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OS X on a Wacom tablet...

posted Jul 14, 2009, 9:42 AM by Matteo Risoldi
I have been using OS X on a Wacom PL 700 tablet all day. It started because I have a lot of diagrams to make using OmniGraffle, and the tablet would speed this work up. As a matter of fact, I did in one day an amount of diagrams which would take me three or four days with a normal mouse.

However, I ended up using the tablet for other tasks as well - mail, browsing, file management. I must admit I am amazed at how efficient the tablet is for everyday use. I always thought that the touch screen hype induced by the iPod would not apply to a desktop OS, with its small buttons and all. I stand corrected: most of the operations are very efficient using the Wacom.

There is one missing thing however: the best working position with such a device is if you lay it in front of you, slighly tilted up by its foot.

In this way, your palms can rest on it while holding the pen and there is no strain on the arms and shoulder for a prolonged use. However, this unfortunately also means that there is no space for a keyboard in front of the screen. And on a desktop computer, a keyboard is sorely needed. If you push the screen away from the table's edge, and put a keyboard in front of it, it stretches too far away in its semi-horizontal position.

I can tilt it up, but then my arm is constantly hovering in the air (also because the keyboard prevents me from resting it on the table, pressing unwanted keys).

The ideal solution would be to have a pop-up keyboard on screen, of the sort you can find in an iPhone. It would be there when needed, pop away when unrequested. While I am able to display a keyboard on the Wacom using the onscreen keyboard of OS X, this kind of tablet does not accept finger input (making the virtual keyboard useless).

The ideal desktop tablet would be an around 19-inch screen, with pen AND finger input, able to ignore palms resting on it. Note that I am speaking about a desktop tablet - I am not 100% sure the same efficiency can be achieved on a smaller screen (but I would like to stand corrected again, of course). Small 13" tablets I have used were far from satisfying.
The ideal incarnation of OS X supporting it would add to the current function a discrete onscreen keyboard inspired to the iPhone's. It would implement some "intelligence" telling it when you are in a text-input context, so that it shows up only when needed (maybe you also could have a widget to bring it up manually). Also, it should be possible to customize the size of some commonly used widgets, e.g. windows closing buttons, email message lines, and so on.
With these features in place, everyday productivity would receive an amazing boost, just like mine today.

Apple has been rumored to be in the process of adding touch capabilities to their line of portables for some time now. If they made a Touch iMac in the same format as the Wacom I am using now... that would be a machine I'd drool for.