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I've injured my wrist and looking over at the designer sitting across me using his pen and tablet made me think if that's something a web developer (20-40% time spent in photoshop) could use and maybe even be more efficient in the long term?

Are you a developer using pen / tablet and seriously not missing a mouse anymore? Why?

I did a search and found these but they don't answer my question exactly, or in enough detail:

But what I did find I can summarise as follows:

  • It is easier on the wrist.
  • There is a learning curve.
  • For pointing intensive work (ala photoshop) it is superior.
  • You get better at keyboard shortcuts if you're not already.
  • You might hold the pen while you type if you find picking up / putting down harder.
  • Tablet to screen mapping is awesome (absolute positioning, i.e. tablet corner = screen corner)

I think I've almost convinced myself here :)

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closed as primarily opinion-based by Kilian Foth, Robert Harvey, World Engineer Oct 17 '13 at 0:15

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

Is it possible for you to just put the mouse in the opposite hand? –  user1249 Dec 15 '10 at 11:42
What about a vertical mouse like evoluent.com? –  kevpie Dec 15 '10 at 13:44
@Thor: I'm doing that at the moment, but the inefficiency in photoshop and general slowness is not good. –  Moin Zaman Dec 16 '10 at 5:59
@kevpie: I'm using a MS IntelliExplorer 3.0 Its got a decent enough angle that is ergonomic. I use the same mouse at home. Its more the table / chair height at work that aggravated the problem further. –  Moin Zaman Dec 16 '10 at 6:01
@Moin Zaman, Sorry about your predicament. Hopefully you'll find your answer here somewhere. A few people have mounted split keyboards on either side of their chair so their arms hang straight down. I wonder if a setup like that with a magic track pad would help. Some also use motorized tables that they can stand or sit at switching things up during the day. –  kevpie Dec 16 '10 at 6:21

9 Answers 9

Tablets are a must-have for professional graphics designers, because they are pressure sensitive and mostly feel like a pencil to use.

For programmers, I don't like them (had one, but never used it except for graphics). Picking the pen up takes more time, compared to grabing the mouse. Locating the pointer on the screen also seemed more difficult, because as soon as you move the pen to the tablet, it jumps to the corresponding absolute position. All in all, tablets work fine for tasks where you work over an extended period with the pointing device alone. If you work mostly with the keyboard and only sometimes use the pointing device to do a little click, they are cumbersome to use.

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Agreed. If you're only using it periodically (e.g., occasionally opening up the Property Pages in VS2010 or browsing Stack Overflow) it's probably better to use a mouse. If you'll be constantly using it without putting it down for extended periods, a tablet is better. –  Maxpm Dec 15 '10 at 13:25
Graphics have not caught on for programming yet. Hence you need to manipulate text, not imagery, with the tablet, and that is not a very good combination. I am certain though, that some tasks could be easier done, but others can't –  user1249 Dec 16 '10 at 7:40
I guess for screen prototyping with an wysiwyg editor, a pen might be convenient. –  user281377 Dec 16 '10 at 7:42

I started using a tablet (Wacom) about 10 years ago when I started developing the first symptoms of Repetitive Stress in my right hand. I had some experience with them prior to that in my life as an architect so switching came pretty easy for me.

I'm naturally left handed but use the mouse in my right hand so switching to the tablet had the added benefit of transfering some of the computer work load away from my ailing hand. My symptoms for Repetitive Stress went away after a while but I still use the tablet on my home PC.

To me, grabbing the pen is no different than grabbing a mouse so I don't consider it any worse or better as far as that goes. I can easily code as fast at home as I do at work (where I use a trackball).

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I would suggest you have a look at the mousepads with the latest Apple machines. They even have a stand alone version (which can be hacked to work with a Windows machine).

Based on my daily experiences with a Mac I would say that it is extremely useful, while being used in a completely different way from a mouse.

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I was surprised that with one swipe you could get across an entire screen even with the huge monitors. The actual clicking of the pad is great. (I hate the tap on my laptop and accidentally hit it all the time.). –  JeffO Dec 15 '10 at 12:29

Using a tablet does take a little getting used too, but with a little practice you will soon feel comfortable. I use my tablet for design/art work in CS4/SketchBook and the tablet is really superior for these programs. I have a tendency to switch to the mouse when programming, but I've only had my tablet for a few weeks. It's really not that hard to get used to. I would go for it if I were you. I think you made some compelling points.

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Let us know in a few more weeks if you've abandoned the mouse while programming too :) –  Moin Zaman Dec 16 '10 at 6:05

Have you tried a trackball, I use a Logitech Trackman Wheel and find it far more comfortable than a mouse, as my wrist stays stationary and all the movement is done with your thumb.

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How is it for mouse intensive work in Photoshop for eg? Can you 'thumb' precisely enough? –  Moin Zaman Dec 16 '10 at 6:03
I don't do a huge amount of mouse intensive work, I've done reasonable amount of work in Inkscape and haven't had any problems. –  JRT Dec 16 '10 at 9:42

Although I wouldn't suggest using a stylus as a replacement for a mouse in general (as others have pointed out, it's great for extended drawing/graphics work, but not very usable for normal mousing), I recently replaced my old tablet with a wacom Bamboo Fun, which has a multi-touch surface built into the tablet surface, and I'd say that it, or a tablet with similar features, is perfectly usable as a mouse replacement.

It basically acts like a big laptop multi-touch trackpad, although being larger I find it to actually be quite a bit more comfortable to use, and you can actually use both hands for multi-touch gestures.

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I had one but given the choice prefer the trackpad (or mouse). I also (given a choice) would prefer the keyboard. The mouse is slow, use it as little as possible.

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I use it and I prefer it for all mousing operations.

The reason is that you can set up a tablet such that its surface is bound 1:1 with your screen. This means that if your cursor is at the bottom left of the screen, and you need it at the top right, you just move your stylus up to the top right of your tablet. There's no re-positioning or multiple motions as with the mouse, which means each "cache miss" hurts you less.

That said,

  1. this is the one feature that gesture tablets (including the Wacom Pen & Touch when in finger mode, oddly) are still missing. As soon as someone comes out with a touchpad that supports 1:1 screen mapping, I'll switch to that.
  2. A trackball-style mouse gives you more economy of motion at the cost of a slightly reduced reaction time (you do have to keep it clean though)>
  3. The keyboard is still by far faster than any pointing device, so if you can, stick to hotkeys and typing.
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The tablet was great for notes and diagrams. Can't see it as a keyboard replacement for coding. I create a lot of report and there is no substitute for the mouse.

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The tablet wouldn't / couldn't replace a keyboard. –  Moin Zaman Dec 16 '10 at 6:04

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