Tablet Pro app lets you ditch the keyboard and mouse
Tablet Pro, an app accessible from the Windows Store, offers on-screen touch controls that can make you work more efficiently, potentially trimming hours from your workflow. We don’t hear a whole lot about Windows apps, and some tablet PC users may have never even visited the Windows Store. But now there’s a good reason to.
The app allows you to ditch your mouse and keyboard and work on the couch or anyplace, because all the controls are moved to the screen. You can program dozens of keyboard shortcuts, use gestures and a digital trackpad, zoom way into any part of the desktop, and use pen and touch simultaneously. More info and videos can be found on the company’s Web site.
Developed by Takashi Yamamoto and Justice Frangipane, the app was once called Tablet PC Mouse. Its features have expanded to make it a must-use for serious digital artists who want to get control over the Windows touchscreen.
Installing Tablet Pro from the Windows Store
The app works on any device running Windows 10 or 8.1 with multitouch–it will work on pen-only touchscreen computers, but you won’t be able to use gestures.
There are two stages to installation–first the app, then the desktop program. Both are free and provide the touchscreen trackpad with basic gestures. There are also several optional paid features. You get an automatic 14-day free trial of the whole package upon downloading the desktop program. If you continue, you can purchase the package or buy them a la carte.
The Artist Pad is the feature that would be of most interest for readers. Here’ s a quick look.
Artist Pad on-screen menu
I highly recommend that you sign up for the free “14-day challenge” email series where Justice walks you through each step via video.
Tablet PC headaches solved
If you use a tablet PC, you’ve probably experienced the conundrum–a tablet ought to offer mobility, but you end up having to use a keyboard to access shortcuts, as well as a mouse and trackpad to move the cursor.
With a convertible tablet PC, you may end up using an extra keyboard because your computer’s keyboard becomes inaccessible in tablet mode, or, you may be using a clamshell laptop and leaning over the keyboard in order to reach the screen–you may even be working “upside-down” to avoid reaching your arm over the keyboard to access the screen. Or you may use a detached tablet on the couch or on a plane, with the keyboard awkwardly next to you on your lap. No more acrobatics are needed–Tablet Pro solves these headaches.
There is precedent for improving productivity via on-screen controls– the Vaio Z Canvas has a shortcut menu, and there’s Radial Menu, which expands on Wacom’s radial menu. (See all these methods in this post about best tablet computer hacks), but Tablet Pro goes much farther, giving you dozens of shortcuts and layout options.
The main timesaver is reducing the amount your hand has to travel to access tools. All those little seconds add up.
Krita demo using the app
Seeing is speeding
One common annoyance is that Adobe icons scale to such a small size. You will be be able to see them larger when using the app. And because you can increase the size of buttons, “fat finger syndrome” is abolished.
You can also use touch to adjust volume and brightness, and swipe between desktop and your projects, and swipe through slideshows. I especially like the ability to zoom in not just in art programs, but to anything. It’s like having a skin over Windows 10 that makes it do just what you want.
With a Cintiq, the hotkeys, buttons in the tablet body that let you program keyboard shortcuts, rank highly for the way they increase productivity. Now you can have shortcuts on any tablet PC using any digitizer, such as the Surface Pro, which uses N-trig.
The Four Parts of Tablet Pro
The four paid desktop features are Artist pad, Zoom Desktop, Virtual Mouse and Gesture, and Game Pad. I would suggest Artist Pad as a minimum, but I also really like Virtual Mouse and Gesture and Zoom Desktop. It’s helpful to be able to zoom in on anything on your desktop. It’s cheaper to install the whole shebang than just do three features without Game Pad. (And you could use Game Pad to program shortcuts as well.)
Artist Pad preset panel with Photoshop
This screenshot shows you one of the presets for the Artist Pad. You can see that the pad can be transparent , and you can also bring up on-screen keypad and make that transparent.
Because the app does so much, there is some complexity in setting it up, especially the more advanced features. The primary users of those will be animators and artists with a complex workflow. Following the 14-day challenge will increase your understanding of its many features, and if you’re a quick study, there’s an option to go through the videos faster than the 14 days.
