I finally gave in and bought a graphics tablet. My budget being as huge as it was, I opted for the Wacom Bamboo, which retails at $79, but ANTOnline (via Amazon) had it for $50 plus shipping ($58 total). I haven't been this tickled to get a new gadget in a while.
The whole experience thus far has been grand. I placed the order at about 10p on Tuesday night. I got an email Wednesday night saying it had shipped, and when I opened it Thursday morning and clicked the tracking number, I was informed it was out for delivery--and I paid for standard shipping. Awesome.
I got the box later Thursday morning, and opened it to find a sleek box wrapped in tissue paper, as if it were a gift. After sliding it out of the tissue paper, here's what I saw:
Not bad styling. Let's open 'er up:
"This is your Bamboo. Use it to get more out of your computer. Let us know how it goes..." In many languages. Then it is signed by, presumably, the creators. Very nice touch, I thought. I felt like a proud owner already. Then you lift up that insert, and there's the tablet in all its beauty. Grab it out--there's the cord, the pen, the pen holder. Great. Simple. Obvious. Beneath that is another tissue wrapped gift, a stylish little black box that has some simple instructions on getting going and the DVD.
Just opening the thing was a pleasure. Honestly, these folks know what UX is, and this is just for an $80 graphics tablet.
I plugged it in, and it immediately just worked. Having read a comment somewhere, I just went to the Web site to download the latest drivers. That was easy. Install. I had to try twice; it got hung up for some reason, but then, I did have 30 apps open at the time and they did suggest closing them all. :)
I immediately opened OneNote and went to town. I started drawing the simple stuff as Dan Roam suggests in his new book, The Back of the Napkin. (I attended his session at Mix and liked it enough to buy the book.) Then I really went out on a limb and drew a self-portrait:
Not bad, eh?
Well, it was a first shot. I tried writing and realized just how bad my penmanship has become over the years. Trust me; it's bad. Nice thing is that maybe I'll get some of it back and improve it now that I have this (who knows?).
I'm now on Day 2 of using my Bamboo, and I really like it. My wrist, which had been hurting more as of late, has been loving me. One of the reasons I tried this was to see if it'd be better to avoid "repetitive strain injury," and I noticed an immediate difference. The other reason was because I get so tired of being constrained by drawing programs in terms of what I want to represent visually. SmartArt in Office really, truly (as cool as it is) only goes so far. :)
So my first real use was to start diving into my Agile UX Design Process diagram to replace a particularly painful slide (Slide 19) in my Building Good UX talk. It (both the drawing and the process) is a work in progress; just trying to visualize some of my thinking about it right now.
If you look hard, you can see my chicken scratch compared to the nice, free Journal font I picked up. The point of this diagram is to show how to integrate UX pros into an Agile process. Not saying this is all fleshed out or perfect, but it's a start. :) One important point is that even if you don't have the pros, you can start doing the UX stuff yourself.
A Few Tips Using Bamboo (thus far)
- Use Mouse mode. When you install the driver, it switches to Pen mode, which tries to map your screen(s) to the tablet. Even though Wacom recommends this mode (even provides exercises to get use to it), I found it frustrating when trying to draw on my right screen--I felt too close to the edge for comfort.
- Disable acceleration. While it can be a nice feature when using it literally like a mouse, it messes you up when drawing.
- Switch to the dreaded single-click mode in Explorer. Back when the single click mode was added (XP?), I tried it out and was disgusted. But double-clicking w/ the pen is just not easy, and actually, the single-click mode feels really natural with the pen.
- Switch to scroll on touch ring. I don't feel too strongly about this, but honestly, I don't use zoom (the default) enough to have it as a top-level feature on the tablet.
- Upgrade to Vista? I think that you must not get ink in Office 2007 w/o Vista? I can't figure it out, but it's not there for me in XP. The Wacom site mentions Vista explicitly, and my searches haven't turned up anything useful. Folks talk about "Start Inking" as if it is just always there, but it may also have something to do with Tablet PC. I'll let you know if I figure it out.
It is taking some getting used to, of course, but so far I think it's a big improvement. Ask me in a few weeks. :)
And now for the gratuitous signature: