Using Act! with a Microsoft Surface Tablet

Act! can be installed on Surface Pro Tablets, but there are major downsides.  Here are some of our concerns.

Surface RT

Act! can not be installed on the inexpensive, more “lightweight” Microsoft Surface RT.  The Surface RT runs a version of Windows 8.1 that only has the metro interface – this means that it lacks the “full desktop”, and instead relies on apps.  No software can be installed on the Surface RT in the traditional sense.  The Surface RT is rebranded by Microsoft as just plain Surface, so keep an eye out for that when comparing Surface / Surface Pro.

Surface Pro, Surface Pro 2, and Surface Pro 3

Surface Pro runs a full version of Windows 8.1, and therefore any supported versions of Act! will install on it just like a laptop or desktop computer.  We recommend Act! v17 or Act! v16.  See our guide on Windows 8 compatibility here.

The big issue is with the display.  These Surface Pro tablets have a very high resolution screen of 2160 x 1440.  Higher resolutions have the effect of making items on the 12″ display very small.  Microsoft countered this effect by setting the Windows Surface OS to have a default zoom setting of 150% magnification.  The result is that Act! will display very poorly.  Certain menu items are tiny, and other menu texts are huge.  Some buttons are difficult to click on without a stylus.  Overall, in its default settings, Act! is near unusable on a Surface tablet.

The good news is that there are workarounds.  If you lower the screen resolution and set the zoom settings back to 100%, things in Act! start to go back to normal.  Then you have to deal with other desktop icons and programs other than Act! being skewed, however.  This took a long period of tweaking various display settings and options.  You will also need to modify your Act! layouts (field sizes, labels). Ultimately, I have found display configurations that will get Act! and the Surface Pro displaying properly, but not right out of the box.  

You can also consider using your Surface Pro to “remote desktop connection” into a different computer with Act! installed.  This workaround will circumvent the display issues altogether.  It does require that you have a network connection to another computer with Act! installed on it however.

The final concern is that even once you get Act! completely displayed as it is supposed to be viewed, with no enlarged menus or texts, everything is still very small.  If you have concerns over small fonts, or do not want your eyes to get sore looking at small data, then Act! on a Surface Pro is not a solution for you.  If that is the case I would recommend a larger screen laptop – there are some very sleek ones that can flip/rotate into tablets!  If you are the type of person that can read small articles with ease on their phone, then you may find Act! on a Surface Pro to be a good fit for you, after modifying various display settings.

My final thoughts: I advise against buying a Surface Pro if your intention is to use Act! on it, but if you insist upon going this route, please call us at 716-837-5727 and we can customize your Act! layouts & display settings for you.

One thought on “Using Act! with a Microsoft Surface Tablet

  1. Actually there is another option. Create a virtual machine and set the VM to the right sizing of resolution/text. It seems to work perfectly. This way my native Surface Pro 4 resolution is not affect at all (all other applications run natively) and the VM is the only one that has unique display settings. I also have a remote database synching with the server through the VM.

    What you need. A virtual machine client software. I am using VMware workstation 12 player (free for perosnal use, economical for business use) and a microsoft windows retail license. All in all $100 along with a little elbow grease solved the issue.

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