The First Application I Install

When I set up a new machine there is a suite of applications that I install immediately. ActiveWords is at the top of the list and has been for over a decade.

I do a lot of writing every day and a great deal of it is repetitive. Snippets of text, links to references, common phrases and I do this dozens of times an hour. ActiveWords sits there quietly monitoring my keystrokes and it automatically substitutes text, runs scripts to do tasks, opens documents, opens websites.  And it does all this from within any application that I am running.

There’s a nifty little tool that  calculates the productivity savings you gave gained from running ActiveWords.  On my Surface Book ActiveWords has typed 16,532 characters for me in the last month. That is over 6% of my total input.  If you could see how hideously slowly I type you could well understand that this has saved me hours of typing.   Licensing is per user on unlimited machines. Although I use my Surface Book as my daily driver, I still use the Surface Pro 3 and Surface 3 too. There are even a few desktops and servers around here. I have ActiveWords running on all of them.

The scripting feature is very clever allowing you to pause and prompt for inputs, read from and write to the Windows Clipboard, call programs and pass data. All of this is beyond simple text substitution and saves me a great deal of time. Adding or modifying new ActiveWords is really fast and intuitive. I will often notice that I have done something two or three times lately so I’ll copy/paste those into ActiveWords, assign an ActiveWord (e.g. answers – see below), and it’s done.   

One of the main reasons I first got ActiveWords is that it also recognizes Ink!  I can use the Surface pen to write an ActiveWord too.

This opens the thread on Microsoft Answers that I like to follow.

ActiveWords just did an update to version 3.0 and with that comes automatic syncing between devices. That is, when I add or change an ActiveWord on one machine it is available on all of them. This is a major upgrade for me given all the machines that I have on the go.

In my most conservative estimates ActiveWords more than pays for itself (overcomes the $30 annual license) within the first 10 days of any given month.  And that’s why it’s the first application I install on all of my machines.  

Battery Indicator in the Notifications Area

This is a Windows 10 thing, not a Surface thing I know, but if you’ve got a Surface you watch the Battery Icon. It’s more fun with a Surface Book though.

This morning I glanced down at the notifications area to check on the status of the battery. The Battery icon was gone, and so too was the option to customize the hidden icons.

If this happens to you, you can click in the Notifications area ^ “Show Hidden Icons” and drag the Battery icon (or any of the others) back to the Notifications area.

In this video you can see me move the Battery Icon from the Notifications Area to the Hidden Icons area, them move it around in there. Then finally I move it back to the Notifications Area.

The Surface Book Has Arrived


And how could you not make this association?

First impression – Microsoft has hit the sweet spot! Much though I hate to admit it, I’m a little tired of being hunched over my Surface Pro 3 when I’m in desktop mode, and the Surface Book is just that little bit larger, and it makes a huge difference.

In my workflow I absolute must have the ability to use my main device as a tablet for taking notes with a pen, or sketching out ideas, and making mind maps. The Surface Pro 3 did an excellent job of that and I’ve been very happy with it for fourteen months.  But it’s always felt like a bit of a compromise when I was in desktop mode. The Type Cover was fine when I was out and about, and until I started typing on the Surface Book, I had no complaints.  But Microsoft, you did a great job on the Surface Book keyboard, and now when I switch back I realize what I was missing.

Why get a Surface Book when my Surface Pro 3 was doing a stellar job as my main machine? People have been asking me that and now that I’ve got it I can tell them:

The larger screen size DOES matter. I can tile four windows on the screen and they are all comfortably readable.  (Hint: Windows+Left, Windows+Up puts the current window in the top left corner. Open another application and use Windows+Left, Windows+Down and that application will sit in the lower left corner. Do the same on the right side and you’ve got four windows up). I wish that I had found these keyboard shortcuts sooner. Trying to do that with a touchpad is tricky. Here’s a screen shot of what I’m seeing right now.

I think Microsoft got it right with the 80:20 idea that many people will use the Surface Book 80% of the time as a laptop and 20% of the time as a tablet.  I might be a little heavier on the tablet side of things but much of that extra time, I’ll probably flip the screen over and keep it attached to the keyboard for the prolonged battery life.

Why get the Surface Book instead of a Surface Pro 4?

The point a which you can make a direct comparison is when you configure a machine with

  • Core i5 / 8 GB RAM / 256 MB of storage

Comparing the  Surface Book to a Surface Pro 4 with a Type Cover, the difference is about $370 USD.  I’m seeing a lot of value for the difference.  You’re getting:

  • Larger screen. That is physically larger, and higher resolution.
  • More battery life. It’s so nice to glance down at the battery indicator and NOT have to think about managing your life around the battery.
  • A device that you can fully use and type on in your lap or in a car or other cramped or awkward situations.
  • The keyboard is so good that I won’t need to have a second, full-sized keyboard for prolonged work sessions at a desk (as I did with the Surface Pro).