Not all artists need keyboard shortcuts; even if they’re not for you, the app is useful for different work styles and even for non-art use. A lot of businesses work on tablets now, and Tablet Pro is currently being used by thousands in hospitals, casinos, by U.S. government land/property assessors, special-effects studios, professional artists and designers, and more. With 2-in-1s becoming the norm among the public, it makes sense to have on-screen controls that go beyond just the built-in on-screen keyboard.
Tablet Pro lets you customize the Windows interface, lose the mouse and keyboard, and enjoy Cintiq-like hotkey functions. It may be just what you’ve been waiting for.
Best tablet computer art hacks: 10 ways to make your tablet PC more like a Cintiq Companion
The ideal tablet computer for artists would have all the bells and whistles of a high-end Wacom. But tablet computers don’t have a rocker ring, Express Keys, expansive and driver, or zoom strip.
Perhaps you’re wondering just what is in store with art features if you get a tablet PC. Or maybe you already have a 2-in-1 that runs Photoshop like a dream, but you’re wondering if you could squeeze a bit more creative juice out of it.
This article is focused on Wacom-penabled Windows tablet PC laptop (example: Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga) or 2-in-1s, though some of these tips can be used on other tablets as well.
Update: Adding the Tablet Pro Windows app, which gives extensive on-screen controls to your Windows multitouch tablet. Read about Tablet Pro here.
1. Tap and flick
In the pen settings, you will see a couple of options on what to do with the pen button and eraser (if the pen has one). You can customize the clicks of the pen to do what a mouse would have done.
Pen flicks make the pen to do gestures like swiping or other functions to help navigate and edit (such as Back or Copy). These can save time.
If you’re using a graphics tablet along with your tablet PC you should turn the flicks off. Flicks can confuse the tablet.
2. Turn off the touchscreen
Depending how you work, your hand may sometimes be in the zone where the computer gets confused and reads it as a pen, messing up palm recognition and leaving annoying marks. If this is an issue for you, you can disable the touchscreen and just use the pen or a mouse. Some systems make you choose one or the other. The ones that allow both touch and pen/mouse together are the ones where palm rejection can become an issue (usually not a major one).
Type the words Device Manager into your computer’s search. When you see HID-compliant devices on the list, click on that to expand the menu. Find the one that says touchscreen, right click on it, and select Disable. Voila, no touch. (Note: the list of HID devices will differ from computer to computer depending what’s installed).
Poof, touch be gone.
Note: Windows 10 has a Tablet Mode that switches your view to full screen. You can go into Settings/System, toggle the “make Windows more touch friendly (meaning Tablet Mode) on or off and choose whether you want the computer to switch modes automatically, or for it to ask you, or stays in one mode. Tablet Mode is not the same as Touch; it doesn’t affect turning Touch on and off, but only optimizes the display visually for touch.
3. Feel the Feel driver
If your tablet is Wacom-penabled, chances are it came with the Wacom Feel driver, also called Wintab. In older machines, you needed to put this in to get pressure sensitivity in certain programs such as Photoshop. T
he Feel driver gives you many of the functions of Express Keys, allowing you to customize the pen buttons and the radial menu, a pie-shaped menu with programmable slices. You can put in keystrokes for your most-used commands.
In the pen part of the menu, you can adjust the pressure curve of the pen, from light pressure to firm.
4. A More Robust Radial Menu
If you’re feeling experimental, try this alternative, much more robust radial menu for Windows Tablet PCs. It features submenus, and goes a lot farther than the Wacom Radial Menu, providing and on-screen shortcut menu and customizable pie slices.
If you like it, a small donation to the developer will help him keep it updated.
The other radial menu
5. Calibrate, calibrate!
You may have to calibrate fairly often, especially if you are sometimes using your tablet PC with other tablets. Calibrating will keep your pen tip accurate. There’s even edge calibration.
Tablet PCs don’t seem to suffer from edge jitter the way Cintiqs do. I can draw right along the edge without jitter.
7. Create Photoshop Actions
If you want to get into the more advanced Photoshop functions, this can take the place of ExpressKeys. Photoshop Actions are shortcuts you can create yourself. Here’s some info on how.
