Windows investigate

What applications are available on Windows RT?

Tony McSherry looks at the desktop applications available on the Windows RT Surface tablet.

Like all Windows computers, the Surface offers Accessories, Ease of Access, and System applications, and while they may lack the colourful UI of the Start screen and RT apps, they still provide useful functions.

While the Surface RT does not support most Windows legacy applications, the desktop, with its multiple windows and taskbar, is still there, and, as well as Office 2013, there are a number of familiar Windows applications.

You can, of course, use the desktop applications in the normal way with keyboard and mouse, but if you'd like to utilise touch as well, I'd recommend you increase the size of all items by 125 percent and increase the text size of such items as title bars, menus, and message boxes to at least 11pt. This not only separates the UI elements to make them easier to touch, but also increases the visibility of desktop text for those of us with older eyes.

To make these adjustments, select the Desktop from the Start screen, right-click on the desktop, or tap and hold and select Personalise from the menu. When the Personalisation dialog appears, select Display from the bottom-left list and make the appropriate adjustments.


(Screenshot by Tony McSherry/TechRepublic)

You can access all of the Windows Accessories and System applications by swiping up from the bottom of the Start screen (or right-clicking at the bottom of the screen) and selecting all apps. All of your Windows RT apps will be displayed first, but scrolling to the right will reveal Office, Windows Accessories, Ease of Access, and System applications.

Calculator


(Screenshot by Tony McSherry/TechRepublic)

The calculator seems unchanged from earlier versions of Windows. It offers a Standard version, as well as Scientific, Programmer, and Statistics, with unit conversion, date calculation, and Worksheets for mortgage, lease, and fuel economy. While it's certainly useful, there are numerous free, ad-supported, and commercial calculators available on the Windows Store that are a lot more touch friendly.

Character Map and Maths Input Panel

The Character Map is a familiar application for programmers or writers wishing to use characters, symbols, and glyphs from the thousands available in today's Unicode fonts. It remains unchanged, but is still extremely useful when you need to insert an unusual character, or need to know the number for HTML code. It's not really needed for Word these days, as Insert Symbol will give you access to the same characters.


(Screenshot by Tony McSherry/TechRepublic)

I was unfamiliar with the Maths Input Panel, which appeared in Windows 7. For those who want to enter their mathematics by hand, it will interpret your scrawled equations and insert them in Word. I'd recommend a capacitive pen, as a mouse or finger is a little crude, but it did manage to cope with my index finger.


(Screenshot by Tony McSherry/TechRepublic)

Once again, Word has inbuilt tools for mathematics, but if you'd like to hand write them, the tool is there.

Notepad and Paint

There's no new-fangled ribbon UI for Notepad; it's the same basic text editor, and still a handy tool for editing HTML/XML files, and some people even prefer to work with just plain text. Thankfully, the days I had to use text editors for coding are long gone, but it's nice to know that it's still there.

Paint, on the other hand, does use the ribbon UI, but it has the same functions as its predecessors. I've done a lot of graphic design over the years, and I'm used to layers and objects, filters, and image-processing tools, free rotation, and libraries. You won't get any of that with Paint.


(Screenshot by Tony McSherry/TechRepublic)

However, if you just need to resize images, crop them, rotate them at 90-degree intervals, add text and symbols, and save as BMP, JPG, GIF, TIFF, or PNG format, then it's a fast and easy-to-use tool.

Remote Desktop Connection

This is a very useful application for accessing remote PCs. It may be your work computer or a friend or relative's PC, and it allows you to use the remote computer as though you were sitting at its keyboard and screen. You need to enable it on the remote PC, but it's an application that has many uses, as you can perform any task on the remote PC.


(Screenshot by Tony McSherry/TechRepublic)

Snipping Tool, Steps Recorder and XPS viewer

The Snipping Tool provides desktop screen capture and cropping, and the Steps recorder will allow you to record your actions on the desktop and save them as a file that might be useful for training or problem solving. The XPS viewer lets you view documents in XPS format — Microsoft's open-source format that is similar to PDF format.

I'm currently trying out the Ease of Access applications, and I'll cover these and the System applications in a subsequent article.

About

Tony is the owner and managing director of Microcraft eLearning and is one of the creators of the AUTHOR eLearning Development System.

5 comments
Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

one that doesn't have everything and includes a EULA term that says it may NOT be used for commercial purposes or in a commercial way or used for a charitable organisation. Section 6 applies here. And don't forget that the Surface RT has a nice piece of spyware that reports back to MS each month and can NOT be turned off. That's all in the MS EULA on the Surface RT; section 5 paragraphs d, k, and m

SiO2
SiO2

'You can, of course, use the desktop applications in the normal way with keyboard and mouse, but if you’d like to utilise touch as well, I’d recommend you increase the size of all items by 125 percent and increase the text size of such items as title bars, menus, and message boxes to at least 11pt. This not only separates the UI elements to make them easier to touch, but also increases the visibility of desktop text for those of us with older eyes.' I've got no problem with customising a display to personal preferences, but Microsoft have really stuffed this one up. I've heard a lot of people complaining W8 looks '90s', with its clean and simple lines. Reminds me of Windows 3.1 albeit with a few more colours, with a text-and icon based 'Command Explorer' in a grid - almost identical. It also has about the same level of usability as a virgin system using 3.1 as well - a notepad, calculator, very basic paint app and a simplistic display that was developed from the naturally-gridded character cell display that preceded it. (it wasnt a huge step to colour and select a word by putting a mouse cursor on it rather than type in a command from the keyboard...) and doesnt appear to have changed much. I wont be using RT myself, but I can see why the millions of 'computer savvy' users will. Its very familiar if you've used early versions of Windows and dislike what happened after XP because its about as limited: Where's the CD/DVD burner, FMV media player and basic WP that can read a Hypertext document or a PDF? Where is the programming interface that anything that calls itself a computer MUST HAVE to be called a computer and not an appliance? I'm not kicking just Windows here, IOS and Android also suffer from the same problem of pretty-but-useless. I guess people really just dont need computing power at their fingertips, but as its availble they'll use it for entertainment... Theres a whole bunch of stuff missing that i'd have to pay for or just do without, so I'm staying well clear of tablets until they have matured into true computers.

wizard57m-cnet
wizard57m-cnet

Chromebooks, iPads, most "smartphones". It is not confined to just Microsoft now. The sad part is that many users simply don't find that offensive now, unlike the bruhaha that was raised when Intel had the little "ET phone home" problem some years back. We're tracked, data mined, cataloged, characterized and categorized so that we are then targeted with what someone somewhere thinks is a relavant advertisement. I've yet to find a good enough reason to justify a tablet device purchase for my uses, but the category is an interesting one!

spookyone1
spookyone1

CD burner? Who wants/needs a CD burner? I have boxes of unused CDs that I bought in quantity. I haven't burned a CD, or a DVD for that matter, in YEARS. Flash media viewer? Again, who the he11 needs one? I believe RT has "basic WP" capability including handling .pdf, and any browser can read hypertext. Nothing needs a "programming interface" to be considered a computer, the vast majority of embedded systems are real computers with no user available programming interface. You mean, you have no interest in a computer you don't have a programming interface for. You have missed the point of tablets too. Obviously they aren't going to perform like desktops, or even laptops. I've had multiple computers for years. I used have a desktop system for power stuff and several laptops for he convenience. Now I have laptops for power AND laptops for convenience, PLUS a couple of tablets for those times when I want/need to go really lightweight. I use a tablet in situations when I would have done without a computer before, and believe me, that is POWER.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

the RT can NOT be set up NOT to report back.