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-- by Erik Sherman
Graphics tablets have long been the secret weapon in the arsenal of serious computer graphics designers. Luckily, Wacom Technology now offers all of us the same ease and precision in a pointing device.
I tested a Wacom ArtZ II graphics tablet with a 6-by-8-inch working area and overall dimensions of 13 by 10 inches. The tablet comes in a variety of sizes, including one with a working area of 18 by 25 inches for high-end drawing or CAD needs. Using a measuring tape to check your available desktop space will help you make the right choice.
Setup was a snap, requiring only a free serial port and an outlet for the power adapter. The hardest job was locating the small power switch at the top of the tablet. The tablet is compatible with Windows 3.x, Win95 and NT 3.5.
Wacom's ArtZ pen, the new DuoSwitch Erasing UltraPen, is a pressure-sensitive model with an eraser and a rocker switch, which distinguishes between the active forward and backward positions, and the center neutral position. You can select from various feature combinations, including pencil lead or ink cartridges, and pucks for very detailed work. It was easy to customize device preferences or tablet functions. Preset functions, such as common Edit and File commands, can be found across the top of the tablet. Some popular apps support pressure sensitivity, allowing you to vary line widths by varying pressure on the pen.
Using the pen was pure pleasure, and I found myself beginning to relax as I swept the stylus back and forth across the tablet. Inserting a signature into a document, which once required either a scanner or a mouse, was as easy as signing my name. I set the rocker to emulate either a double left-click or a single right-click. Pressing on the pen was the same as a single left-click.
Specialized pointing devices are often better than mice. Glide pads are good for portable equipment, and games are best played with a joystick or trackball. But when it comes to precision pointing, drawing or CAD work, a graphics tablet is the best choice. Wacom Technology has long been a leading tablet manufacturer, earning high regard among artists. Now its Windows tablets and pens offer advantages that any serious computer user should consider. I heartily recommend the Wacom tablet. But watch out-after using this for a week or two you may find yourself signed up for an art class.Wacom's graphics tablets come in different sizes depending on your needs. They offer far more pointing precision than most other devices.
Copyright © 1997 CMP Media Inc.