Using a graphics tablet to annotate PowerPoint slides

October 26, 2009 at 11:58 am | Posted in hands-on | Leave a comment
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Following up a query from a tutor about annotating PowerPoint slides, I tried plugging a low-cost Wacom Bamboo A6 USB graphics tablet into my standard iSolutions Windows XP PC without installing the tablet’s driver software.This was to see how practical it would be for a tutor to bring a tablet into a lecture room and use it with the standard bench PC.

If you are presenting some PowerPoint slides and move the mouse, some semi-transparent icons appear in the lower left corner of the display. Click on the Pen icon and the following menu is displayed. Note that you can also choose the colour of the ballpoint pen (thin), felt-tip (medium) and highlighter (thick translucent). Then just use the mouse (or tablet pen) to draw on top of your slide. When you quit the presentation you will be asked if you want to save these ink annotations.

PowerPoint annotation tools

PowerPoint annotation tools

The pen and tablet worked fine, but like a mouse – in other words moving the pen over the tablet moved the cursor, but the screen was not mapped to the tablet surface. This sometimes made positioning the cursor awkward but the real impact was on my writing and sketching, which were pretty awful. Basically, when I lifted the pen away from the tablet surface, as one does when writing, the cursor stayed where it was on the screen.

I then installed the Wacom drivers and tried again. The 1:1 mapping of screen and tablet made it much easier to position the  cursor and the handwriting and sketching was much better. So the answer seems to be either use your own laptop or to adopt a university standard (Wacom) and get the driver installed on all bench PCs by default.

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