Microsoft details its Windows 8 portrait support for tablets

By Tom Warren, on 20th Oct 11 8:31 pm with 60 Comments

Microsoft detailed its work on portrait and landscape optimisation in Windows 8 on Thursday.

The software maker revealed a detailed and thorough approach to a largely overlooked aspect of its Windows 8 design. “We spent a considerable number of hours studying people as they used tablet devices in our usability labs as well as in their own homes,” revealed Microsoft’s David Washington, in a blog post on Thursday. Microsoft’s studies allowed them to work out users body postures, movements and interactions with various applications. “The number of combinations was staggering, contributing to the basic conclusion that postures, grips, and orientations change fairly frequently,” said Washington. “Simply put, there’s no one way to hold a device and people naturally seek to find a comfortable position and orientation that feels right for what they are doing with the device at the time.”

Microsoft decided to create some goals for its Windows 8 landscape and portrait support:

  • You can easily rotate your tablet to best suit your task or ergonomic posture.
  • Rotation in Windows is fast and fluid.
  • Windows rotates predictably across the system and apps – keeping the user in control.
  • Developers can easily build high quality and intentional landscape and portrait layouts, depending on the experiences they want to enable.

Landscape mode

Windows 8 landscape mode

Microsoft’s support of landscape mode is the most natural way to view content on a desktop or tablet PC. “We’ve designed Windows 8 to be ergonomically comfortable in all orientations,” says Washington before explaining that the majority of the Metro experience is accessible with your thumbs. Microsoft’s multitasking experience and full-screen video playback are both support without letter boxing in landscape mode.

Portrait mode

Windows 8 portrait mode

Microsoft studied ways of reading news in a web browser in portrait mode and viewing photos, scrolling through emails and other methods of use. “We tuned the system experiences like the keyboard, file picker, and charms to work great in portrait as well as landscape,” says Washington. “We wanted to make it so you don’t need to relearn the system when you switch to portrait mode; it just works.”


Windows 8 rotation lock

Microsoft’s work on rotation is greatly improved in Windows 8. The software giant has put a lot of effort into making the experience as smooth as possible. “We are continually working to make the rotation as stable and predictable as possible, as we know how annoying an over-eager rotation can be,” says Washington. Microsoft stabilises the accelerometer in a Windows 8 device before rotation starts, the technique prevents accidental rotations. “We introduced a hardware orientation lock to “override gravity” and keep the orientation the way you want it,” Washington adds.

Different screen resolutions and aspect ratios

Windows 8 aspect ratios

Windows 8 is designed to run on a variety of screens. Microsoft is also supporting a number of aspect ratios, including 4:3 and 16:9. “Our scaling platform enables Windows and apps to seamlessly adapt and reflow content to of these different screens and make use of the space,” says Washington. The support will allow apps to adapt to a screen and ratio on the fly. The minimum resolution for Windows 8 Metro apps is 1024×768. “We chose this size as it is a common size designed for use on the web, and a strong majority (i.e. 98.8%) of Windows users can run at this resolution or higher,” says Washington. “We think it is important to have a minimum resolution for apps, as it allows all developers to design the smallest main view of their app without fragmentation across devices. This minimum also ensures that users do not see broken app layouts due to small screen sizes.”

Image Credit: Microsoft corporation

  • Adriel Dennis Mingo

    Nice to see this. Most likely this will translate similarly for Windows Phone 8 Apollo

    • Ef Jay

      Funny, my PC at work doesn’t support html5, fired up IE9 on my WP7 and was able to view the video. It just works! :)

  • Anonymous

    I don’t know if it’s too late but I hope they really do something with the courier feature as shown the video in a form if an app.. Only thing am looking for right now.

    • Aaron Delgadillo


  • Anonymous

    Can anyone tell what brand that tablet is?

    • Anonymous

      It’s a Samsung prototype.

    • Guest

      Samsung (prototype device)

    • anon

      19s “this Samsung prototype device” RTFA

    • McAkins Online

      That is the Samsung Build Tablet.

    • microfail_again

      its not anything. microfail is making shyt up. it doesnt even operate just been hardcoded to do small things. when windows 8 comes out it will be thick and ugly and slow. registry??? hahahhahah ipads will replace all your stupid pcs anyday

    • Gary

      Did you go off your medication again?

    • microfail_again

      do you know how many people take medication in the world? wow you are just brain dead. you have a notion that people are mad because they disagree. we are the 99% and you must be the ignorant 1% that cant give us what we’re entitled to. if you cant accept that microfail hardcoded something a 10 yr old can then you are just delusional

    • Anonymous

      I understand being a fanboy, but you need help dude.

