this product, they will, actually must, address and fix it so it is as enjoyable an experience as possible.

Gergel7077 said,
I agree with you on that. But, that would mean holding it when drawing all the time. I am not sure people want to hold the device when drawing 100% of the time and would prefer using the kickstand at other times.
Although I do think this is a minor issue that can be fixed, the fact that IT IS an issue needs to be brought to MS's attention. If MS values their customers experience with this product, they will, actually must, address and fix it so it is as enjoyable an experience as possible.

And when you put it down on the stand your palm will not be brushing against the Start Button.

So what is the problem? I don't see how this is an issue at all.

Did you look at the source article? It shows a picture of a user using Photoshop while using the SP3 on the kickstand. Every time he tries to change menu settings, being that some of the settings are on the right edge of the screen, he can definitely brush up against the Windows Logo button causing unwanted things to occur.

Gergel7077 said,
Did you look at the source article? It shows a picture of a user using Photoshop while using the SP3 on the kickstand. Every time he tries to change menu settings, being that some of the settings are on the right edge of the screen, he can definitely brush up against the Windows Logo button causing unwanted things to occur.

I went back and read it -- hadn't before. I see what you mean. I also looked at the video that was posted today and saw how hard it is to make this happen.

I don't know. I would rarely if ever use the tablet that way. I'd probably activate the menus with my fingers. Usability studies suggest that most people would -- which is why Adobe made the interface larger. And even though it MIGHT be quicker to use the pen as you're fingers are already in place, there are other functions that require you to use your fingers -- like zooming and panning (for which you could use the pen like a mouse, but in a much less efficient way). Changing one's hand position to activate menus (and circumventing the problem) seems like something you'd get used to.

I find that many "deal breakers" or other irritants disappear once you've used something for awhile. Just as other things surface in the same way. I think this is the kind of thing you complain about at first but that fades away once you've gotten used to the device and are focusing on work and not on how what you're using is different than what came before.

But that for that guy, it's his profession. If he doesn't like it, there's probably something to it. The article also mentions how well his Microsoft contact is performing as a source of solutions and a conduit for his feedback.

Can someone help me out here? Is portrait mode only in one direction on the Surface Pro 3? If not, then why can't the user use portrait mode where the logo is on the opposite side of their dominant hand and is therefore out of the way?

Edited by Gergel7077, May 25 2014, 8:27am :

This has nothing to do with portrait mode... it's in landscape mode where the windows button is on the right side. Of course you can use the surface with the windows button on the left side, but, as the linked article mentions, the kickstand only opens one way, meaning, if you want to use the kickstand, the windows button is always on the right.

Sorry, but the article specifically mentions portrait mode and not landscape mode.

Ah yes the kickstand. I didn't think of that. Well, I'm am sure this isn't so dire an issue since MS can easily disable the button when the pen is used automatically with a SW or FW update.

Gergel7077 said,
Sorry, but the article specifically mentions portrait mode and not landscape mode.

Ah yes the kickstand. I didn't think of that. Well, I'm am sure this isn't so dire an issue since MS can easily disable the button when the pen is used automatically with a SW or FW update.


Sorry, that was a brain fart. Changed from portrait to landscape in the article.

When I saw the Surface 3 for the first time I thought firstly, what the hell were they thinking putting the button there, and secondly, why didn't they just remove it and put the windows logo on the back.

Very astute observation. MS lost that attribute several years ago when the "old" folks, i.e. 40s something and older were replaced.

Its interesting that if you read the source for this article, its clear that he was overall very happy with the device and yet this article gets a headline which would seem to paint the source as having an overall bad impression of the device.

He seemed to not think the issue was a deal breaker and it sounds like MS already dealt with a similar issue on the SP2, so I don't see the need to panic just yet.

The Surface Pro 2 disables the button when the pen is in range. In all likelihood, all that really needs to happen is that Microsoft needs to tweak that on the Pro 3.