8. Max out RAM and swap hard drives
Unlike most tablet tablets and some thinner laptops such as MacBook Air, many tablet PCs will allow you to add RAM and/or put in a larger, faster hard drive, and change the battery (many people do not seem to realize this). Batteries can be found through manufacturers or on Amazon and other stores. You’ll have the check the info for your particular system.
Crucial.com offers a handy tool to figure out what type of memory you need.
9. Use your laptop with a larger display
Your laptop may be small, but you can attach it to a larger monitor. Use the display settings and select Duplicate display. I think this is one of the best tablet computer possibilities, allowing you to enjoy pressure sensitivity and also get a big, clear view of your art.
10. Go to the Matte
Sometimes a tablet computer screen can be slippery, overly glossy, and reflective. Fix it by applying a screen protector; a high-quality one can make a real difference, and provide some “tooth” to make you feel more like you’re drawing on paper (on a Cintiq, texture is built in). We suggest Photodon.com, which offers some specially made for some models, and can custom cut to any size. The MXH 25% anti-glare offers good visibility while cutting shine.
11. An extra keyboard may save your posture
If you have a laptop tablet PC, you may find yourself contorting to draw on it, such as reaching past the screen, or using the keyboard upside-down, if you want to use keyboard shortcuts. Don’t strain yourself. Using an external USB or Bluetooth keyboard should take care of your limbs.
A tablet computer is a practical and versatile choice that can be just about anything you want it to be. Hopefully these hacks will bring it more toward being that perfect art tablet. If you find them helpful, please share them using the Share buttons.
end of 10 best tablet computer hacks
Looking for a fast art tablet PC? Check out our writeup on the Vaio Z Canvas.
Vaio Z Canvas review: Cool 2-in-1 with desktop-PC power
The Vaio Z Canvas is a really powerful tablet PCs out there, and it’s designed for artists. If you’re looking for something like a Cintiq Companion 2 or Surface Pro 4, you may want to consider the Z Canvas.
Vaio was once part of Sony, but the Sony got out of the computer business. Several hundred designers and engineers at Vaio found investors and formed their own company in Japan using the same factory. The U.S. division opened in autumn of 2015. The fledgling company is seeking ways to distribute their devices and educate the public about them.
Now that’s a skinny keyboard.
Other than the name, they have no connection to Sony, and now they have creative freedom. They have advanced what began as the Sony Vaio line, creating this as a mega-tablet for graphics professionals.
Vaio designed the Z Canvas in consultation with illustrators, animators, and photographers, including from Adobe, to create this powerful prosumer 2-in-1. (Prosumer is a device for professionals and consumers). Each unit gets the engineers’ “Azumino Finish” 50-point quality check.
Features Runs: Windows 10 Screen: 12.3 inch (diagonal) Resolution: WQXGA+ 2560 x 1704 Aspect ratio: 3:2 Glossy, anti-smudge Build: unibody aluminum, brushed aluminum surface Color gamut: 100% sRGB, 95% Adobe RGB Digitizer: N-trig with 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity Pen (included): DuoSense, takes an AAAA battery Processor: Intel Core i7-4770HQ quadcore hyperthreaded RAM: 8GB or 16GB (not upgradeable) Storage: SSD 256 GB Serial ATA or SSD 512 GB PCI Express or 1 TB PCI Express Graphics: Intel Iris Pro 5200 integrated graphics Battery: 63-watt high-capacity Dimensions: tablet 8.4 in x 11.9 in. x 0.5 in – 11.9 in Keyboard: 8.4 in x – 11.9 in x .02 in Weight: PC Approx. 2.67 lbs. Keyboard: about .75 lbs. (12 oz.) Ports: Two USB 3.0 SD memory card reader mini DisplayPort HDMI output LAN (RJ45) port Headphone/microphone Front camera .92MP, rear camera 8MP
What’s in the Box
Tablet Keyboard Power cord and AC adapter Pen Cleaning cloth Pen holder Pen grip documentation
The Z Canvas’s 3:2 aspect ratio makes it easier to use in both landscape and portrait, but the easel stand, as with most tablets, only works in landscape mode.
