Pen-shaped mouse
January 5, 2006 10:19 AM   Subscribe

What is the difference between a "pen" shaped mouse and a fancy graphic design "tablet"?

Why do I need a bulky tablet and a mouse-pen like the Wacom graphics tablet? Is it for more precise mousing? A regular mouse is precise enough for me, so would an "optical pen mouse" be an option for me? An otical pen mouse is under 30 dollars. Tablets are 2 - 4 hundred. Is there something I am missing?

I'll be using it for minor editing of digital photographs.
posted by 9000.68 to Technology (8 answers total)
Pressure sensitivity. The Wacom allows you to simulate "painting" by sensing how hard you press and also the angle at which you hold the pen. I'm guessing your mouse-pen does neither.

For digital photo editing however it should be fine, unless you're into subtle dodging and burning.
posted by ny_scotsman at 10:20 AM on January 5, 2006

Tablets can be used to trace as well, as they have absolute positioning on the sensor. Mice just know how far they've been dragged in one direction or the other, and once you pick one up and set it down elsewhere, you lose your frame of reference.
posted by zsazsa at 10:29 AM on January 5, 2006

You can get a Wacom tablet for as little as $80. Of course, they're not very big (the active area is roughly the size of a postcard), and won't come with all the bells and whistles of high-end models, but it doesn't sound like you have the need for anything fancier.
posted by Goblindegook at 10:45 AM on January 5, 2006

I find a tablet much easier on my wrist, shoulder, etc. than any mouse or trackball. It's been documented to be more ergnomically friendly, as it involves larger and more natural motions than the constant, tense, fine twiddling we tend to do with a mouse. I have 3 Wacoms on various computers now & carry a small one in my laptop bag. I won't work without one.

Oh, they do also rock for artwork - Photoshop, painting software, etc. And they make me nearly unbeatable at Isketch.
posted by Tubes at 11:02 AM on January 5, 2006 [1 favorite]

A tablet is a much more accurate and sensitive device. I have an Aiptek and it has nothing in common with an ordinary mouse. First off, the pen registers with the tablet via some electromagetic field and also registers how much pressure I'm putting down. The pen itself has a spring loaded tip which registers 128 levels of pressure. Photoshop can read these levels and act accordingly.

If you need just to do some basic diagrams then a mouse is more than enough, but if you want to draw like you would on paper then you'll find the tablet solution to be surprisingly accommodating.
posted by skallas at 12:31 PM on January 5, 2006

In addition to absolute position, Wacom tablets also track pen tilt and bearing, which let programs like Painter simulate airbrushing and model the way bristles buckle and spread.

The extra data translates into far more control than any mouse, even a pen-shaped mouse, will provide.

If you have a choice, go with the tablet for drawing.

A mouse is still good for illustrator though, since vector programs don't usually make extensive use of pressure sensitivity.

(Of course, the Intuos tablets come with both mouse and stylus)
posted by Crosius at 3:08 PM on January 5, 2006

I could be wrong, but I don't think the low-end Wacoms (like my Graphire 3) track pen tilt & bearing. Which is a shame as far as natural media paint programs go.

It's still effin' cool, though.
posted by arto at 5:15 PM on January 5, 2006

I think what some people don't realize about tablets is that the pen moves even when you're not applying any pressure onto the point.

With a mouse, you must always have it pressed down on the surface, whereas you can hover above with a pen, find your destination, press, and go.
posted by mr.dan at 5:52 PM on January 5, 2006

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