The Mobility Center really is a hidden part of Vista — it is so well concealed that few people even know it is there. What it does is to collect many of the most frequently used settings relating to notebooks, tablet PCs and other portable computers. That largely means power settings, but it also extends to support for plugging in other devices such as a second screen, which is handy if you need to do a presentation (or you just want to watch a film on a bigger screen). You can even make the computer talk to a networked projector, so you don’t have to use too many cables. Remember that the Mobility Options panel will only appear if your computer is running Windows Vista and if it is a notebook PC or similar. Desktop computers, because they rarely operate in different modes, don’t really need the options it contains.
The Mobility Center can be found in the Start Menu — the easiest way to launch it is to click Start, type the word mobility, then click on the icon when it appears in the list above. When it loads you will see the main Mobility Center window is split into several sections. From here you can quickly and easily control several aspects of the computer, all of which make it quicker or easier to work or play. Some settings may vary depending on the make and model of your computer, because manufacturers are able to add settings to the panel. However, the main ones we’ll be looking at should always be the same. See step 6 for more information on the panels added by manufacturers.
The options at the topleft in our display are for brightness and volume. Not only are these handy for general use, but they also allow you to conserve battery life. Turning the brightness of the screen down a few notches will save valuable power, as will muting the speakers. Muting is also handy if you’re using the computer in the train or on an aeroplane and you don’t want to upset fellow passengers. Another big power drain on the computer’s battery is the wireless network connection. If you’re not going to be using Wifi, turn it off using the relevant panel in the Mobility Center.
Battery and power settings are next. The icon will give you a quick overview of how charged the battery is, along with the same information in text formnext to it. You can switch between power-saving modes from here as well, allowing you to set one mode for some types of travel and another mode for another method. Pick one from the dropdown list to use it. You can set these modes up using the Power Options control panel (under Control Panel in the Start menu, or click Start and type power, then click the Power Options icon).
In the Power Options dialogue box that appears, select the mode you want to change and click ‘Change plan settings’ just beneath it. From here you can select, using the dropdown lists, how long the computer takes to switch off the screen, and so on. Once you’ve made the changes, click ‘Save changes’ to go back to the list of modes. You can also change more advanced settings (click Change advanced power settings) such as how much of its own power the processor should use in each mode, which will extend the battery life. To create a new mode, in the main Power Options screen click ‘Create a power plan’ on the left and follow the prompts.
Mobility Center is also useful if you want to make presentations using your computer. It makes it easy to switch between your normal working mode, in which the screen works as standard, and a presentation mode, in which you might want to attach a second screen or a projector that will be showing the presentation. To use this mode, click Turn On under Presenting in the Mobility Center. You’ll see a new icon, of a projector, appear in the Notification Area. Click this, then select Customize Presentation Settings. In the dialogue box that appears you can set up what happens in presentation mode, including the screen saver, volume and background. By clicking the ‘Connected displays’ button you can also choose the screen on which your presentation will be shown.
Notebook manufacturers are able to add settings to the Windows Mobility Center, which appear as separate panels beneath the main one. As you can see from our screenshot, the Samsung notebook we’re using has two extra panels, one of which is used to dim the screenwhen you’re using only the battery. There’s also a network management panel to set locations in which you use the computer, allowing you to switch between the settings for different networks. On another computerwe tested — an HPmodel — theMobility Center included a panel for switching hard disk protection on and off, and another for making quick changes to wireless networks.