    • microfail_again

      you should be thanking apple. every idea you use is because of steve jobs. he has reformed the entire country. he reformed the world! he touched lives unlike microfail execs. where is our entitltements that we deserve from microfail huh? apple gives to the people and not hoard corporate money. while we sit and people get raped and murdered, microfail just sits back and takes the cash. you need help if you want to allow this to happen. take action and join the movement

    • Anonymous

      You think Microsoft is the reason for our country’s economic problems? I happen to admire Steve jobs more than almost any other person in the tech industry and I will admit he and apple turn whatever they do into gold. But I’ll have you know that Jon Rubinstein was the father of the iPod, and John Ive, the father of the Mac. Don’t generalize so much, you sound like a jack ass. ________________________________

    • Anonymous

      What the WTF?

  • the-hq

    Notice second 34 how he is fast-cycling through the running apps by double-swiping from the border

    • Anonymous

      I did! It was like.. back to that app, no not that one, yes that one. So awesome.

    • oolong2

      Yeah that was rather slick.  

      Although It would be nice to have another gesture that brings up a list of running apps, like swipe in and then up (or down) to display a list of all running apps.

    • GP007

      Seeing how Alt+tab works with a kb I expect they’ll have some sort of gesture for that as well.

    • Anonymous

      maybe a two finger swipe from the left will bring up a scrollable list of open apps? that’d be cool

    • microfail_again

      trying to copy apple again. everything even the font was stolen from apple. who was all about design? apple. who was all about fonts? apple. who invented nice fonts? apple. who invented the mouse? apple.

      give it a rest microfail even copies multitouch

    • Anonymous

      fo troll fail

      apple invented the mouse? ROTFLMAO!!!!!!!!!!!

      Invented by Apple my ass. LMAO!!!

    • microfail_again

      wikipedia? seriously. look who failed. do you get your history lessons from wikipedia. you know the community page where anyone can post? must be. yes they invented the mouse, touch screen, keyboard and millions of other things that are all in windows. microfail is using money to hoard and not giving the proper entitlements to the middle class and poor. we ware entitled to the ideas. i thought “i am a pc” and “it was my idea” i want the money i worked for. no microfail just steals from all of us.

    • Anonymous

      @ the ass below me.

      Figured I’d provide a reference you were capable of understanding. Anything more is out of your reach.

      LOL@ you if you still think Apple invented the mouse. Sad really to be so dense.

      By the latest tally, Apple has hoarded far more cash than Microsoft, yet you are conviently ignoring that. At least Microsoft’s founder is giving almost all of it back rather than take it to the grave like your messiah did.

    • Michal Gurník

      @ micro_troll below…
      usually i get a little bit fed up by trolls like you.. but now i’m damn amused :D

    • James 289

      @baaf89df67c28b26b8eb013722113325:disqus Apple DID NOT invent the mouse, keyboard, touch screen, multi-touch or everything else like you seem to think. They weren’t even the first to commercially use all of those things. Maybe you should actually research these things yourself before telling people they’re wrong. Also, Don’t visit a site dedicated to Microsoft if all you want to do is troll. Idiot.

    • Anonymous


    • Guest

      Your soon must be so very proud of his old man. LOL.

    • Guest

      Apple invented fonts? the mouse? LOL. You’re stupid and ignorant even compared to other trolls.

    • Anonymous so stupid..go learn history

    • Tuxplorer

      crApple’s software are Fugly, buggy, full of crashes, full of viruses, slow as molasses and COMPLETELY unusable. Microsoft’s software are beautiful, elegant, fast and fluid and a joy to use. Microsoft innovates. crApples copies and creates hype. That’s why crApple is an utter failure. That’s why crApple has 5% share while Microsoft has 92% share. LOL!

    • Anonymous

      Are you microfail_again’s schizophrenic alter ego with the same disregard for rational conversation and spelling problems?

    • Anonymous

      You accidentally keep typing microfail. It’s spelled Microsoft.

      I guess I’m kind of a spelling nazi :)

    • Anonymous

      Then how do you explain some ios5 features that are a copy of WPM…?

      So everybody has been busy copying apple, I spied behind the scene and found out what apple has been doing…guess what they have been secretly copying others

      I see a WP7 in that link…so whos copying who again…

      Close your garbage can, rather than spilling trash out…

      I’ll deal with you with my windows command:

      cmd>del microfail_again

      cmd>command completed successfully, trash dumped !

    • Anonymous

      he is so si’ly….now isheep got no respect from me….what a selfish guy steve is, forgot even who helped him when apple was about to close down…he certainly deserve hell, as that’s where he will find his types…if u r type him be isheep

    • Lerlike

      How about real world use of portrait mode instead of a controlled demo? As you can see W8 portrait isn’t even close to being optimized & full of glaring issues.

    • Anonymous

      cause it’s a dp? duh…?

  • Anonymous

    Honestly I never use my iPad in portrait mode, always in landscape for everything. It’s just more comfortable to hold like that.

    • Phil Turnbull

      Don’t tell the new Sony tablet that…

    • Someone

      I use my Lenovo tablet in portrait all the time when using it to write notes. Far more like a piece a normal paper.

    • Anonymous

      Guess what – sometimes I take a 8.5″ x 11″ paper and put in landscape orientation!