The super-sharp screen boats a wide color gamut of 100% sRGB and 95% of the larger Adobe RGB gamut, making it excellent for artists who demand color accuracy. It’s unusual for a tablet to have the Adobe RGB gamut and if it does, it’s usually not such a high percentage. (The Samsung Galaxy TabPro S has a similarly wide gamut, and the Surface Pro 4 gets about 70% of Adobe RGB.) The IPS display looks great, with rich colors and deep contrasts, as well as good viewing angles.
The Vaio Z Canvas in action, with drawing in Photoshop and 3D sculpting in Zbrush.
Battery life 5 – 6 hours with mixed use.
The Intel Core i7-4770HQ quadcore processor is extraordinary for a tablet and is usually found on laptops 15″ or larger. The Vaio Z is really a mobile workstation that functions as desktop replacement. It’s close to the MacBook Pro Retina in terms of processing power, and twice as fast as the Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book. It uses the 4th-gen. Haswell CPU rather than the latest Skylake, but the hyperthreading makes up for it–this machine can multitask.
The most compared product to it is the Surface Pro 4, but The Z Canvas is much more powerful and so unusual that it’s in a class by itself–a tablet mobile workstation. The question is if the Z Canvas a quirky, short-lived bunch of ideas, or a step in the direction of art tablets overpowering other tablets and replacing desktops.
The “Z engine” is the core of the Z series design. It has to do with dense circuitry and heat dissipation. There’s a bit more info here (it’s in Japanese, but if you have a Translate button it will translate).
The computer with its three fans runs cool and quiet. The nice-looking vent blows air out of the top. Among elements that contribute to its cooling system are big copper pipes on the inside. The power brick, though, can get toasty.
Triple fans and copper piping keeo the hot away.
A fast processor makes everything faster: bootup, opening programs, and graphics rendering. The Vaio is suitable for 2D and 3D animation, video editing, AutoCAD, and light to moderate gaming. While some desktops are faster, and this isn’t exactly a gaming machine, it’s the most powerful tablet so far. The Iris graphics are comparable to discrete graphics on other tablet PCs.
PORTABILITY The tablet alone weighs about 2.7 lbs. and with the keyboard gets to over 3.25 pounds, and then add in the pen and power brick. It’s not terribly light, but still portable. In comparison, the Surface Pro 4 tablet part weighs about 1.7 lbs. and with the keyboard, about 2.3 lbs.
KEYBOARD The very thin keyboard is chiclet-style and has low travel, but is quiet and not hard to use. It’s not backlit, making it inconvenient for use in the dark. If you’re someone who likes to lie on a bed or couch to use your computer, it’s probably not the best choice, as the stand isn’t meant to balance on lumpy blankets or breathing bellies.
The keyboard is meant to stay separate from the screen, as with a desktop. It’s not Bluetooth but RF (Radio Frequency) so doesn’t need to be paired, though you need to have Bluetooth turned on for the RF to work.
The keyboard should be kept within 20” (50 cm) away from the tablet for optimal performance. Also, remember to keep thongs with magnetic strips, such as credit cards, away from it.
It connects via magnets and a couple of pins in the bezel or a micro USB. Connecting it charges the keyboard battery, but only the RF actually makes the keyboard work.
You can’t stand the tablet up via the keyboard. The keyboard snaps on top of it and forms a protective cover.
Drawing no. 2 shows the ideal position of the keyboard, according to Vaio. Images by Vaio.
There is a button that can toggle the keyboard power on and off so the keyboard won’t drain the battery.
You may find it most comfortable to put the keyboard a little behind the tablet, or to the side. These images, created by Vaio for a prototype, discourage the viewer from using the keyboard in the front, saying it causes fatigue. The second image is considered ideal. You might even try it the keyboard behind the screen–each user is different.
If you avail yourself of the Z Canvas’ on-screen shortcut menu, you won’t need to use the keyboard that much while drawing.
The easel stand is also unusual. Vaio, thinking ahead, says the idea is that the user might “unconsciously” want to change the angle of drawing, so they have designed the stand to be intuitive and easy to adjust without interrupting workflow.
You put the tablet on a table first then pull the stand down from where it’s ensconced flush in the middle of the back of the tablet, then push or pull the tablet to your desired angle. You can press reasonably hard while drawing without pushing it down.
