Touchscreen Interactives FAQ

Here are some of the more common questions I receive over email. Feel free to contact me via email / twitter if you need more help:

So what is the best hardware to use?

There’s definitely not one perfect answer to this. It depends on what you want to do, what budget you’ve got available and if you own any hardware already that could be repurposed.

In the original tutorial – I suggested using Stick PCs (running Windows not Android). These are still fine – although in the UK at least they seem to have increased in price and some of the models are considerably more powerful. I would strongly recommend that you buy one with Windows 10 installed over Windows 8. It might be difficult to buy a Windows 8 one now. But I suffered with a number of Stick PCs failing to automatically update to Windows 10. Mainly due to the small amount of storage available.

Probably the easiest route is to go right now is to pick up a Windows 10 tablet. These come in a variety of sizes – the 10 – 11” models are pretty good for digital signage type interactives. If you couple these tablet with a detachable keyboard you can even do all the PowerPoint development work on the same machine. It’s just a case of removing the keyboard when it goes on display.

Bigger is often better so a 23” / 27” touchscreen can be partnered with an existing Windows PC – or if you’re buying new an Intel NUC (or similar).

Can you recommend some particular Windows 10 tablet hardware?

(This was written in April 2018 and thing will no doubt have changed by the time you read these words.)
So my thoughts are that we go with a 10″ – 13″ Windows 10 tablet at the lower end of the spectrum.  At the bottom end of the spectrum tablets come with just 2GB of memory and 32GB of storage.  These do cause Windows 10 to struggle a bit so if possible I’d recommend aiming for at for a rung from the very bottom machines. So that means avoiding the machines that are very low on memory and storage and trying to get something with 4GB memory and 64GB+ storage.

If you purchase a tablet with a detachable keyboard and wireless mouse then these become reasonable machines to develop the PowerPoint interactives on as well.  Basically you just detach the keyboard, mount it securely and you’re good to go.

I suspect that the Linx 12×64 is probably the best for under £200.  As with most of these very budget machines they have some compromises – the speakers aren’t great on these – but you could plug in an external speaker if required.

Chuwi also do a 12″ and a cheaper 10″ model for £140 (the keyboard is another £20-£30).  These have the added advantage of running Android as well as windows – should you need it.
If you are allowed to purchase refurbished equipment you can get a lot more for your money.  For example – at the time of writing you could pick up a considerably more powerful Dell latitude 13″ 7350 Tablet for £250 on ebay.

So where can I get PowerPoint Viewer from?

It’s no longer supported by Microsoft – although it’s still working fine on Windows 7, 8 & 10. At the time of writing it is still available from Microsoft via this link:

PowerPoint Viewer from Microsoft

Should I use PowerPoint Viewer or full version of PowerPoint?

Well PowerPoint Viewer is easier to get up and running as it’s a very minor install. It’s also completely free. There is a slight issue that it’s still possible for users to quit the application – although the option is pretty well hidden. There’s a tiny menu in the bottom left corner of the screen which allows the user to choose exit.

Obviously, the full version of PowerPoint is not free – it comes as part of Microsoft Office – the install process and license key entry is a bit more involved. As you are likely to be in the museum / education sector – it’s very probable that in your country Microsoft have a model that allows you to purchase Office with some form of educational discount for well below the RRP.

So how do I stop visitors from exiting PowerPoint Viewer using the little menu?

So, I was convinced that slideshows made with earlier versions of PowerPoint displayed correctly in PowerPoint Viewer without the exit menu. Unfortunately, I’ve moved on to newer versions of PowerPoint now and am unable to prove this. (if anyone has an older PowerPoint and can get PowerPoint viewer working without the menu then please get in touch and I’ll see if I can figure out exactly what has changed).
Every attempt I’ve made creating slideshows using PowerPoint 2013 or 2016 results in the little menu.

  • So, option one is just to ignore it – most users won’t spot it anyway. This is probably fine if you are a small location where you’ll check the machine every now and again.
  • Option two is to use the free software that I’ve developed. This watches for anyone quitting the application and immediately restarts it. It also handles other features such as starting and shutting down the PC, triggering a screensaver and restarting the slideshow.
  • Option three is to use the full version of PowerPoint.

So, okay I’ve got a full version of PowerPoint 2013 / 2016 – how do I use that instead?

Great! You can absolutely use this however even this isn’t straight forward. It turns out that ‘touch’ has been broken in PowerPoint 2013 / 2016 for years and nobody at Microsoft noticed.  Until recently the only solution was to use PowerPoint Viewer.

Eventually this issue was solved – but the solution is slightly involved.  If you’re running Office 2016 it should be fixed automatically.  On 2013 it may have updated automatically – that is yet to happen for me.  If it touch isn’t working then you’ll need to manually update Microsoft Office to Service Pack 1 (SP1) and then install the patch on top of it.

First you need to check what particular version of Office 2013 you’re running. Open ‘App & Features’ and look for your Microsoft Office Installation.  You’ll find a long version number. For example the version number for Service Pack 1 is 15.0.4569.1506.

My example above shows the version is: 15.0.4420.1017

As I’m below SP1 my first step is that I need to upgrade to Office 2013 SP1.  This can be downloaded here: Office 2013 Service Pack 1

That will take some time but once it’s done you can apply the Touch fix: Kiosk Mode Touch Fix

Once that’s done you can relaunch your slideshow in Kiosk mode and check that the touch is once again working.  Simple huh 🙂

Should I work in Portrait or Landscape?

Either is fine – it really depends on what will compliment your overall display better.  Personally I quite like the smaller tablets in a portrait configuration as I find it a more interesting look and easier to read.

What content / formats / sizes are best & how do I process them to work best in PowerPoint?

This is a great question and the answer is quite involved so I’m going to defer this and create some separate posts in the future.  This will cover questions about images, audio and video.  In short if you’re making a fairly simple slideshow you can probably ignore this issue for now.

What is the recommended slideshow side for Windows 10 tablets?

The first is the screen resolution is different from larger displays. TV screens and large displays are typically 16:9 resolution whereas tablets are more likely to be 16:10. This is due to the fact that 16:10 is closer to the aspect ratio of books and hence it is easier to read in portrait mode. It is likely that your tablet has an aspect ratio of 1920 x 1200.

Therefore when you setup your slide size – you’ll want to use the values of: 33.867cm x 21.17cm

How do I protect the running application from visitors and place Windows 10 in a Kiosk Mode?

So when we are ready to put our touch application in the hands of the public – we want to prevent them from having complete access to the machine. We don’t want to come back and find that the browser is open on an inappropriate site. So we need to lock down the machine or put it in Kiosk mode.
There is off-the-shelf software that will do this for you. FrontFace Lockdown Tool appears offers this – note at the point of writing this I haven’t tested this as I prefer to control this myself.
I will get round to writing an update which explains how to do the following:
• Windows 10 has lots of nice features that we will want to disable if we’re leaving the machine completely unattended:
• Disable Edge Swipes (otherwise visitors can quit your app)
• Disable Hardware keys (often tablets come with a hardware windows button – which again we should disable)
• Disable Updates – otherwise Windows will be busy downloading lots of things in the background
• Disable Notifications – otherwise visitors may get interrupted and asked to
• Disable right click

Is the Windows platform the only solution to this?

Absolutely not, it is possible to use Raspberry PI, Android or web based versions by exporting your slideshow in a certain way. All of these have some kind of limitation (or additional cost) and hence I’m not describing these in the tutorials (right now). If I become aware of a simple solution to any of these then I’ll add new sections.