Graphic Tablets – The Basics

By Tom Dennis

What is a graphic tablet? Chances are that you have already used one. While checking out at your local department or grocery store, have you ever been asked to swipe a credit or debit card through a little reader mounted on the counter, then have to use a plastic wand to sign your name on one of those small screens? That is a type of graphic pad technology. You just may have a graphic pad in your purse or pocket right now. Ever take a stylus (or the “pointy thing” as it is sometimes called) and mark a date on a calendar or write out a grocery list on your PDA? If so, that is a type of graphic tablet.

Sometimes known as digitizers, graphic tablets are pressure sensitive tablets that respond to the use of a wand, or pen. By moving the pen on the graphic tablet, you can make lines on the computer screen; manipulate data, or even use as a mouse. The tablet connects to the computer through an ordinary USB port, and some of the pens are connected by cord and some are cordless. These tablets are most familiar to artists who use them to create drawings on computers. Imagine trying to draw with a mouse. You must hold the mouse button down with one finger, while moving the mouse around, carefully trying to move the on screen curser to produce a drawing. Now think how much better the picture would look having drawn it with a freely moving digitizer pen. The graphic tablet and pen allow for great ease of use.

Graphic tablets are perfect for photo manipulation too. One of my sons loves to manipulate photos for use on Facebook. By using a graphic tablet, he can more easily outline images, cut, paste, move, and layer photos. By using a pen instead of a mouse, it is a snap to manipulate the images. Graphic tablets are also becoming more commonly used as a replacement for the mouse. Some people, who have experienced arthritic type symptoms in their wrist and hand from eight hours of using the mouse all day, find relief by switching to a graphic tablet. Tapping the pad with the pen gives the same result as clicking the mouse. Two taps? A double click. Some pens have buttons that can be clicked like a mouse button.

By using a graphic tablet you can even create a handwritten document on your computer. You can sign documents, or take notes. Basically, anything you can create with a pen and paper, you can write with a graphic tablet and pen.

Until recently, graphic tablets have been expensive. Manufacturers are now producing lower priced models for beginner and entry level use. New users will probably want to look for the lower priced units to get a feel for their benefits.

So, whether you draw, manipulate photos, write free-hand, or simply want an alternative to the mouse, graphic tablets are a great choice for your needs.

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