Working With The Microsoft Surface RT

There are many people that are out looking to get a ‘tablet’ so they do not have to pull out their 8lb laptop when they want to check email, surf the web, or track their daily calories. I don’t know if very many people actually use a laptop for calorie tracking but I doubt it. For all exstensive purposes I will be talking about the Surface with touch cover. It is, in my opinion the only way to go and should be sold for $499 with the cover. But at $599 with cover it is on par with or cheaper than you will spend on a similar setup with a new iPad.

The Good Things About Working With Surface RT

The form Factor: It is light, thin, and versatile.

Weighing in under 2lbs with the touch cover is a pretty impressive feat with a 10.6″ screen and several usable ports like the USB, HDMI, headphone, and microSD. Oh and there is a built in kick stand that does it’s job elegantly and hides away nicely. This baby can easily slip into my girlfriends purse, a backpack, or just be carried around and the keyboard is a nice protective cover. Granted I haven’t dropped my Surface yet so I don’t know how much protection it will offer in reality. With the touch cover you can easily use the Surface like a full fledged laptop on a flat surface like a desk, table, etc. Also with how solid the kickstand is, it is easy and comfortable to use the Surface in your lap. The lap position isn’t as versatile as a laptop because it is not as rigid as a laptop and only has one angle but it is still very usable. The 16:9 is wonderful in landscape for media and in portrait it is nice for longer websites and Nook or Kindle reading.

File System

Doing web development, I obviously deal with a lot of files. Having Skydrive nicely integrated and having a full featured, easy access file system is a great asset when developing.

The App Ecosystem

Hold on a second and let me explain. The ecosystem isn’t there just yet for everything but, being a Windows machine you can clearly see that the device has developer minded people behind it. There have already been a lot of code editor apps to hit the marketplace and this excites me. I haven’t found one that I like as much as Notepad++ just yet but I know it will be there shortly either with an update to the already impressive list of editor apps or a new one coming along.

Full Screen Browser, Multi-tasking, Charms, Gestures, Snap, and App Switcher

I lumped these together because in my use they are the bread and butter of what makes the device such a joy to use and they all basically go hand in hand. As a web developer I am obviously excited about the future of web apps. I have never been a fan of native apps, even when I was on iOS. Oops started drifting, back on. The full screen browser is just beautiful, it really just puts the web in front of you without any other junk. The multi-tasking is similar, tied in with how you switch apps it is just out of the way and just works fast and fluid. Instead of having a cluttered desktop with various sized windows stacked on top of each other things just get out of the way and are a simple flick from being front and center again. And of course if someone is chatting you up, you need to check emails, or are testing your mobile sized web work then snap is a beautiful answer to that. The gestures and charms really tie everything together. Instead of hunting around for where an app put it’s settings or other core functionality, you know they are a flick from the right away. Also a short swipe from top or bottom will bring you the other options the app brings and they will get out of your way when you are done.

Built in Remote Desktop is Second to None

Lets face it, in its infancy Windows RT does not have everything you could possibly need as far as apps go so you have to get on your desktop. But wait, instead of walking all the way up stairs and pausing your movie you can just RDP. As a bonus if you are remoting into a Windows 8 machine you even still have all of your wonderful gestures. RDP to a Windows 8 machine feels like you have full Windows 8 on your Surface RT with a bit of lag in a few areas.

The Bad Things About Developing on Surface RT

I can sum this all up in one word. Apps. While RDP is a good solution, it isn’t always the desired one. I need some Ruby on my RT for SASS, filezilla, and more browsers to test on. Sure there is browser stack but it isn’t the same.

Custom Tiles Updated – Now Supports HTML Entities Hex and Decimal Code ✌

Want to make the home screen of your Windows Phone even more attractive? I’ve made some exciting changes to the Custom Tiles web app that I have built ➠ here. If you haven’t seen it, it is a must for Windows Phone fans. It is a great, easy way to add custom tiles to your start screen for website shortcuts. Currently, you simply just the web address that you want to create the shortcut for, the title, subtitle, color, and pin it to your start screen.

As you can see below I have used a few of the HTML entity icons to show just a little bit of what can be done now with Custom Tiles. There is a link below to a good resource for the html entity, hex, and decimal codes for these icons but here is one example. ✌ = ✌

Windows Phone Custom Tiles Web App - Website Tiles
Here are some sample tiles that you can make with the new and improved Custom Tiles web app.

More Customizable Website Shortcuts

I have just added support for HTML entity hex and decimal code so that you can add a slew of different icons to your start screen. A good reference to these characters can be found here ✓.

Techniques for Perfecting Your Custom Tiles

I started thinking about it and realized that you can easily pan and zoom to position the text/icons exactly where you will want them to be. Later on I would like to add more colors, font color change, and independently changing the position of the title and sub-title. I have been thinking about using cookies to remember some of your choices to make your process faster. And implementing an auto complete for some common urls to make that process easier. If there is any other functionality you would like to see please let me know. I think that adding the icon support increases the usefullness 10 fold for this web app.