[sc:windows-category]Windows 8 introduces several new features primarily focused on touch screen devices and these can sometimes have interesting effects when connecting to a system through RDP.
For the rest of the article I’ll be referring to Windows 8, but it’s just as relevant to Windows Server 2012, they share the same RDP code.
To begin with, let’s separate out two different use cases:
- RDP to a remote system in windowed mode
- RDP to a remote system in full screen mode
There are some important differences between them so let’s tackle them one at a time.
RDP in windowed mode is commonly used when you want to connect to multiple remote systems at once. For example several servers where you need to compare settings. In this mode the RDP window appears just like any other window on-screen with a “grab” border around it.
This introduces some issues with the Windows 8 charms (the four corners of the screen) as your mouse does not stop when you reach the edge of the screen and instead just continues on to your desktop. Of course you can use the keyboard to bring up the charms, but I’ve found that once your use to the mouse controls it becomes second nature to use them.
Full Screen Mode
In full screen mode the remote system acts just like the local desktop (assuming your RDP’ing in from another Windows 8 box of course). Hitting the charms with the mouse bring up the remote charms and everything works as expected.
In addition, using my Surface RT to connect to a Windows 8 system through RDP also translates the gestures to the remote system. Swiping from the edge brings up the appropriate menu, drag to scroll works as well as pinch to zoom etc.
I was quite impressed with it overall, RDP worked better than I expected with the touch controls.
Perhaps the single biggest issue with RDP in Windows 8 is just how sluggish it feels even on a local LAN. The lack of hardware graphics acceleration is noticeable to say the least. The various full screen wipes and fades also do not help the RDP experience. But it’s not an outright deal breaker, just a little annoying.
Overall I have to admit my very first impression with RDP’ing to a Windows 8 system was not very good, it felt wrong and seemed mostly an after thought. However having spent some time with it now I find it to be mostly a wash. The touch interface works much better than I expected across RDP but it’s still a little funky when you are using it in windows mode.
It is clearly not Microsoft’s focus (nor should it be) with the new interface but they’ve done a pretty good job at implementing something that still works for those of us who do use RDP.