    • Anonymous

      I use my touchpad in portrait for browsing the web since there is less scrolling down. If the font is to small, I switch to landscape for easier reading. I find it is easy to hold in either direction. It is just a matter of which direction you want the screen real estate. At work I have dual monitors and on is in portrait. The portrait monitor is great for web browsing and word. The landscape is great for excel and videos.

    • Anonymous

      I find most 10″ and smaller tablets are too narrow in portrait mode to avoid constant zoom in and outs when browsing the web.  It’s much easier for me to just swipe up and down in landscape mode without having to zoom. I think MS is doing it right by making the landscape mode as the main mode unlike the ipad.

    • Anonymous

      The original Tablet paradigm envisioned by Bill Gates in 2001 was to use  the device as a notepad and be able to handwrite on it.
      I bought my first Tablet, a “Real” one meaning a full PC with the above mentioned capability, in 2002.
      Since then I ditched my laptop and kept using convertible tablets because they give me the best experience: I have a full keyboard, I can use the device as a regular laptop and also….. as a notepad.
      I never considered an iPad because it did not allow me to do the same things; and I am planning to buy a new one as soon as W8 will ship.  

  • McAkins Online

    Thank you Microsoft for listening! I posted a rant in June after the AllThingsD Windows8 revelations about Portrait Mode and no support for Snap on 10×16 screens. I am happy MS has decided to rescind on the their decision not to support Snap on 10×16 landscape mode. I appreciate them comming clean also on the Portrait mode. Though I have later decided in another post that Portrait mode on 10×16 or 9×16 screens is wierdly. But then good to see they are listening to their user base.
    Please find the two posts here:

    • Guest

      Now you can say W8 was your idea ;-)

  • Lewis McCrary

    Anyone notice when he was on the game he went to another app but slid his finger back and forth twice and it cycled from the weather app to the news one.  I wasn’t aware of that capability.

    • Eingoluq

      Oh gosh, that clears up one gripe I have with that swipe motion, but they still need a carousel type implementation.
      Good spot.

  • Eingoluq

    Wow. that is one thin tablet for a windows tablet.

    What I want to see is what happens when you have 2 apps side by side and you rotate. does the smaller on disappear?
    I suggest a top and bottom layout.

  • Thetruthhurts

    We studied users to see how a pad should work.


    After selling tablets for 10 years, and failing miserably, we did like we’ve always done (with things like graphical user interface, video editing software, fast app switching, mp3 player design, smartphone software design, etc.) and waited for Apple to get it right, then we reversed engineered it!

    Microsoft: our failures are your problems!

    • MikePopkenisatroll

      LOl, not this j**koff.

      Dude, you’ve been trolling MS for a decade! 

    • microfail_again

      he’s telling the truth. you microfails just keep trolling big corps. microfail didnt accomplish anything just rolling in money. we are the 99 unlike you rich people who dont know how to share what we are entitled to. grow up! apple invented the mp3. google invented the cloud. microfail created.. oh wait. nothing

    • Anonymous

      Literally what the fuck is going on? How did the topic of the 99% get into this thread? And no you are not entitled to the money someone else made. And those companies pioneered those respective products, they did not invent them.

    • Tuxplorer

      crApple has 5% market share in the desktop after 30 years. LinSux has less than 1% market share after 20 years. Microsoft Windows has 92% market share. Microsoft FTW. crApple stinks. LinSux stinks.

  • microfail_again

    what a joke… rotate?? hahah apple invented rotating since the 80s. wow microfail! everything microfail does is stolen from apple cant you even tell they all look the same. rectangle looking and apps. look who invented the cloud. google. who NOW wants to play in the cloud. yea thats right microfail. 99% servers are linux built on top of google search engine. do you see bing server? wrong nope.

    • Anonymous

      I think cavemen invented rotating…you know…with the wheel.

  • J. Davies

    This looks so great! I am really hanging out for this. My next laptop purchase will roll slate and full laptop into one. I’ll look out for a tablet in a well-made, sleek and solid chassis, with fine, executive-level accessories.

    I’m super happy the iPad came along – it means we get this awesome system from Microsoft. Next move is Apple’s. It’s a great time to be in computing. 10-15 years ago, it was so depressing I could barely get out of bed.

  • Tuxplorer

    WOW! Just WOW! This is SOOOOO GORGEOUS!!! This blows the PATHETIC iPad or whatever iCrap crApple makes completely out of the water. crApple’s iPad is Fugly, buggy, full of crashes, full of viruses, slow as molasses and COMPLETELY unusable. Windows 8 is beautiful, elegant, fast and fluid and a joy to use. Microsoft innovates. crApples copies and creates hype. That’s why crApple is an utter failure. That’s why crApple has 5% share while Microsoft has 92% share. LOL!

    Windows 8 is 10 years ahead of the pathetic, crappy and shitty iPad from crApple. LOL!

  • Tom Profan

    Very thin stylish thing…. this will be my next notebook at job if its running intel.