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Tablet PC 101: Reprogram Those Hardware Buttons



image I’ve written before regarding my disappointment that Lenovo removed the Nav Dial from the X200. In fact, I was secretly hoping they would improve upon the Nav Dial by making it a scroll wheel and placing on the side of the screen. The scroll function is something I love to do when in portrait mode, and I just have not gotten comfortable using pen-based scroll gestures  – they don’t respond quick enough, can get laggy, and I sometimes accidentally select text. I prefer hardware-based buttons or wheel solutions.

While watching Monday Night Football last night and using the X200 to browse websites, I had an epiphany  — why not reprogram two of the hardware buttons with scroll up / scroll down functions? I reprogrammed two buttons that I hardly ever use ( button lock and Tablet Shortcut Menu )  and now I have my scroll navigation function back!

Here is how I did it. By the way, these steps don’t just apply to the X200 — you should be able to do them for any tablet pc that have available buttons. These steps apply to Vista, but are also supported in XP, too:

  1. Go to Start, Control Panel, Tablet PC Settings
  2. Go to Buttons
  3. The default orientation is All Orientations, but you can customize each of the following choices for each orientation if you prefer ( ie, set a button to do something different in primary portrait vs primary landscape).
  4. Select Button Lock and press Change
  5. On the first drop down menu, select Scroll Up, and then press Ok
  6. Select Tablet Shortcut Menu and press Change
  7. On the first drop down menu, select Scroll Down, and then press Ok
  8. That’s it — now when browsing a website or a document, you can scroll up and down using hardware buttons!


  1. Ken Hinckley

    10/14/2008 at 10:51 am

    Rob, out of idle curiosity, what “pen-based scroll gestures” are you referring to that tend to get laggy / non responsive? the up/down flicks? something else?

    I love good hardware buttons too… one of my pet peeves, though, is that almost all tablets put all of their buttons on the right side, so I cannot effectively make use of them while I am using the pen. It also would be great if someone could somehow design buttons that you don’t press when picking up the tablet or writing on it. Seems tough but I’m sure some clever industrial designer could come up with something that works better.

    I’ve unfortunately never enjoyed a tablet that had a good scroll wheel… just never happened to have picked up one of those models. Wish I did though!

  2. Rob Bushway

    10/14/2008 at 10:55 am

    the up and down flicks – the feedback is a second or so later than I what prefer

  3. Alain C.

    10/14/2008 at 12:41 pm

    Nice idea, doesn’t work for beans on my HP TX 2508CA …

    Disappointing, but not unexpected.

  4. Medic

    10/14/2008 at 3:35 pm

    Nice knowing you can reprogram the buttons as a navdial. Still, it would be nice to see a few more buttons added, along with the return of the NavDial in a Lenovo “X201T”.

  5. Carlos

    10/14/2008 at 7:37 pm

    Hey Rob!

    I tried to change the hardware buttons in my HP TX2120US tablet PC, but I can’t find the option Buttons within the tabletPC settings. Is this a Lenovo resource? are there any other way to reprogram hardware buttons?

  6. Rob Bushway

    10/14/2008 at 9:07 pm

    let me take a look at a tx I have here – some models don’t support the options, but most do

  7. Christian

    10/15/2008 at 8:57 am

    Why does it seem like I am the only Fujitsu fan when it comes to these types of posts? My P1620 already had two buttons set for this function right out of the box! The 1620 works great in tablet/portrait for browsing and especially for reading e-books with ereader etc. I know it has some shortcomings,find a machine that doesn’t, but Fujitsu’s tablets do a great job of having those little extra things that make using it so much better.

  8. Jon

    11/11/2008 at 9:41 am

    Thanks for this tip. I just did it on my x200 Tablet. I actually had the option to select different actions for each button for either a click click or a hold, in all 4 orientations.

    I configured my lock/tablet input panel with original functions for the long hold, and context functions for a quick tap. I used scroll up/down in portrait mode (reversed for secondary portrait), and media controls for landscape mode. This gives me the option of casual reading (e.g. eBooks) without the need for a pen in tall mode, as well as control while playing back videos in wide mode. I also set the long hold of the rotate button to mimic the blue Thinkvantage button, this allows button and pen based activation of quite a few controls.

    As an aside, does anyone know of an ebook reader that is optimized for widescreen tablets. I am currently using Microsoft Reader Tablet edition and it works well. However, when I go full screen, it has borders on the to and bottom. There is no reason why it can’t scale to the full screen and just have really long pages. It is able to adjust the words on a given page (and page count) when you change font size, but it refuses to adjust its standard page layout (I could get 20% fewer pages with identical font size if it would just use 16×10 digital paper). There has to be some decent option as all new tablets are 16×10 rather than 4×3.

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