Surface Book Tip: Enable Tablet Mode

Posted on November 1, 2015 by Paul Thurrott in Microsoft Surface with 0

Surface Book Tip: Enable Tablet Mode

Despite its detachable design, Surface Book does not behave like other 2-in-1s and let you access Tablet mode when you detach its keyboard base. This is a rare bit of bad design for Surface Book, and it runs contrary to Windows 10’s default behavior. Fortunately, you can easily fix this.

As you may know, Tablet mode optimizes Windows 10 for touch, enabling the following changes to the UI:

Everything is full screen. Start and any open apps and windows all switch into a special full screen mode and the desktop is effectively hidden (though you can of course still access the desktop in File Explorer).

App icons in the taskbar disappear. By default, app icons do not appear in the taskbar. This cleans up the look of the system dramatically and ensures you won’t fumble-finger launch app icons by mistake.

UI elements adapt to be touch-friendly. Among the changes here are a touch-friendly taskbar in which its contained icons are bigger and better spaced for touch, plus a Back button that works like the one on Windows phones, enabling you to navigate back through the system “back stack.”

With Surface Book and other PCs, you can engage Tablet mode manually via its quick action tile in Action Center (WINKEY + A). Each time you select this tile, Tablet mode toggles on or off.

By default, Windows 10 is configured to automatically prompt you to engage Tablet mode when the keyboard is detached from a 2-in-1 PC. But this doesn’t happen with Surface Book, as Microsoft has inexplicably disabled this functionality. This makes no sense: When you detach Surface Book from its keyboard base, you are using the device as a large tablet, with multi-touch, and with Surface Pen. And many people—most people, arguably—who will actually use Surface Book in this fashion will want it to actually behave like a tablet when they do so.

Here’s how to fix it.

Open Settings (WINKEY + I) and navigate to System, Tablet Mode.


The primary setting we’re interested in here is “When this device automatically switches tablet mode on or off.” By default, this is set to “Always ask me before switching.” But Microsoft has configured it to “Don’t ask me and don’t switch.” So change this setting to “Always ask me before switching” or “Don’t ask me and always switch,” whichever you prefer.

You can make other changes here, of course, depending on how you prefer to use Tablet mode. But now Windows 10 will behave normally when you detach Surface Book from its keyboard base and at least prompt you to enter Tablet mode.


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