How about having 2 buttons? One on the short edge and one on the long edge. And then another capacitive button on an unused edge to toggle which one's in use. And then on the remaining edge, another button to (insert imaginative idea here).

It never ceases to amaze me how MS (and others) miss such obvious problems. It's as if they just can't be bothered to let a few real world users actually test the damned thing for a few weeks to get feedback. You know, actual users, not company yes men or insiders that'll just tell you how great it is. Then again, maybe they did and just ignored it.

Still another example of MS pandering to the "play" elements of PCs an ignoring those for whom PCs are an integral part of their job and making money.

TsarNikky said,
Still another example of MS pandering to the "play" elements of PCs an ignoring those for whom PCs are an integral part of their job and making money.

What?

Actually the issue is present when using the device in Landscape mode (illustrated with pictures) and not Portrait mode as the latter would put the Start button at the bottom of the device.

But it would help if the author of this article read Gabe's article properly ;)

A firmware fix could deactivate the button when the pen is in proximity of the screen, similar to the palm rejection feature

dopydope said,
A firmware fix could deactivate the button when the pen is in proximity of the screen, similar to the palm rejection feature

That is an absolutely excellent idea! +1

dopydope said,
A firmware fix could deactivate the button when the pen is in proximity of the screen, similar to the palm rejection feature

There already is a way to deactivate the button, but Anthony seems to skip over this.

Mobius Enigma said,

There already is a way to deactivate the button, but Anthony seems to skip over this.


No, he didn't. It's in the second paragraph.

Mobius Enigma said,

There already is a way to deactivate the button, but Anthony seems to skip over this.

Going into the device manager and disabling the controller for all the hardware buttons in not an appropriate solution.

dopydope said,
A firmware fix could deactivate the button when the pen is in proximity of the screen, similar to the palm rejection feature

The Pro 2 already does this too. They probably just need to tweak the algorithm on the Pro 3.

Just turn the device 180 degrees then if you're drawing in portrait. And the menu issue is more likely a software/application problem then a hardware performance issue I would think.

Seeing how this is a 'problem'I can understand why they moved the button as in landscape and when using the kickstand at max angle the surface has a perfect angle for graphic work but then the button would be in the way for sure and you can't do a 180 then.

That said it is basically redundant and a small button on the sire as the Dell Venue 8 Pro has would actually be just as functional.

Anthony Tosie said,
Have fun not using the kickstand then :p

He's holding it and drawing in portrait. If you are using the kickstand you aren't using the pen in portrait.

Niekess said,
Glad I am left-handed. This won't be a problem for me. :)

The one time we get a benefit! :D

Sadly, I'm sure their "fix" in the next version will be to move it to the left side and write us off.

I use it on my pro and rt's but its in a normal spot (on the bottom) having it on the side would drive me nuts I hope they fix it either by replacing models or by allowing you to disable the button all together or while certain app's are running.

winrez said,
I use it on my pro and rt's but its in a normal spot (on the bottom) having it on the side would drive me nuts I hope they fix it either by replacing models or by allowing you to disable the button all together or while certain app's are running.

They could fix it with really simple driver update. Turn the button off when touch or pen is detected on the screen. In other words pair it with palm rejection (which should have been done in first place!).
But really, they should have removed the damn button all together or make it physical like on iPad.

The kickstand in "canvas mode" (tablet tilted back 150 degrees) only works in one way. Go ahead and read the source article, it's interesting.

Lag when selecting menu items but not drawing? Sounds more like an bug in the software, if anything the drawing would be a bit more taxing than just picking a menu.

Cheesy fix but you could probably create an easy toggle for the button too, AHK or whatever. Done similar with an older keyboard that I would accidentally hit the Windows key on, easy toggle, especially when you can swipe it in anyway now.

What he's talking about is the hover curser which is that little dot that appears when you have the pen not touching the screen. It can be used like a mouse over, if you didn't know.

