Microsoft Surface RT gesture and keyboard shortcut guide

Microsoft's Surface RT is a new device and comes with a new UI and gestures, many of which are not intuitive. I found many helpful gestures and keyboard shortcuts and hope this guide helps relieve some frustrations.
Written by Matthew Miller, Contributing Writer
Microsoft Surface RT gesture and keyboard shortcut guide

I wrote about my 64GB Microsoft Surface RT preorder last month and have been using it for the past couple of weeks. Windows RT does not have an intuitive UI and I have been struggling at times to get things done. I'm still debating about whether I am going to keep it or not, but wanted to help readers who have it with a guide covering some helpful gestures and keyboard shortcuts.

Windows RT gestures

Using the Microsoft Surface RT reminds me a bit of using webOS and MeeGo with a UI that uses different swipes in from outside the display. I either discovered these through discussions with other users or by trial and error. Start the swipes from the black bezel and move onto the display to see these responses:

  • On Start screen, tap and drag a Live Tile: You can move the Live Tile around the Start screen and place it where you desire without having to tap and hold on it.
  • On Start screen, tap and hold on Live Tile, drag down: Options will appear at the bottom of the screen to unpin from Start, uninstall the application, make the Tile bigger or smaller, and turn Live Tile off or on. You can also view all apps from this menu.
  • On Start screen, swipe from bottom up or top down: All apps button appears so you can view all apps you have installed since not all are pinned to the Start screen. Another swipe up and tap on the icon takes you back to the Metro Start screen. You can also just tap the Start icon located at the center bottom of the display to go to the Metro Start screen.
  • On Start screen, pinch to create groups of tiles: Touch the Start screen with two or more fingers and then pinch them together. A zoomed out Start screen will appear, you can now tap, hold, and drag down on groups of tiles and name them. This name will appear on the regular Start screen and is a nice way to have an entertainment group, news group, gaming group, etc.
  • Within an app, swipe from left to right on left side and hold your finger on app thumbnail that you "grab": You can now drag this thumbnail to the right or left side of an open app and split the screen to view two apps at once.
  • Within an app, swipe from bottom up or top: Applications support different menu items if you swipe from the top or bottom onto the display. Some examples include changing views in the calendar, changing status of emails, viewing IE tabs, creating new notes, and more.
  • Always available, wipe from right to left on right side of screen: You will see the "Charms" appear on the right side and the clock appear over on the left. The Charms are designated Search, Share, Start, Devices, and Settings. Don't forget there are Charms icons on the keyboard too.
  • Always available, swipe from left to right on left side of screen: This will switch to another open and running application.
  • Always available, swipe from left to right, and then back quickly right to left without lifting your finger on the left side of the screen: This slides out a row of most recently used applications, which looks very similar to the task switcher we see in the later versions of the Android OS.
  • Always available, swipe down from the top and drag the app down the screen: This will close the running application.

Once you learn that there are gestures like this available, they become quite useful. A problem is that some apps don't use the up and down swipes so there is a lot of discovery that you have to make to figure out how to fully use your Surface RT. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but does offer up a bit of an inconsistent user experience.

Windows RT keyboard and mouse shortcuts

IMHO, a Windows Surface RT tablet is basically useless without a keyboard so I do not recommend anyone purchase one without a keyboard as you will end up being very frustrated without one. As you can see on the keyboard itself, there is a row above the number row for things such as volume control, play/pause media, search, share, devices, settings, home, end, page up, and page down. There are arrows keys and also a very functional trackpad with left and right mouse button sections. Here are several more keyboard and mouse shortcuts:

  • Start+B: Back to Desktop
  • Start+C: Open charms
  • Start+D: Go to the Desktop
  • Start+E: Go to File Explorer on Desktop
  • Start+F: Search files
  • Start+H: Start Share charm
  • Start+I: Start Settings charm
  • Start+K: Start Devices charm
  • Start+L: Lock the Surface RT
  • Start+M: Minimize everything on the Desktop
  • Start+P: Open second screen manager utility
  • Start+Q: Search apps
  • Start+R: Open Run on the Desktop
  • Start+T: Open Task Manager in Desktop
  • Start+U: Open Ease of Access Center in Desktop
  • Start+W: Search settings
  • Start+X: Open system utility settings menu
  • Start+Z: Emulate swipe up from bottom of screen
  • Start+.: Snap app left
  • Start+,: Peek at desktop, let go of Start to go back to Metro UI
  • Start+Tab: Open Metro UI task manager
  • Start+Enter: Open Windows Narrator
  • Start+Shift.: Snap app right
  • Alt+Tab: Application switcher, different look than task manager
  • Ctrl+Tab: Toggle between All Apps and Start
  • Ctrl+Escape: Toggle between last open app and current app
  • On Start screen, with the mouse active click the - button in far right bottom corner: This will zoom out the Start screen so you can create group names for apps on the Start screen.
  • On Start screen, right click on an app: You will see the options found with a tap, hold, and drag down by your finger using this quick right click.
  • On Start screen, move mouse to upper left corner to see last used app: Move the mouse down the left edge to see the most recently used app list.

As you can see the keyboard is extremely useful and functional on the Microsoft Surface RT device and there are likely even more things than I wrote about here. I was pleasantly surprised by how functional the trackpad and mouse buttons are as well.

Microsoft put a lot of work into the Surface and Windows 8 and it shows by all of the functionality contained in this Surface RT. There are also many things that are not that intuitive so take the time and learn these shortcuts and gestures to more efficiently use your Windows RT device. If you have any more that I should include in my list, please let me know and I can update it as they come in.

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