To close it, push down on the tablet rather than closing it with your hand. You can set the tablet to any angle between 90 and 20 degrees, so fairly low to high. Vaio says the mechanism is made up of “springs, dampers, and cams.”
The Z Canvas is not very lappable, though with some effort it can be done. Best to place the keyboard on your lap and the tablet on a flat surface.
DRAWING ON THE VAIO Z CANVAS
PEN The pen is N-trig, the digitizer tech now owned by Microsoft.
Two pen buttons sit flush in the barrel near the nib. The included soft grip collar provides a comfy, cushioned way to hold the pen, like memory foam for the fingers. Or you can go austere and take it off. Either way, the buttons are accessible. There is no eraser end. The buttons do right-click, open a clipping tool for making screen shots, and open OneNote
The pen attaches not that securely to a magnetic strip. There’s also a pen holder that attaches to holes on either side of the magnetic strip for a stronger way to keep the pen handy. The holder can be taken off with a pinch.
The pen has a tail cap, adding to the pen pieces to make sure to keep together—the cap, nib, battery, and collar.
Vaio pen, wearing its grip collar
Vaio worked hard to reduce parallax since the days of the Sony Vaio Flip. N-trig never did have much of a parallax issue, so they’re being perfectionistic here in trying for the look and feel of ink flowing right from the nib.
Instead of a gap of air between the top touch panel and the LCD, there’s now a thin layer of gel (optical resin), bringing the pen tip closer to the LCD. The DuoSense pen seems to be the same pen as with the old Sony Vaio devices.
You can also use the Surface Pen and its variety of nibs.
As with the Surface Pro 4, there are 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity, which feels a lot smoother than N-trig’s previous 256. There’s some hover lag, and you need to press down a bit harder than with Wacom pens. There does seem to be less drawing lag than with the Surface Pro 4. The nib is longer than on the Surface Pen.
The pressure curve is excellent (no blobs or sudden shifts, as sometimes happens with Wacom) and can be adjusted in the pen pressure utility. The nib has a bit of bite compared to the regular tip of the Surface Pen, so drawing doesn’t feel like skating over glass, but you may still want to use a matte screen protector if you prefer a more papery surface. (Photodon makes excellent screen protectors and there’s one specifically for the Vaio Z Canvas here.)
You can adjust the pen pressure curve via four points in the Pen Pressure Utility while viewing preview.
Vaio Z Canvas vs. Cintiq Companion 2. The Z Canvas can be compared to the Cintiq Companion 2 as art-specialized 2-in-1 tablets and to the Surface Pro 4 as well.
The screen of the Cintiq Companion 2 is a larger 13.3″ vs. the Z Canvas’ 12.3″, and the CC2 has a textured surface, vs. the Vaio’s smooth one. The Companion 2 also has an EMR pen, which is the most sensitive (besides the Apple Pencil) and offers tilt sensitivity, as well as rotation sensitivity with the ArtPen, drawing more organic lines. The CC2’s aspect ratio is 16:9, making it less appealing to use in portrait mode.
The Vaio’s screen is brighter at 250 nits to the Companion’s 150, and the Companion 2 has only about 5 hours of battery life on a good day–neither device has a very long battery life.
The Vaio’s pen has less parallax and no edge jitter, but you have to press harder.
The Surface Pro 4’s screen is the same size and aspect ratio though much brighter at 436 nits; it doesn’t cover as much of the Adobe RGB gamut, though. The SP4 weighs a pound less; and the digitizer also does not recognize tilt or rotation. The SP4 gets half the speed and power of the Vaio. The keyboard cover attaches to the Surface Pro 4 and holds it up. Battery life is about the same.
Which to get is a tough and individual decision. The highest-spec “enhanced” Cintiq Companion 2 comes the closest to the Vaio and is fast, but is still dual-core and doesn’t hit the Vaio’s speed.
TRACKPAD The trackpad is large and works well, but doesn’t support 5-point gesture, which could be annoying if you’re used to using gesture on it, but I don’t think that’s a major issue.
Camera oddness. The Vaio has two cameras and oddly, the front facing one is only 1 MB (actually, .92). So you won’t be as tempted to spend a lot of time Skyping. The rear camera is a healthy 8 MB. You could go out and take photos and enjoy the 12.3″ inch preview. Or you could skip using a scanner by photographing your reference image, line drawing, or traditional art, etc. then importing it into your art program.
CONTROLS Two buttons on either side of the top edges reach a whole new level of cool. The one on the right shuts off the touchscreen, making it impervious to any palm-rejection glitches that might occur if your hand gets in the way of the hover area.
The left button brings up the customizable on-screen shortcuts, similar to those you would find on a graphics tablet or Cintiq. The shortcuts can be customized for each art program. You can use the automatic-fit setting so the menu won’t cover program icons.
You can also shut off the trackpad, which could come in handy if your hand keeps hitting it by accident.
Vaio Pencil Board. You put the square over the part of your image you want to protect from changes.
Another interesting feature also found on the Vaio Flip is the Pencil board, accessible from the Tools menu. It gives you a transparent square that you can put over part of the screen, blocking any changes to it. It pleasantly slides around the screen. You can adjust its size and transparency, though it doesn’t become totally transparent. It’s easy to toggle on and off.
More art-specialized features: The unique mapping controls allow you to map the tablet to multiple monitors, so you can use the tablet as a sort of Cintiq, an input device for a larger display, making good use of the two ports that each support a 4K monitor.
More about those two buttons on top (the Express Keys or hotkeys and Disable Touchscreen): the hotkeys can be used on-screen even with the touchscreen is disabled–pretty ingenious, and it’s not hard to see why the disable-touch button has a patent pending.
USER REVIEWS AND EXPERIENCES A lot of artists voice enthusiastic praise in their Vaio Z Canvas reviews. For many, it’s the tablet they’ve been waiting for. Users love the speed, multitasking and multimedia abilities, and the touches such as the Pencil Window and keyboard shortcut menu.
On the downside, some feel it’s a bit heavy, or too difficult to balance other than on a flat table.
Pros Powerful, fast processor SD card slot that lets you push card all the way in Can open the back Onscreen hotkeys easy disabling of touch good amount of ports, including Ethernet on-screen shortcuts Pencil window Lots of ports (for a tablet)
Cons Some (not all) users have had problems with keyboard disconnecting Not very lappable Keyboard not backlit Not the lightest tablet Memory not upgradeable (as with most tablets)
Some glitches some users have noted are: light bleed; pen fragility; and issues with the keyboard disconnecting.
THE VERDICT Despite a few odd choices (such as lack of a backlit keyboard, and the 1MP front camera), the Vaio Z Canvas is a powerful art tool with a “cool factor.” Too bad it doesn’t have a specially made carrying case. Or a USB-C port. Despite all this, our Vaio Z Canvas review is positive, because of all the good things it does have.
It’s probably the only tablet truly good for editing 4K video. It works well with AutoCAD too. It’s ideal for video editors or those working with very large photo and art files. Others won’t need all the power and may choose a larger screen.
The main sticking points are the small screen size, and, I still prefer the feel of Wacom pens and digitizers but that’s an individual thing (I’m a light presser). Many people are happy with both the Vaio pen and the Surface Pen, and both work on this. We will see what the future holds with the Wacom-Microsoft pens due out this holiday season.
Much work has gone into catering to the needs of graphics professionals, making the Z Canvas a powerful addition to any artist’s arsenal.
Wacom and Microsoft partner to make pens with 4,096 pressure levels
The Windows 10 Anniversary update will bring welcome advances in digitizer technology this coming holiday season 2016.
Microsoft has inked a deal with Wacom to work together to make Wacom AES and Microsoft pens cross-compatible with Microsoft devices. These “dual protocol pens” will be made by Wacom and work on Windows 10 devices. Some details have been released at the WinHEC (Windows Hardware Engineering Conference) in Shenzhen.
Wacom’s AES, short for Active Electrostatic, has replaced Wacom’s traditional EMR in Wacom Penabled tablet PCs, such as the ThinkPad Yoga 14 (Wacom’s Cintiqs still have EMR). The new pens will be for AES and Microsoft tablets across devices from large to small. Microsoft now uses N-trig digitizers in its own Surface line, and Vaio is using the N-trig DuoSense pen on the review of the Z Canvas 2-in-1 tablet PC.
Wacom-Microsoft pens. From WinHEC slide presentation.
These remarkable, yet-to-be-released Wacom pens using the Microsoft Pen Protocol have dispensed with buttons and erasers, making them more Apple Pencil-like.
The devices would sport a 240Hz pen speed and 120Hz touch speed.
Giving tilt a whirl
The new Wacom pens, called G13 or Generation 13, will feature tilt sensitivity to offer natural drawing angles. Right now, tilt is not available on most Penabled tablet PCs, nor on the Microsoft Surface line. (The Enhanced Samsung used on its Wacom-Penabled pen tablets currently offer some flexibility with tilt.)
The new pens’ 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity is unprecedented–feels like just yesterday when MS was Micro-splaining to us that 256 levels of the Surface Pro 3 was perfectly fine?
I doubt the 4,096 levels will be a world-changing difference from 2,048, and indeed, 256 wasn’t too bad. But each increase seems to bring a slightly smoother pressure curve.
Simultaneous finger and touch
Other advances including more universal implementation of simultaneous finger and touch input, to the joy of finger-painters everywhere.
Palm rejection, lower latency, and more responsive trackpads are also listed in the directives discussed in the slideshow put on at the WinHEC conference.
If you’d like to see all the WinHEC presentation slides, they are available on this technically oriented Microsoft blog.
Wacom will create and make the Windows-Ink capable pens. From then on, Wacom’s pens will have both AES and Microsoft N-trig-based tech. N-trig is currently used in the Surface line.
Companies join the universal pen club
Companies that make pens and touch controllers are expected to jump onto the bandwagon, including Wacom, Sunwoda, and APS on the pen side, and, on the controller side, Wacom, Synaptics, Goodix, Elan, EETI, and Atmel.
Elan is playing a role in the push toward universal digital inking solutions. Photo: Tablets for Artists
It’s all a group effort. Slide from WinHEC.
As you can see below, Microsft aims its pen tablets at all ages and people in varying professions. Who doesn’t need a pen?
Slide from WinHEC presentation
Now, lest we be naive, these companies aren’t doing all this ONLY to make life easier for the artistically inclined. They wish to increase the population of pen users, and it’s working. The first Microsoft Tablet PCs, back in 2001, were a big flop with the public, though embraced by artists who saw their potential. It took Apple’s iPad to bring the gadget-using public into the tablet fold.
The more pencil and paperlike digital pens can get, the more people will use them, or so the company’s reasoning goes. And they seem to be right–pen tablets are expected to double in 2015 to 20 million, up from 10 million in 2015.
Universal’s the word
Microsoft may be going universal, but it’s not abandoning the N-trig tech that powers its popular Surface tablets. N-trig is an Israeli company that created this tech; Microsoft purchased the company in 2015 for $30 million. N-trig tech will still be present in the “DNA” of the new pens. But Wacom, with its many devices and long history. will be the one creating and manufacturing the new pens, using the Microsoft Pen Protocol under Wacom’s UPF (Universal Pen Framework).
There will be a firmware update for older Wacom digitizers that are G11 and G12. How that will work remains to be seen.
The upshot is that it’s all getting closer to the Apple Pencil, and to the modest wooden pencil as well. According to Wacom President & CEO Masahiko Yamada, “Supporting multiple protocols makes our pen incredibly fast and easy for people to write intelligent notes, be creative, and get productive when using Windows Ink on their Windows 10 devices…”
Echoing this message of harmony, Kevin Gallo, corporate VP of MS’s Windows Developer Platform, “Windows Ink makes it easy for people to turn their thoughts into actions…. People that use pens with their Windows 10 devices are happier, more engaged, more creative, and productive.”
Digital inking push
I’m including some photos from CES showing the move toward universality.
At Wacom’s universal ink spot at CES. Photo: Tablets for Artists
This new effort coincides with a push by Wacom in the digital-inking space. Wacom showed off its inking initiative during the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) earlier this year with these funky digital crayons, each with a unique ID, that allow worldwide collaboration with consistent colors. (These were just for show and I don’t know of any plans by the company to sell them, unfortunately.)