I still like to work with two screens up for production/development, and I’m keeping the Surface Pro 3. It’s a perfect complement to the Surface Book. I’m using Mouse Without Borders to allow me to do all my typing on the Surface Book.    

I’m really liking the Surface Book so far. It’s a joy. 

Microsoft Surface Data Eraser

Microsoft Surface Data Eraser is a tool that boots from a USB stick and allows you to perform a secure wipe of all data from a Surface Pro 3, Surface Pro 2, or Surface Pro device. A Microsoft Surface Data Eraser USB stick requires only the ability to boot from USB. The USB tool is easy to create by using the provided wizard, the Microsoft Surface Data Eraser Wrapper, and easy to use with a simple graphic interface, no command line needed.

Read all about it here: Microsoft Data Eraser

Surface Pro 4 Adapter for Surface Pro 3 Docking Station


I’m a big fan of the Surface Pro 3 Docking Station, but the Surface Pro 4 is a little thinner. You can use the Surface Pro 4 in the older style docking station but it’s not an exact fit. There’s an adapter available for free.  Get it at the Microsoft Store (call ahead to make sure that they have stock), or order it through Send my Surface in for Service

The new style Surface Dock is a completely different approach. Much more portable and it works with Surface Pro 3, Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book.




Source:How to Obtain the Surface Pro 4 Adapter for Surface Pro 3 Docking Station

Surface Book

I finally got my hands on a Surface Book. It’s a work of art and it looks like the device that could actually replace everything else around here.

I was hesitant to pre-order it until I could see it first hand, experience detaching the clipboard (tablet portion), holding, standing, walking, writing and doing all the things I do with my Surface devices.  I was concerned that it might be too big, too bulky, too heavy.  It is none of these things. It may just be perfect.

If you’re like me you spend a lot of time with your devices, and the experience is at least as much visceral as it is intellectual. And that’s why didn’t pre-order a Surface Book. I needed to see, feel and use it, especially the pen in order to being to understand how it would fit into my lifestyle. After all, it’s going to a near constant companion.

And now that I’ve had some time with the demo unit (Core i7 16 gig) at a local Microsoft store, I can’t wait for my Surface Book to arrive. Yes I pre-ordered it.

I’ve had laptops and tablet PCs from 17” down to 7” and as time has gone by, I’ve struggled with the conflicting needs: power, portability, screen size, battery life. The Surface Pro 3 (Core i7 8 gigs 512). is as close to perfection as I’ve found up to this point. As a tablet it is brilliant, on a desktop and in the docking station it does most of what I need, and the only places that it felt wanting were screen size, and the laptop experience. And yes, I’ve wished for more RAM memory. I think that 16 gigs will do fine thank you.

Looking at the Surface Book, it hits all the points on my wish list with at big bright screen, and an overall form factor that will still fit into my lifestyle. It’s a little heavier than the Surface Pro 3 with keyboard, but think that I can forgive that if I really can leave the power adapter behind. 

The Surface Book does not lean back as far as the Surface Pro 3, but since you can flip the screen around the writing on a desk experience is fine.

I prefer a little angle with I’m writing or drawing on a desk and this looks like it will work just fine.

Here’s a nice video review that lets’ you see the Surface Book from all sides.
Surface Book – It really is this good.


Surface Book at the Microsoft Store

Autodesk Sketchbook Pro 7 Windows 10 fix for Surface

I use Sketchbook Pro 7 on all my Surface Pro devices, and now too, the Surface 3.  Under Windows 10 I found that the pen tracked fine for all the user interface points (radial menu and Windows controls) but was offset in the drawing area.

Solution: Use the Windows Compatibility Tool.

Locate the program file. On my machine it was
C:\Program Files\Autodesk\SketchBook Pro 7

Right Click – click Troubleshoot Compatibility


Troubleshoot Program


The program opens but doesn’t display correctly


Test the program. You have to do this before you click Next.


Save the settings for this program




Surface: Doing Presentations with Ink

Do you need to do presentations,  live demos or teach with  your Surface then you probably need ZoomIt. Written by Mark Russinovich, here is how he introduces it.

ZoomIt is a screen zoom and annotation tool for technical presentations that include application demonstrations. ZoomIt runs unobtrusively in the tray and activates with customizable hotkeys to zoom in on an area of the screen, move around while zoomed, and draw on the zoomed image. I wrote ZoomIt to fit my specific needs and use it in all my presentations.

ZoomIt works on all versions of Windows and you can use pen input for ZoomIt drawing on tablet PCs.

It’s a great tool and you can use your Surface Pen to add ink over your live screen shots. Oh – and it’s free. 


If you just need to magnify portions of the screen you can use the  built-in Windows Screen Magnifier, but being able to ink on the screen makes it well worth the tiny download.

Windows Touch & Tablet

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