A couple of years I got a Wacom tablet. It was a gift – not really the type of thing I think I would’ve bought, but it was definitely nice to get. Since then, I’ve found it incredibly useful, and it’s become almost a permanent fixture in my bag.
For a start, it’s a great way of being able to ink up documents in ways that I can’t do with my regular laptop (I don’t own a Tablet PC, but inking is still useful from time to time).
But I also find that it’s really useful when I’m teaching or doing any kind of presentation. There are often times when I want to draw some sort of diagram. Having a diagram pre-canned can be useful, but it’s great to draw a diagram in front of the audience. Something about them watch you construct it helps them. If I have a regular whiteboard, then I’ll use that, but if it’s a diagram that I want to be able to refer back to, then I either have to find a part of the whiteboard which I don’t want to use again, or else I can pull out my Wacom tablet and pull up Paint.Net. The pen is touch-sensitive, so it draws a grey line if I’m drawing lightly and a black one if I’m drawing heavier. And I can always switch back to one I drew earlier, and add to it, correct it, whatever. I can even email the diagram to students who want it (but that’s not something I do regularly). It also goes really nicely with ZoomIt, which I use all the time to point out the detail in screens.
I do walk around a fair bit when I’m teaching though, and I notice it when I’m restricted (like when I’m using my Wacom tablet via a USB cable). My plan is to one day get one of the Bluetooth ones that Wacom have, and see if it’s different. I won’t be able to use it in aeroplanes, but I can imagine passing it to those students who don’t want to get up to write on the whiteboard (which I do from time to time in my classes).
I got a Wacom Tablet recently. One of those USB devices which lets you use a pen instead of a mouse. It’s really cool in all kinds of ways, but I typically use it in mouse-mode, not in pen-mode. In mouse-mode, I have to drag the cursor around with the pen, just like I would with a mouse. In pen-mode, each point of the tablet corresponds to a point on the screen, so you go straight to the right area of the screen. But there are issues with this.
For starters, I’m part of the crowd that sees massive value in using multiple screens for development. I only have two, but I have colleagues who use three. In pen-mode, the tablet tries to make its panel correspond to all of those screens. So if I’m using a 1600×2400 workspace, or my colleague is using 4800×1200, then this elongated rectangle gets squeezed into the squarish area, and any writing I do is stretched in the opposite way. That’s a major pain!
So what I’m hoping Wacom can do is to make a utility which allows you to switch between areas of the screen. This could also help for the times when you have a larger resolution and want to spend time only in a quarter of it. I know there are zoom functions available, but on the screen thing, it would be nice to have a button on the pen (or on the tablet, I don’t care) to be able to switch between screens. Have some little visible indicator to tell me which screen the pen corresponds to at the time, and a nice fast response to switching. Then I’ll feel much more comfortable in pen-mode! If you let me define where ‘virtual screens’ actually are (so that in areas where I frequently want more detail I can really easily switch into them), then that would be even better.
I do have to say that I love my tablet. It’s great for drawing anything. In Vista I can use it with full inking capability, as if it were a Tablet PC. I’m not about to throw out my keyboard, but it’s still good. I just need my handwriting to get more visible!