5 Tips for Using a Bamboo Tablet

If you (or your college) can’t afford a tablet computer, then a peripheral tablet or digital pen can be a good inexpensive option.

For those who have never used a Bamboo Tablet, it’s like writing with a pen.  You hold the stylus like a pen.  When you apply pressure to the tablet, the mark (digital ink) does show up on the screen, but… It’s also not like a pen, in that the friction between the stylus and tablet is much different than that of ink gliding across paper.  This causes an “unanticipated roughness” in the appearance of text written on the tablet.

That being said, here are my 5 tips for using the tablet:

1.  Use proper ink width.  If you are given a choice, that is.  Your choice of ink width will probably depend on your writing style.  If you normally have small writing, you may want to use a thinner ink width.  Likewise, if you make larger letters, try a thicker ink.  Here are examples of different widths:

2. Relax. Clutching the pen and writing slowly is not worth the effort. You’re better off trying to imitate what you do naturally (with a real pen) than trying to “reteach” your hand how to write altogether.
Here’s what I mean.

3. Find a comfortable way to hold the stylus without disturbing the pen buttons.  If you accidentally press the button, which is right where you grip the pen,  it is like right-clicking with the mouse.  I’m not sure why the buttons on these styluses are always in such a bad location but they are on every tablet pen I’ve ever encountered.

4. Make an extra effort to dot your i’s and cross your t’s. These don’t always show up (especially if you normally do them quickly on paper).

5. Practice, practice, practice! (Did you think this wouldn’t make the top 5?)

To learn more about the Wacom Bamboo Tablet, here is the user’s manual.

One more tip, if you’ve got a Bamboo Tablet and can’t find an inking program on your computer (like OneNote or Windows Journal), then try installing the free program Jarnal (see Jarnal Tutorials in previous post).

This post was written by Christine Gardner  and edited by Maria Andersen.  

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Jarnal Tutorials

A peripheral tablet (like the Wacom Bamboo tablets we gave away at the workshop) can be a very inexpensive option for getting handwriting to the screen.  Unfortunately, obtaining a software program that is designed for this purpose is not as easy.  Windows Journal, although designed for use on tablets, is only available with Windows XP Tablet and certain versions of Windows Vista.  Incidentally, if you have Windows Vista, and are trying to find Windows Journal, try typing “Journal” into the search box in the start menu.

jarnal1

Another tablet option is to buy OneNote, but if you’re already trying to save money, this kind of defeats the purpose (and it’s not available for Linux or Mac).

Which brings us to Jarnal.  Jarnal is open-source freeware built by David K. Levine and Gunnar Teege.  It can be used in Windows, Linux, or Mac operating systems (see the download page).  Yes … this means all of your online students could use it for free!

Jarnal is not a program that I use regularly (because I have a tablet PC, Journal, and OneNote).  However, one of our workshop participants, Daniel Kopsas, turned out to be an expert on using  Jarnal with a peripheral tablet. Even better, he was inspired to make an awesome set of Jarnal Tutorials during the workshop and has put them on the web for everyone to use!

jarnal2

The Jarnal Tutorials cover:

  • How to download and create a shortcut
  • Adding a toolbar button and changing default pen, paper style, etc.
  • Using pens, highlighters, and rulers
  • Typing text
  • Inserting and resizing an image
  • Deleting, moving, cutting, or copying objects
  • Inserting and deleting pages
  • Inserting a PDF background
  • Opening files, saving files, and saving as a PDF

Bravo to Daniel Kopsas, from Ozarks Technical Community College for “thinking big” and making a set of tutorials that we (and our students) can all use!

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