Microsoft's Surface Dial has remained somewhat of a niche product since its initial unveiling, serving as an unusual but potentially powerful tool for designers and artists. This small Bluetooth $99 accessory comes in the form of a single puck to offer an extended set of inputs – including direct on-screen functionality on the Surface Studio display.
Although the Surface Dial might not have been adopted by the mainstream, a wide variety of apps are already offering native support to take advantage of its unique feature set. Creative apps are leading the pack with unique tools to speed up the artistic process, while uses have been found for accessibility, entertainment, and even gaming. We've rounded up some of our favorite apps available for the Surface Dial so far, for both their functionality and creative approaches to the device.
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When listing essential apps for the Surface Dial, it's impossible not to touch on Sketchable – an art application offered on the Windows Store. With integration built closely with Microsoft prior to the release of the Dial, this sandbox offers a collection of creative features, as well as one of the best implementations to highlight the device's potential.
Using the Surface Dial with Sketchable you'll gain quick access to a variety of tools, including color settings, brush settings, and other shortcuts. The Dial also comes in handy for navigation purposes too, allowing the canvas to be spun around with a quick twist of the aluminum casing. Other features include the ability to scroll through your drawing history, assembling or breaking down your drawing step-by-step.
Sketchable shines with the aid of the Surface Dial – with full on-screen support on the Surface Studio, as well as a host of features for standalone use. Available as a free download from the Windows Store, this is a must-try tool to show what the device can offer.
Drawboard is an app that found a place in the Surface family, with tools to annotate and design digitally, without losing the natural feel of a pen and paper. With Surface Dial integration this continues to build on the app's integration into Microsoft's ecosystem, including a wide range of quickly accessible tools when using the device.
Taking advantage of the Dial's menus, inking tools, formatting and page layout can all be accessed through a few twists of the device. On-screen capabilities are also offered, including an on-screen ruler and protractor, with precise angle measurements. Canvas scaling and rotation are also offered, allowing for inking from any angle.
Drawboard PDF is available for a one-time purchase of $9.99.
Adobe Photoshop CC
Adobe recently debuted an official implementation of Surface Dial support for its world-famous creative package Photoshop. In comparison to other apps supporting the devices its functionality is relatively limited, however with the software's wide adoption across creative industries means it is still one to try.
Using the Dial, Photoshop CC users can now search through various brush settings, offering a quicker way for properties to be switched out on the fly. Users can access a sub-menu by pressing the Dial, to configure size, opacity, hardness, and other brush traits. By setting custom shortcuts, the Dial can also be used to access other features, however, for now, that's where it's integration ends.
Photoshop's Surface Dial support is currently being offered in preview, meaning that more features could come to the duo, with potential bugs also to be expected. Though in its current state its offerings are limited, it's still a great addition to artists who use the package.
Djay Pro offers a portfolio of features for both new and serious DJs, bringing together iTunes, Spotify, Groove Music and Windows Explorer libraries into a single location. Offering a range of tools and effects, the app should be an especially powerful tool for skilled users – with the bonus of a clean interface for touch displays.
In addition to traditional inputs with keyboards, mice, and touch, Surface Dial support adds a new method of interaction. The Dial can be used to an extensive range of features offered by the app, including music library navigation, music loading, and knob adjustments. Scratching, scrubbing, looping and other tools can also be used with further precision.
Djay Pro is available from the Windows Store for $49.99, which provides access to the complete package.
With Spotify's arrival on the Windows Store, the app also picked up limited support for Surface Dial. While Microsoft's own Groove Music application also offers features to Dial users, the recent termination of the service's music streaming aspect leaves the Spotify app as a more enticing solution.
Using the twist functionality of the Dial, music can be navigated and played only using the puck and music volume can be naturally adjusted. While this is far from a reason to purchase the Dial, this should be a welcome layer of functionality to those already using the device.
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