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Designing on a USB Tablet

Hi all,

I am really big on doing design on a whiteboard and have been considering purchasing a wacom USB tablet. 

Has anyone here used a USB tablet or regular tablet to draw UML class diagrams, UML sequences, UI mock-ups, etc?

I'm really looking at this as being a quick design tool for myself.

Thanks much,
Jon
Jon from ProactiveLogic Send private email
Monday, October 15, 2007
 
 
A tablet works by letting you use your hand to draw normally, as you would with a pencil. That's about all it does. If you can't draw without one, you won't be able to use one. It speeds up freehand drawing (which is nearly impossible with a mouse), but it will not really speed up CAD-like things like the diagrams (which are more precise with a mouse).
ping?
Monday, October 15, 2007
 
 
P.S. It's properly called "digitizer tablet". "USB tablet" is nonsense - the actual device works the same bno matter what port it is plugged in. Early models used an LPT port, but I don't believe any modern ones use anything but USB.
ping?
Monday, October 15, 2007
 
 
I've used one (Bluetooth, not USB) for interaction design sessions.

Because my drawing skills are so bad, no one has any expectation that it's a finished product, yet it's in digital form, so it can be emailed around for comment and stored on a server for later reference.
xampl Send private email
Monday, October 15, 2007
 
 
I use a Wacom Intuos 3 tablet as a substitute whiteboard, and it's great.  It'll feel like you're just writing on paper though, so if you need the "whiteboard feel" to make your thoughts flow, it probably won't help.  Also, as was previously mentioned, don't expect it to somehow make your diagrams and drawings look better.  They'll look just like if you had written them on paper.

I've been using Photoshop, but the only 3 features I really use are the pen tool, layering, and extensive undo history.  Although after thinking about it, I don't know why I haven't tried OneNote yet.

I found the tablet to be very easy to get used to (less than 2 hours I'd estimate), and it sure beats taking digital pictures of the whiteboard (even though my camera had built-in perspective modification so I could shoot the whiteboard at an angle and it'll still look flat in the picture, which was neat).

If you're curious as to how it works, when your pen tip is like an inch above the surface of the tablet, the cursor will move.  When you make contact with the tablet, that's a click/drag.  The tablet area maps 1:1 with your screen area, so if you pick up the pen and move it to the upper right corner of the tablet, the cursor will jump to the upper right corner of your screen.
moof
Monday, October 15, 2007
 
 
Thanks for all of the great replies.

moof, you really hit the nail on the head for the type of review I was looking for.  I am looking for a design surface to do quick mock ups and technical designs on that I can then email out to people.  I don't need the drawings to look great, just ok will do.  As long as I can convey concepts, quickly.

I think this has a lot of possibilities.  I have taken photographs of a white board for years, and that was ok.

Now that I'm doing a lot of remote collaboration, I think this tool is just the ticket for me.

What size do you own or recommend for a desk setup?  I would probably be doing a mix of logical architecture diagrams, screen layouts (paper prototypes), and potentially UML class and sequence diagrams.  I just want it to look similar to a white board, and I don't need to control any real apps with it.

I figure 6"x8" looks like a good size, but I really don't know...

Thanks,
Jon
Jon from ProactiveLogic Send private email
Monday, October 15, 2007
 
 
There's three things that drive the price of a tablet:

1. Connectivity -- Bluetooth costs more than USB.

2. Pressure sensitivity and resolution -- since you're doing simple line drawings and not drawing artwork, this probably isn't important to you.

3. Size -- If you're used to a whiteboard, go big.
xampl Send private email
Monday, October 15, 2007
 
 
I like Scott Adam's setup for drawing Dilbert comics.
http://dilbertblog.typepad.com/the_dilbert_blog/2007/06/how_to_make_a_c.html

Too bad $2500 is out of my budget.
Mark Jerde Send private email
Monday, October 15, 2007
 
 
Have you tried Visio or a similar diagramming tool?

I have an Intuos 6x8, and would readily recommend it for artistic work, but using the pen as a mouse is clunky.

If you get one, get the largest that you can afford.
*myName
Monday, October 15, 2007
 
 
Wow the Dilbert setup looks Awesome!  I want one!  But to quote Scott Hanselman, the wife acceptance factor (well really my live-in girlfriend at this time - close enough)  for that would be quite low :)

xampl - Thanks for the run down and for mentioning the Bluetooth versions, I am definitely going to take a look at those next.

*myName - Thanks for the size recommendation, and some real world feedback on your model.

Your Visio comments got me thinking (your tone didn't suggest what I'm going to express, so don't take this as a rebuttal of any sort).  I've used Visio pretty extensively for many years.  I find Visio to be paperwork overkill for early design and probably even late stage designs. I do like the Visio ERD tools for quickly creating some mock databases.  I may get flamed for this, but I think that on smaller teams (under 5-10 developers) it's a poor use of time to even use Visio for class diagrams and sequences.  I've worked along side of some awesome software designers and the models always become stale, unless if they are used to continuously generate part of the system from.  The mid-level developers would rather see some example code, so I think paper based designs between architects \ designers is a perfect fit.

This is pretty much the crux of what I'm trying to do, quick expression of software designs with remote teams.


Excuse my ramblings...
Jon

PS, please don't bid on Tablets on ebay for at least a week :)
Jon from ProactiveLogic Send private email
Monday, October 15, 2007
 
 
I picked up the Wacom USB 6"x8" version last night, and I'm using it with Microsoft One Note.  This is exactly what I wanted, and I didn't even know One Note existed.  Thanks for mentioning it.

So far this is very cool, but a little tricky to get use to.

Thanks for all the help,
Jon
Jon from ProactiveLogic Send private email
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
 
 

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