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What are good external tablet input devices for Linux?

It should be used for more convenient use of Inkscape and Gimp.

Some characteristics that are useful, I guess:

  • connected via USB
  • included pen with some buttons
  • tablet should only be sensitive to pen touches
  • Open-source drivers (a must)
  • some OS engagement by the vendor

Open questions:

  • What are good sizes of such tablets in practice?
  • Is there is some good guide how to setup it under Linux/X?
  • What are other great programs that are really easier to use with a tablet?
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2 Answers 2

up vote 6 down vote accepted

I and friends of mine made some good experiences with the tablets from Wacom.

The Bamboo series contains different tablets in different pricing categories.

My Bamboo for example is connected via USB, the pen as 2 Buttons, the tablet is only sensitive to the pen, has some more buttons and works with my linux out of the box. So this should satisfy your needs.

Wacom supports Windows, Mac OS X and Linux without any problems as far as I know. They link to the Linux Wacom Project on their official homepage for driver support.

After a little configuration of the input devices it works pressure sensitive with Gimp. For advanced configuration of all tablet buttons and touch sensitive areas theres the Wacom ExpressKeys project, which also works fine under the different distributions.

To your questions:

What are good sizes of such tablets in practice?

This totally depends on your usage of the tablet. Are you just using it as an addition to your mouse? Are you gonna start some kind of digital painting? etc. A common size for the "drawing" area of those tablets is ~ 5.8" x 3.6". This should work fine for the average usage.

More important than the size is IMHO the resolution and pressure levels the tablet supports, because this will influent your work. Keep this in your mind when you are comparing tablets.

Is there is some good guide how to setup it under Linux/X?

The Linux Wacom Project maintains a nice Howto to that topic. Also there are several guides based more ore less on the used distribution, e.g. ARCH and Ubuntu.

What are other great programs that are really easier to use with a tablet?

I often use my tablet also for audio processing. The editing of different audio tracks with a pen feels much more natural for me.

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Good point about watching out for different resolutions and pressure levels. For example, the current Bamboo pen-only model has a lower resolution then Pen+Touch brother tablet. –  maxschlepzig Sep 18 '10 at 22:31

Does resolution really matter? Can you physically distinguish between resolutions greater then 1000 lpi? Does any tablet ever come with less then 1000 lpi?

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fair enough, one should do some calculations about the resolution, realistic magnification of input one could need, available pen tip widths, human capabilities etc. - btw, the pen-only is even more expensive than the pen+touch (where I looked), besides the different resolution specifications –  maxschlepzig Oct 2 '10 at 9:30

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