Masahiko Yamada also mentioned digital stationery as a product to develop. The Digital Stationery Consortium began on Jan. 7, 2016 and will be implemented across a range of business sectors.
A universal digitizer? This tablet, displayed at CES, allows the use of different types of pen on the same tablet. Photo: Tablets for Artists
I don’t this is going to affect Wacom EMR, which is still used in the Intuos, Cintiq, and some tablet PCs. Please check our post categories to see which tablets we’ve reviewed have which type of digitizer.
The word “universal” is music to my ears. It’s just so much easier. Chargers, pens, and other accessories are so much more accessible when you don’t need a different one for every device.
A reminder: the free upgrade to Windows 10 is ending on July 29, 2016, and some of these changes are going to be included in the next Win10 update, so if you’re holding back, you might want to take the plunge to Windows 10.
With this announcement of a Microsoft-Wacom pen pal pact, it looks like late 2016 has holiday cheer in store for digital artists.
Lenovo AnyPen: Want a tablet with stylus? Grab a fork
Lenovo’s AnyPen is an enticing idea. Available on the Yoga Tablet 2 with AnyPen and some others of the company’s small, general-use tablets, this technology allows you to use just about, well, anything, as a stylus, except something made of pure plastic. Lenovo recommends using a pen or wood-and-graphite pencil. So now you can have a tablet with stylus even without a stylus.
This article is a look at AnyPen as an example of advancement in pen tablets. AnyPen tablets do not have pressure sensitivity or palm rejection.
Rather than using Gorilla Glass, a strengthened glass is used to protect the screen from scratches inflicted by the writing implements.
Lenovo AnyPen demo by cbutters
You can get a fine point with these implements, making it easier to get precise input. On a non-Pro iPad or other capacitive tablet, to use a fine point you need to trick the screen, for instance with those styluses that have a plastic disc around the tip.
With AnyPen technology, no such trick is needed. You can use a stylus, a real pencil, a real pen, a carrot, a banana, a hammer, your finger, a screwdriver, or a stick as an input device. Just as long as it’s not pure plastic, most materials will work. Lenovo has said it’s not expensive, and they added it to the Yoga Tablet 2 without hiking up the tab a whole lot.
This is certainly useful for notetaking, sketching, and technical drawing. The Tablet 2 even lets you hang it up, for instance in a garage or workshop. So you can grab a Philips-Head and draft up some plans for that new shelving.
AnyPen uses a capacitive touchscreen, not a resistive one. A carrot has skin, and thus is not all that different from a finger. But getting a stick or graphite pencil to work is a feat on Lenovo’s part and redefines the idea of a tablet with stylus. The company can be maddening with its confusing product releases, but they are doing some real R&D.
You can use a carrot as a stylus.
They aren’t the only company doing something like this; the Panasonic Toughpad FZ-M1 can also be used with a pencil or metal implement.
The touch controllers in these have a very high signal-to-noise ratio, making them recognize objects as small as 1mm, whereas most capacitive screens require at least a 5mm stylus. The non-Pro iPad, with its low signal-to-noise ratio, cannot recognize a fine tip unless it has a plastic disc around it. That’s why you have to use a squishy stylus on that kind of tablet; it’s large enough to drown out the noise, so to speak.
With AnyPen devices, you don’t have to press down hard at all to get a mark. On the downside, one user reported it was recognizing the entire tip of the pencil, skewing the line.
Lenovo Yoga Book
The Lenovo Yoga Book has a pressure-sensitive Wacom tablet in the black part, which also has a disappearing/reappearing Halo keyboard.
Not up to speed for art
Tablets with Lenovo AnyPen are not art tablets per se, since there’s no pressure sensitivity or palm rejection. But for those who geek out on pen tech, it’s a fun concept.
It would be great if a pressure-sensitive tablet came out with this feature, especially with a larger screen. Imagine if you could still be productive after dropping your digitizer pen down a storm drain. Hopefully, you keep some spare pens around just in case.
Lenovo has released AnyPen on Windows tablets and Android.
It’s certainly useful and cool, but artists will want to stick to their pressure-sensitive styluses.
If you want to read more about the tech, check out this post on the Lenovo blog.