Max Norris said,
Lag when selecting menu items but not drawing? Sounds more like an bug in the software, if anything the drawing would be a bit more taxing than just picking a menu.

Cheesy fix but you could probably create an easy toggle for the button too, AHK or whatever. Done similar with an older keyboard that I would accidentally hit the Windows key on, easy toggle, especially when you can swipe it in anyway now.


it's not a bug, it's as far as I know the way N-Trig behaves when you hover the cursor with pen. So they made some gains as well as trade-offs.

I use the button on my SP2 and have found it get in the way occasionally when inking in portrait mode so happy to see it moved. Someone if not MS will put together a way to disable the button without killing all the hardware buttons so not a deal breaker for artists in the end.

notchinese said,
The button should be removed.

Indeed. It is VERY redundant. Swiping brings in the same button, so why the hell is a physical button even needed there?

because with microsoft, everything is about redundancy. Not everyone is yet comfortable with on-screen navigation buttons and some people still haven't mastered all of the gestures. Hence Microsoft gives users four options for which to access the home button. The charms bar, the windows key on the device, the windows key on the keyboard and the windows key on the multitask menu.

Why remove it? There is a simpler solution.

Put a check box somewhere in the settings for disabling the button, and only that button.

eddman said,
Why remove it? There is a simpler solution.

Put a check box somewhere in the settings for disabling the button, and only that button.

Why even do that? MS already disables touch input when the pen is near the screen, why not just extend that functionality to the button?

eddman said,
Why remove it? There is a simpler solution.

Put a check box somewhere in the settings for disabling the button, and only that button.


Precisely, I'm sure there is a solution for this. Plus this is Microsoft logo/trademark, highly doubted that they will remove this. I'm sure they will come up with a solution on their patch.

elenarie said,

Indeed. It is VERY redundant. Swiping brings in the same button, so why the hell is a physical button even needed there?

Because it's very important. It's needed for the Win+Power shortcut for Ctrl+Alt+Delete, which in many enterprise situations is necessary for login (Ctrl+Alt+Delete being a security measure in this case). Should those users only be able to log in with a keyboard? Or should Microsoft go back to the old method tablet PCs used, throwing in a ton of buttons on the sides, including one for that?

Sraf said,

Why even do that? MS already disables touch input when the pen is near the screen, why not just extend that functionality to the button?


Problem is, the pen has to be really need of the screen for that and when you are in drawing mode, you are ought to put your mind on drawing, not thinking about keeping the pen near screen.

A disable hardware windows button is the best option.

jhoff80 said,

Because it's very important. It's needed for the Win+Power shortcut for Ctrl+Alt+Delete, which in many enterprise situations is necessary for login (Ctrl+Alt+Delete being a security measure in this case). Should those users only be able to log in with a keyboard? Or should Microsoft go back to the old method tablet PCs used, throwing in a ton of buttons on the sides, including one for that?

Ctrl+Alt+Del was designed to work with keyboard input to ensure nothing was interrupting keyboard entry to capture a password (as well as other things). This isn't needed with an on screen keyboard and an external keyboard will not use the Windows button by the screen. It is there for brand recognition.

bithush said,

Ctrl+Alt+Del was designed to work with keyboard input to ensure nothing was interrupting keyboard entry to capture a password (as well as other things). This isn't needed with an on screen keyboard and an external keyboard will not use the Windows button by the screen. It is there for brand recognition.

Of course it's still needed. A fake login screen can be used on a tablet and onscreen keyboard just the same as any other computer. Ctrl+Alt+Delete is a way of prevention against these kinds of attacks.

The point isn't even the security part of it though. Any enterprise can choose to force Ctrl+Alt+Delete at login (and many do). Without some sort of keypress to send that command, these users cannot log in. So without a keyboard, those users would not be allowed to log in if there wasn't a button there. And let's not forget too that the capacitive start button is also part of the very useful screenshot command.