Steam Deck Tips: First Use

Finally, after 9 months of waiting, I got my much-anticipated Steam Deck. Soon after launching it for the first time, I realised this is a very different device from my Nintendo Switch! This is a small computer, with loads and loads of possibilities. But it also baffles me from time to time. If you have the same feeling, this series of articles might help you get to grips with the Deck.

In this article, we run you by what you need to know to get started with your new handheld device.

Charging the Steam Deck

Fresh out of the box, you will need to plug your new device in to get some power to it. As long as it’s charging, a little yellow LED is on next to the power inlet. When the LED is out, your Steam Deck is fully charged. I must say the battery life isn’t very long, so be prepared to charge often.

Usually, my Switch is always in standby modus, but I wouldn’t recommend it for the Deck. If you aren’t using it, power it down. Hold the power button until a menu pops up where you can choose Sleep, Shutdown, Restart, Change account or Switch to Desktop (see below). Put it to Sleep if you wanna use it soon again, but go for Shutdown otherwise.

If the LED flashes after pressing the power button, the battery is currently depleted. You’ll have to charge it for at least 15 minutes before turning it on again.

Switch to Desktop Mode

When you switch your Deck into Desktop mode, it will function as a normal desktop. You can browse the internet, download and install applications, and run programs outside of Steam. Navigation works through the trackpads on the left and right, the same as the left and right click on a mouse. Pressing the Steam button +X brings up a keyboard as well.

There’s the Discover icon on the screen where you can install applications and you can install Firefox as a browser. You are working on SteamOS here.

On the desktop, there’s a link to ‘Return to Gaming Mode’ on the top left. Select that to get back to your standard Steam Deck. Personally, I haven’t found much reason to go into this modus though.

The Steam Button

On the left-hand side below is the Steam button, bringing up the menu. As soon as you have connected to your Steam account, this is where you find your library, the store for if you want to buy games, your friends, media and downloads.

An important one is the Settings. Here you can connect it to the internet, up the security by putting up a lock screen, set which notifications you want to see and play with your display and audio and much more. Most of it is very self-explanatory though. Note that under General you can click Battery Percentage so that it shows on the top of the screen. Might come in handy.

One interesting feature of the Steam button is that holding it down gives you a list of all the shortcuts there are.

  • Steam + B (long press): Force game shutdown
  • Steam + X: Show keyboard
  • Steam + L1: Toggle magnifier
  • Steam + R1: Take a screenshot
  • Steam + L2: Right mouse click
  • Steam + R2: Left mouse click
  • Steam + press Right joystick: Joystick mouse
  • Steam + move Right joystick: As mouse (trackpad mouse)
  • Steam + Right trackpad (click): Left mouse click
  • Steam + Left joystick up: Screen brightness up
  • Steam + Left joystick down: Screen brightness down
  • Steam + D-pad right: Enter key
  • Steam + D-pad down: Tab key
  • Steam + D-pad left: Escape key

Keyboard Theme and Display Night Mode

In the settings (under the Steam button) you can change your keyboard theme, so the keyboard you can show by clicking Steam+X. There are a few standard themes, but you can also buy others by using your Steam Points in the shop. I went for the standard Candy Coded one.

Another interesting thing to adjust is the Display. Want to play your games in bed while your other half is snoring away? Enable Night Mode and adjust the time and the Tint you are looking for.

Quick Access Button: …

On the right-hand side below is the Quick Access button (with the three dots on), bringing up a menu with Notifications, Friends, Quick Settings, the Performance of your device and a help section that shows you the manual and more.

Once you have set your settings under the Steam button, like adding Bluetooth devices and connecting to the internet, you can toggle it here quickly in Quick Settings.

Also interesting is the Performance of your device. Here, you can check out the performance of your device, showing that the Deck is a mini-computer, rather than a game console. If you toggle the Performance Overlay Level to the highest level, this is what you will see on your screen. The CPU used, memory used, battery performance and even the fan speed used in the number of rotations per minute.

Go for the Advanced View and you will see things like in the image below. You can use it to get a better battery life or a smoother game performance. But do you need to know all of this? Nah, personally I don’t think so if you use your device like I do: as a portable device to play Steam games. Still, if you want to know more about this? I’ve found a lot of information about it on this site.

I hope this helps you as much as it helped me get to grips with the device!


    1. Article so helpful when first using my Steam Deck. Wow, that battery life! No point in ever checking how much is left. It’s always ready for charging!

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