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Get more out of your devices with the Windows 8 Microsoft Device Center

With a whole new user interface, the Microsoft Device Center allows you to configure the special features on your Microsoft mouse or keyboard.

Do you have a relatively new Microsoft keyboard or Microsoft mouse connected to your Windows 8 Release Preview system? If so, then you will want to investigate the beta version of the new Microsoft Device Center, which is essentially an updated version of the IntelliType and IntelliMouse software that we used in previous versions of Windows.

Like its predecessors, this package is designed to allow you to configure the special features on your Microsoft mouse or keyboard, but it does so from a whole new style of user interface designed for Windows 8. Gone is the tabbed dialog box of old and in its place is a nice flowing window that feels more like a Web site.

In this edition of the Windows Desktop Report I will show you what the Microsoft Device Center brings to the table.

Note: Keep in mind that both Windows 8 and Microsoft Device Center may change between now and the time of the final release, and consequently some of the features described in this article may be different.

Getting started

To investigate the Microsoft Device Center in Windows 8 Release Preview, I connected a Microsoft Ergonomic Natural Keyboard 4000 and a Microsoft Touch Mouse to my test system. As such, my discussion and examples will be specific to this hardware. If you use other supported Microsoft hardware, you may see a different set of controls and options in the Microsoft Device Center, but your experience will be similar.

You can download the Microsoft Device Center from the Microsoft Hardware web site. Keep in mind that the package comes in both 32-bit and 64-bit versions, so make sure you get the correct version for your system. Once you have downloaded it, installing it is a quick and easy process. The new style installation screen is shown in Figure A.

Figure A

The installation screen for the Microsoft Device Center is very clean looking.
Once you have the Microsoft Device Center installed you'll find a very slick looking interface that slides left and right to display the settings pages for the keyboard and mouse. As you can see in Figure B, the first page displays the keyboard settings along with a picture of the Ergonomic Natural Keyboard 4000. In the upper-right edge you see half of the mouse.

Figure B

The Microsoft Device Center interface slides left and right to display the settings pages for the keyboard and mouse.
To access the mouse settings page, simply hover your pointer over the mouse image. As you do, the complete image emerges onto the screen, and you can click the image. When you do, the page flips over to the mouse settings page, which shows a picture of the Touch Mouse along with the applicable settings. You'll then see that a portion of the keyboard image appears in the upper-left edge, as shown in Figure C. To return to the keyboard settings, you repeat the steps of hovering and clicking the keyboard image.

Figure C

The mouse settings page displays a picture of the Touch Mouse along with the applicable settings.

There's one more thing I want to mention before we move on. You'll notice that neither the keyboard nor mouse settings pages have an OK button. That's because each setting change that you make is instantaneous. Make a change and you can instantly experiment with it.

Mouse

As you can see on the mouse settings page for the Touch Mouse, there are three sections titled Left Button, Right Button, and Touch Gestures. There is also a section titled Practice Gestures. Before I go on, let me say that I am right-handed, so I will be looking at the mouse configuration options from that perspective. But keep in mind that if you are left-handed you can instead configure the mouse with that orientation.

Left button

By default, the left button is assigned as the main Click. But, as you can see in Figure D, you can choose any of the options under the Most Used Commands. However, because the left button is the main selection button, you must assign the default Click to the right button before you can assign another task to the left button. Once you do so, you can click View All Commands and you'll find a whole host of commands that you can assign to the left button. However, since I am right-handed, I'll leave the setting as is.

Figure D

By default, the left button is assigned as the main Click.

Right button

The right button is by default assigned as Right-click, as shown in Figure E, but you can choose any of the options under the Most Used Commands. You can even create macros and assign them the right mouse button. When you click View All Commands, you'll find a whole host of additional commands that you can assign to the button. Commands are in the following categories:
  • Gaming
  • Browser
  • Content
  • Document
  • Windows
  • Key
  • Special

Figure E

You can assign a number of commands, including macros, to the right button.

The number of available commands is quite extensive. For example, under the Content category you can assign Cut, Copy, or Paste just to name a few. Under the Windows category, you can assign Close, Minimize, or any of several others.

Of course being able to assign so many commands will be more advantageous on a mouse with more buttons than the Touch Mouse, which focuses more on touch gestures than clicking buttons.

Touch Gestures

On the Touch Gestures page, shown in Figure F, you have a series of slider controls for enabling or disabling the Touch Mouse's gestures. The Touch Mouse allows you to use several gestures, such as a one finger scroll and two fingers, to arrange windows. If you want to learn more about gestures in the Touch Mouse, check out my article "Get in the Gesture Groove with the Microsoft Touch Mouse."

Figure F

The Touch Mouse provides you with several gestures for performing various operations.

Keyboard

The Ergonomic Natural Keyboard 4000 has a multitude of special keys,. Most of them have tasks assigned to them by default, but all of them are configurable from the keyboard settings page. For example, at the top of the keyboard are the five My Favorites buttons that you can program in Device Center to open Web sites and files, as shown in Figure G. Notice that all the customizable keys can be highlighted by clicking the circle icon to the right of the keyboard picture.

Figure G

Device Center allows you to program the 5 My Favorite buttons to open Web sites and files.
Many of the keys can be configured to run macros that you can create in a Macro Editor, shown in Figure H.

Figure H

Many of the keys can be configured to run macros using the Macro Editor.

Other features

As you've been looking at the screen shots above, you have probably noticed the Facebook and Twitter icons on the keyboard and mouse settings pages. I've not seen this before, but it does go along with the notion of the user interface being like a web page -- and they do work. For instance, I clicked the Facebook icon on the Touch Mouse page and it created a post on my wall complete with a picture on the Touch Mouse and a link to the Microsoft Hardware site.

At the top of the page, you'll find the Support menu, shown in Figure I, which provides you quick access to a number of pages on the Microsoft Hardware Web site. Along the bottom of the page you'll find informative tips that display at regular intervals.

Figure I

There are several other features in Device Center worth noting.

What's your take?

Do you have a relatively new Microsoft Keyboard or Microsoft Mouse connected to your Windows 8 Release Preview system? Will you try Microsoft Device Center? What do you think about the user interface in Device Center? As always, if you have comments or information to share about this topic, please take a moment to drop by the TechRepublic Community Forums and let us hear from you.

Also read:

About

Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

6 comments
rafcolon
rafcolon

Sometimes the center has two devices in it, other days all of them are there. It all depends in win 8 each day. The app is not stable at all.

ombm
ombm

I love my Touch mouse...very very cool features, responsive and nice feel to it.

Carol1
Carol1

Those people at Microsoft don't know how to type ... the number 6 should be on the right side!

imsoscareed
imsoscareed

So they changed the name of a piece of software. Yippee.

GraemeLeggett
GraemeLeggett

"nice flowing window that feels more like a Web site." and therein lies the rub - some of us like the tab style. I associate webpages with slow loading and tabs with quick flicking between settings - not necessarily the true picture though. What I do see thogh in the screen shots is a disturbing lack of contrast between screen elements and background.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

Do you use a keyboard or mouse with special features or do you prefer to keep it standard and simple?