TechWhirl (TECHWR-L) is a resource for technical writing and technical communications professionals of all experience levels and in all industries to share their experiences and acquire information.
For two decades, technical communicators have turned to TechWhirl to ask and answer questions about the always-changing world of technical communications, such as tools, skills, career paths, methodologies, and emerging industries. The TechWhirl Archives and magazine, created for, by and about technical writers, offer a wealth of knowledge to everyone with an interest in any aspect of technical communications.
Subject:TableT woes (as opposed to table woes) From:Editor in Chief <editorialstandards -at- gmail -dot- com> To:"techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com >> TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com> Date:Mon, 28 Oct 2013 17:03:55 -0400
I'm currently stymied in my desire for some device that would be two things:
a) a tablet for browsing, viewing, and maybe doing some actual work, on the
go (or in the hammock)
b) a digitizer (along with a Wacom professional stylus) replacing my
too-rarely-used sketch pad, pencils, charcoal, smudger, and moldable
I'm willing to put up with considerable heft, in order to have the
combination in one device, as well as SOME additional expense.
But here's what I've learned, so far, if anybody else is looking for a
tablet that you can sketch on.
All tablets have touch sensitivity, but that is low-rez, and meant for
fingers, or for blunt "styli" that are as thick as a finger-tip.
You don't draw and sketch with that. You cartoon. You doodle. You scribble
very brief notes.
SOME tablets support a crippled Wacom digitizer. You can get some Samsung
and other higher-end tablets (as well as couple of touch-enabled
convertible Ultrabooks) that can do all the usual touch stuff, plus they
can accept 1024 pressure levels from an upright-only stylus.
As an aside, there's the Adonit Jot stylus for iOS tablets only (no Windows
or Android support the last time I asked). But while it's a great deal
finer and more precise than the eraser-nub styli, it's limited in other
ways, and is fragile (according to many reviews). In other words, it's
a) you are already invested in iPad and...
b) well... there isn't really a "b)"....
For Windows and Mac computers, you can buy and connect a Wacom Intuos
digitizer pad with pen, and get varying levels of sensitivity and sizes of
drawing surface, along with built-in controls and levels of integration.
All of these are meant to be used attached to a workstation or a
laptop/ultrabook with a "real" operating system that supports the kinds of
apps a professional or a dedicated amateur would run. In those cases, you
are drawing/sketching/painting with a capable stylus on a charcoal-colored
surface, while watching the composition page being modified on a separate
screen. If you get one of the mid-line or better digitizers and are using
a recent, powerful computer, you draw your lines on the digitizer and the
marks appear on the screen immediately as you go. The stylus recognizes
2048 levels of pressure AND recognizes tilt (on any but the low-end pads).
So, you can draw and shade with technique very much like you'd use with
pencil or charcoal on paper, varying the angle, as well as the pressure of
the tool to achieve the expected/desired effects. Of course, your
application must recognize/support that range and type of inputs.
You can buy a Wacom Cintiq, in sizes from 13 inches to 24 inches, and
attach that to your powerful desktop or laptop/ultrabook, as above, but the
Cintiq is both digitizer surface and display.It's like paper, that you draw
on the same surface where your drawing is shown. Again, if everything is
up to snuff, you draw/sketch/paint, and see your strokes appear as you move
the stylus, just as if it was a brush on canvas or a pencil on paper. What
you draw/paint is right under your stylus, WHERE you draw/paint it, not on
some other device. The surface is engineered to have a nice feel. The
surface rejects your palm and arm, so while the stylus is in-or-near
contact, you aren't accidentally pushing soft buttons or inputting
The stylus recognizes 2048 levels of pressure AND recognizes tilt. So, you
can draw and shade with technique very much like you'd use with pencil or
charcoal on paper, varying the angle, as well as the pressure of the tool
to achieve the expected/desired effects. Of course, your application must
recognize/support that range of inputs. This normally means fairly pricey
semi-pro and pro applications, like some from Adobe.
