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February 15, 2017

Five things you need to know about Surface Dial

Today, we’re taking a closer look at Surface Dial and sharing what you need to know about how it works.

Surface Dial was introduced at our Microsoft Windows 10 Event last year in October. It’s a brand-new kind of peripheral that serves as a tool for the creative process. Whether you’re an artist, student or blogger like me, Surface Dial offers a wide range of utility. Surface Dial optimizes your digital workflow by bringing your most-used shortcuts and tools directly to your screen with simple presses and turns of the Dial. You can use Dial for simple things like adjusting media controls to play music or skip tracks in Groove Music, scrolling through web pages in Microsoft Edge, scrolling through documents in Microsoft Word, and so much more. Let’s jump right in and talk about the five things you need to know about Surface Dial.

Five things you need to know about Surface Dial

1. Compatibility. Surface Dial is compatible with any PC, laptop, or tablet that has the latest version of Windows 10 and supports Bluetooth LE. If you are unsure if your PC is up to date or not visit this link or go to Settings > System > About. As of this writing, Surface Studio is the only device that supports on-screen interaction with Surface Dial, a feature that triggers a larger radial menu (which expands to surround Surface Dial) and select custom app experiences. To learn more about Surface Dial and Surface Studio together visit this link.

2. Pairing Surface Dial to your device.

  • On your device, go to Settings > Devices > Bluetooth. Turn Bluetooth on.
  • On your Surface Dial, pull the bottom to open the battery compartment and ensure there are two AAA batteries inside (batteries are included inside the box when you purchase Dial). Remove the battery tab.
  • Press and hold the pairing button next to the batteries until the Bluetooth light flashes.
  • On your device, select Surface Dial from the list of Bluetooth devices, then select Pair.
  • If you have already paired your Surface Dial to a device and would like to pair it to a new device, either make sure the two devices are more than ~30 feet apart or disconnect the Surface Dial from the original device through Settings>Bluetooth settings> Surface Dial >Remove device and then proceed with pairing to the new device.
  • If you are having trouble, check Settings > System > About to make sure you are running the latest version of Windows 10.

3. Pre-loaded tools and usage. Surface Dial comes pre-loaded with global controls that work across apps like Groove Music, Windows Maps, Microsoft Word and Microsoft Edge. These include media controls (volume, mute/unmute, pause/play, next/previous), scroll, zoom, undo/redo, screen brightness, and Narrator.

Surface Dial has an intuitive design that requires only three simple gestures: press & hold, click, and rotate. Simply press & hold to see a radial menu, rotate to a desired tool or shortcut that you’ve set up, and click to select that tool or shortcut. Rotate to see the shortcut come to life. (e.g., zoom in/zoom out). Some custom app experiences allow you to simply click for the shortcut (e.g., simply click after you select tilt in Windows Maps to toggle between overhead view and street view). When creating, we recommend using Surface Dial in your non-dominant hand while reserving your dominant hand for drawing, creating new vectors, making edits to animations, and so forth.

4. Customization. Once you’ve paired your Surface Dial with your device you’ll notice a new device listed called Wheel. Click it to get into Wheel Settings.

This is where you can choose your default tools and settings for your Dial as well as turn on or off the haptic feedback (a favorite feature of mine!). Additionally, you can add custom shortcuts to Surface Dial. A few of my favorite shortcuts are copy, paste, and undo, all of which are useful for writing blog posts. You can set up all this customization in Settings > Devices > Wheel.

5. Custom app experiences. There is a growing list of apps that have built custom app experiences just for Surface Dial. Those apps include Mental Canvas Player, Microsoft Photos, Bluebeam Revu, Moho 12, Sketchable, Spotify, StaffPad, Drawboard PDF, and Windows Maps. You can visit to see the full list of apps that are compatible with Surface Dial and stay up-to-date on new apps coming that will work with Dial.

There are a few ways you can learn more about Surface Dial: visit your local Microsoft Store to check it out in person, visit, or, if you are an app developer and interested in building custom app features for Surface Dial users, visit this link. Surface Dial is available for purchase at the Microsoft Store and other retailers for $99 USD.