Using the Tablet Tutorials

When you power up your new tablet for the first time, you’ll see the Welcome To Tablet Computing tutorial, shown in Figure 1-1, designed to give you the basics of using your tablet’s unique features. Take a few minutes to go through at least the first six screens, which give you practice using the pen in place of a mouse. Without this practice, your first hour with your tablet will be very frustrating. After the practice section, the next seven screens give you an overview of inputting text using the pen, but there are no opportunities to practice and subsequent tutorials do a much more thorough job on this anyway. Skim through them if you wish, and quit the program. We will cover using the pen to input text in depth in Chapter 2. The most important thing to practice now is using your pen in place of a mouse, particularly pointing the cursor, single-tapping, double-tapping, and right-tapping.

Figure 1-1 Use the welcome tutorial to practice using your pen in place of a mouse.
Figure 1-1. Use the welcome tutorial to practice using your pen in place of a mouse.
To tap is the pen equivalent of a click. Where you would click with a mouse button, you tap with your pen.
Switching the Screen Orientation

The Welcome To Tablet Computing tutorial should be done with your screen in portrait orientation (longer than it is wide) and with the pen as primary input. If your tablet does not have an attached keyboard, it should start up this way. If your tablet can also function as a laptop, it will probably start in landscape screen orientation and with the keyboard and touch pad accessible for input.

The exact process to stow or remove your keyboard and otherwise reconfigure your tablet varies, so you’ll need to check your owner’s manual. Switching the screen orientation is part of Windows XP Tablet PC Edition and can be done three different ways. Switching the screen is something you might do several times during the day, so you should understand all three.

Change Tablet And Pen Settings also lets you quickly toggle the speaker on and off (handy if you don’t want to bother your neighbor on the airplane) and turn the screen off to save battery power. The Properties item takes you directly to the Tablet And Pen settings control panel.
Figure 1-3 Change Tablet And Pen Settings in the notification area gives quick access to commonly used commands.
Figure 1-3. Change Tablet And Pen Settings in the notification area gives quick access to commonly used commands.
The primary landscape orientation usually puts the hardware buttons near the user’s right hand. Left-handed users can switch this by activating the secondary portrait orientation instead of the primary one.
Using a Pen in Lieu of a Mouse

Until using your pen instead of a mouse is second nature, you can’t really enjoy your tablet. One fundamental skill is moving the cursor. The pen should not make contact with the screen if you only want to move the cursor. In fact, as soon as the pen gets close enough to the screen, the cursor will jump to the pen’s position, so you rarely need to move the cursor around the screen as you did with a mouse. Just to get a feel for the pen, though, try moving the cursor to various items on the screen, such as the Start menu, and hovering in place until the ToolTip comment appears.

To hover with your pen is to bring your pen close enough to the screen to move the cursor but not actually touch the screen. Hovering allows you to control the cursor without the risk of an accidental tap or drag.

When the pen does make contact with the screen, that is the equivalent of a click with the left mouse button, so you must make contact to tap (click) or drag. The key to a good tap or drag is tapping hard enough for the screen to register the contact but not pressing down excessively. This comes quickly with a little hands-on experience. As you practice, here are some tips for successful mousing with a pen and the logic behind them.

Clean your screen often. When you rest your hand on the screen it gets dirty quite quickly. Many office supply outlets and computer stores sell anti-static wipes for cleaning computer monitors that work very well.
If you’re having continued trouble getting your pen to work and you already tried tapping harder, try holding the pen more upright. This will improve the alignment between the pen tip and the cursor. Sometimes, when the pen is at a serious angle, the cursor is off to one side, almost as if it is a “shadow” cast by the pen. Also, the tip of the pen must compress slightly to send a signal. If the pen is held at too much of an angle, the tip will slide over the screen rather than compress.
Using a Pen for Right-Click and Right-Drag

Research shows only about 30% of Windows users ever use their right mouse button. This is too bad, since a right-click gives you instant access to context-sensitive shortcut menus full of useful commands. On a tablet, these menus save perhaps even more time and effort, so you should definitely know how to right-tap and right-drag. To get a good right-tap, hold the pen down longer until the right-tap icon appears and then lift the pen completely off the screen. Next highlight the desired item on the shortcut menu while hovering. Finally, tap the selected menu item.

It’s very easy to accidentally select the wrong item on a shortcut menu if you keep the pen in contact with the screen after the shortcut menu appears.

Pens with a button for a right-tap make the process quicker and easier. To right-tap with a pen button, hold the pen button down before you make contact with the screen, tap the point where you want to right-tap, and lift the pen back off the screen before releasing the pen button. The right-tap menu will appear where you tapped. The pen button is also the only easy way to right-drag on a tablet, such as you might do when you wanted to move a file from one folder to another rather than copying it. To right-drag, hold the pen button down before you make contact with the screen, press down and drag the item you want to move. Lift the pen off the screen before you release the pen button, and the shortcut menu will appear over the icon you just dragged. The disadvantage to using the pen button is that if you move the pen laterally too much as you right tap, you can accidentally right-drag and get the wrong shortcut menu. If this happens, tap anywhere on the screen other than the menu. If it happens to you often, try changing the pen tolerances in the Tablet And Pen Settings control panel.

Using the Built-In Tablet Tutorials

The Welcome To Tablet Computing tutorial only launches the first time you use your tablet. There are four more built-in tutorials that provide an overview of tablet computing and introductions to Input Panel, Windows Journal, and Speech input. The tutorial home, shown in Figure 1-4, will appear every time you start up your tablet until you tell them to go away by checking Do Not Show Me This Again. If you want to run the tutorials after you check this box, go to the Start menu, tap All Programs, tap the Tablet PC folder, and tap Tablet PC Tutorials. We will cover Input Panel and Speech input in Chapter 2 and explore Windows Journal in Chapters 3 through 5. Some basic use of Input Panel is necessary to simply get going on the tablet, so, if you haven’t done so already, view the video portions of Tablet PC Tutorial and Tablet PC Input Panel Tutorial. Ideally, do the exercises as well.

The key items to take away from these tutorials are:

That’s enough to give you rudimentary text input with the pen. If you just can’t wait to find out more, go ahead and skip to Chapter 2 and come back here once you’re an Input Panel expert. If you want to put off using Input Panel entirely for a while and you have a USB keyboard, simply plug it into tablet and use a standard keyboard instead.

Figure 1-4 The Tablet PC Tutorials are worth going through at least once.
Figure 1-4. The Tablet PC Tutorials are worth going through at least once.
Many of the peripherals on your tablet will use the Universal Serial Bus (USB). USB is easy to use, but there are a few things to be aware of. See Appendix A, Troubleshooting, if you are having trouble with USB peripherals.