You can buy a newly released Wacom Cintiq Companion, or Companion Hybrid.
The Hybrid is a 13-inch Cintiq when attached to a computer, or it is a
stand-alone Android tablet.
When it's a Cintiq, it's kinda small, given that it costs 500 clams more
than the 13-inch non-tablet Cintiq, and only 500 bucks less than the Cintiq
Being Android, in untethered state, means that it cannot be used anywhere
near the level that it can be used when tethered and operating with a Mac
or Windows box running professional apps. All the Android
draw/sketch/paint apps so far are essentially games and dabbler toys. The
processing power in tablet mode is also limited, so when you draw a line,
you can experience considerable lag before the stroke is actually
rendered/displayed. It's variable, by app, according to some review
videos. But, at least you can tether the thing and use it as a small
Cintiq, with all the good things that entails (other than size...), in
which case, there's no lag... unless your computer is an elderly dog.
The non-Hybrid Cintiq Companion is a standalone Windows 8 tablet (a honkin'
big one) and self-digitizer. It's good for a few hours of committing (or in
my case attempting) art, before needing a power infusion. It does a good
job running various apps used by pros, with little or no lag. It supports
(with those apps) all the pressure sensitivity and tilt levels, as well as
the assortment of Wacom interchangeable nibs. Except for being kinda heavy
(several pounds, versus the 1-point-something-pound heft of the recent iPad
and Samsung offerings in the 10-inch range), it's great as a standalone art
pad and it does ok as a tablet... unless you want to run games. It uses
older tech processor and components (no Haswell here, even though it was
released just this month). You can browse and watch videos, and you can
even do Office stuff with a separate keyboard, since it's a Windows device
(full, not RT).
But that's where it stops. The non-Hybrid Cintiq Companion cannot be
tethered as a "real" Cintiq digitizer for a full-power computer. Its
components cannot be upgraded. It's starting life behind the curve for
tablets that are being released now (like the iPad Air and the new Samsung
Galaxy Note 10.1 2), and will only fall further. That is, it's processor is
slower, while being less battery-efficient, and it's display is lower-rez
when compared with Cupertino and Korean tablets being released in the same
timeframe. Without that saving grace of being useful as a tethered
digitizer (as the Cintiq Companion Hybrid can), it's got only a couple or
three years in it, at best. And it costs 2-grand to 2500 dollars (256GB or
Wacom is busy licensing out its tech for tablets and touch-enabled
Ultra-Books, but they are carefully limiting the capabilities, so as not to
undermine sales of their own product lines. So, half the pressure
sensitivity, and no tilt sensing. And maybe not all the button functions.
If anybody else is in the market, the above seems to be the
state-of-the-onion for the time being.
I know that at least some of the list members are artistic and like to do
their own illustrations (and other art) in addition to the word-smithing.
If anybody has additional info or corrections, please pile on.
Meanwhile, I'm waiting to see if the newer Dell XPS 12 (the one that flips
its screen) has Wacom digitizer support. The previous version did not.
I'd like to have that, or a similar convertible that'll run Windows 8.1
(for Office 365), support the digitizer functionality, when I want to draw,
and be useful as a tablet when I want to just sit on the sofa and surf or
read or watch videos. The main thing, in the sketching/drawing department
is to not have to carry another device, just as I never seem to carry my
real sketching tools. Absent that sketch ability, my options are much
Otherwise, I might go another direction and get a new iPad......... gotta
watch those pent-up retail therapy urges.... :-)
If I can't have what I want in terms of a sketch-book, I like the slick
iPad interface, even though the entire rest of the iOS universe is wasted
on me (no tunes, no social, no iTV, etc.). But that would also be of little
use for my work, unlike a Windows tab or Ultra (which is why the new-gen
Dell XPS-12 was attractive).
Don't go away. We'll be right back.
New! Doc-to-Help 2013 features the industry's first HTML5 editor for authoring.