When you’re using a dual-screen Windows device like the upcoming Microsoft Surface Neo, you’ll be able to view apps on a single screen, span them across displays, or take advantage of the new form factor to hold your dual-screen device like a book, with different content on each display.

But you can also use the Surface Neo like a laptop by attaching a magnetic keyboard to the bottom screen. It doesn’t cover the whole display though — there’s a strip of touchscreen that’s still visible above the keyboard. And on computers running the new Windows 10 X operating system, that strip is where you’ll find a new feature called the Wonder Bar.

Microsoft sort of teased this feature when the company first unveiled the Surface Neo. But now that the company has released developer tools and an emulator for Windows 10X, we have more details about the Wonder Bar… including its name.

The company says the Wonder Bar “enables the familiarity of a laptop while increasing productivity by hosting system-provided input accelerators and a virtual trackpad for precision mouse input.”

In other words, at the most basic level, when you use a dual-screen computer like the Surface Neo as a laptop, the area above the physical keyboard can act like a touchpad. While the Wonder Bar works with physical keyboards, users can also activate it by switching to a virtual keyboard with Wonder bar support. And since the Wonder Bar is a touchscreen display rather than a typical laptop trackpad, it enables support for rich input including emojis, GIFs, and text suggestions.

Beyond input, the Wonder Bar can be used to display things like videos or other content. App developers can take videos that would normally be seen in picture-in-picture mode, for example, and move them to the Wonder Bar, giving you an unobstructed view on the upper display.

Some apps will also move media playback controls to the Wonder Bar. And other apps may take advantage of the Wonder Bar in other ways — for example Microsoft says the Windows Calculator app has an “always-on-top” mode that will make it stay visible in the Wonder Bar while you’re using other apps.

It’ll be up to developers to integrated Wonder Bar support into their applications, so not every Windows program will use the extra space. But if the idea catches on, it could make dual-screen Windows 10X devices a lot more useful in laptop mode… maybe even more useful than traditional Windows laptops.

As for non-Windows laptops? There’s always the MacBook Pro with its Touch Bar. While that thin touchscreen strip above the keyboard may not be large enough to display video, it does provide additional functionality for some Mac apps.

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  1. Good luck getting devs to support this given it’s not universal across notebooks. Even on my MacBook Pro, I still think the Touch Bar is not useful. At least the new MBPs have a dedicated esc key now.

    Anyway, I’m just waiting for MS to announce and release their next Surface Go LTE. I’m sure this dual screen device will have many users (a lot of people seemed to like the similar Courier concept) but it’s not for me.

  2. I think the Wonder Bar can also be below the keyboard, not just above it. In the original demo videos they showed someone pushing the keyboard up the rest of the way and using a touch pad underneath it.

  3. Haters gonna hate! Everyone mocked Apple when they put the touchbar atop the keyboard on the MacBook Pro. Today, no one really thinks twice about it, though its true value is still a matter of personal preference.

    And, now Microsoft “innovates” with a similar feature.

    Personally, i don’t think its a bad idea, but I predict this new Microsoft product will never be anything but a neat technology demo.

  4. Yeah, I don’t like the direction MS is taking this.
    It’s likely going to suck, be a gimmick, and flop hard… as pretty much all things MS does.

    I rather stick to basic, intuitive, and tried-tested form of computing for now. And if there’s a way to experiment, I think I rather do that on the Android Platform. Though even that has it’s troubles.

    1. Innovation is the lifeblood of every technology-based industry. Sure, you can stick with one of the hundreds of different-but-the-same laptop models that will be churned out over the next few years, but if companies are afraid to innovate with a platform (and it makes no sense to limit this to a completely different form factor) then nothing ever changes, and everything stagnates.

        1. He was addressing me, that was obvious.

          Tacitus, you’re wrong.
          Innovation is somewhere between the extremes “trying everything” and “trying only one thing”. It comes back to the Choice Paradox: too many options or variety actually leads to indecision and loss of focus (and confidence). Obviously I think Microsoft should experiment as much as they want, with what R&D budget they have, but that doesn’t mean you release it to public or endorse it. You keep these internal, and you release something once you’re settled on it, and have pre-baked it. Think of the difference between the Grid/JooJoo Tablet versus the iPad. One was first, yet the other one which was simpler was successful. The cliche “less is more” is something that has been proven true in terms of human psychology, and market studies.

          What I like that MS has been doing over the past few years: cleaning up Windows10 interface, unifying their ecosystem, and making a pathway for ARM computing. That’s real innovation there. Not to mention their decent attempts with the Surface Pro/Book devices.

          This tactic of throw it on the wall, and see what sticks…. it never works. They tried it back with Vista, with Windows 8, and with Windows Phone 7, it failed every single time. It hurts them everytime and delays things for years, as it did for Windows7, later with Windows10, and WP7 which was a fork from Windows CE damaged the brand that it never recovered from despite eventually making a competent ecosystem in 2016’s Windows 10 Mobile, which flopped due to arriving way too late and with a sour reputation.

          Basically, what I sincerely believe, they need to fire many members of their board committee and management. They need proper leaders at the top. These old farts have been crashing the ship many times for far too long, despite the fact they have massive cash reserves, and heaps of talented employees at their disposal which have been keeping the boat sailing despite pressure from Linux Servers, Apple devices, Android Operating System, and Google suite of services.

  5. This sounds like the repackaging of the old Windows Sidebar idea from Vista. Also, are we adding screens to computers because we got used to running everything in full screen mode? If so, why do we keep around the ‘window’ paradigm? We came a full circle back to windows 1.0?