Pen-based input for writing/drawing in webinars

How do I use a sketch tablet in my webinars? I bought a Wacom Bamboo Capture pad but it is clumsy and slow. I would like to use a pen tool to highlight, write, etc. during my presentations. Suggestions? Thanks. Rob


Unfortunately my experience trying the same thing was similar with the Bamboo Capture. Frustrated, I put it down and wrote off the $100 as a waste.

There are, however, some happy users…of similar products.

First, I found Rachel Smith’s blog post from last year (great blog, BTW)  and emailed her asking if she’d landed on a favorite. Her response:

To answer your questions, I do have a solution that I love — when I’m at my desk. When I have to travel, it’s still a “make do” kind of situation.  

I’m now using a Wacom Cintiq 24HD at my desk and I adore it. When I don’t need it as a tablet, it functions as an external monitor for my laptop, and it’s big and bright and has great resolution. When I need it as a tablet, I simply pull it towards me, tilt the screen flat, and lower it down until it’s comfortable. The weight of the device still rests on my desk, but the surface is right over my lap and it’s so easy to draw and do graphic recording with the stylus on the tilted surface.

However…. it’s terribly expensive ($2500 or so) and not at all portable — it takes two people to lift it safely. When I’m on the road, I still use the smaller Cintiq (12UX) and just deal with the low resolution (1200 x 800) and small screen real estate. I sometimes use the Bamboo, but it’s so difficult to control compared to the Cintiq that I don’t like to use it for graphic recording.

An up-and-coming (but not quite there yet) option is the iPad. I’m looking forward to the time when the remote desktop control apps are smooth enough and fast enough that I can use the iPad as a wireless tablet. Not quite yet, though. Other than that, I don’t know of a solution between the inexpensive-but-clumsy graphics tablet (Bamboo and similar) and the expensive-but-dreamy LCD tablet (Cintiq and similar). I understand that tablet PCs can be used for the purpose, but I’ve never gotten my hands on one to try it.

And I also know that my design-and-more guy here at 1080 Group, Mike Biewer, loves his Wacom, so I asked his opinion…

 This is why your Bamboo thing stinks for what you’re trying to do: The one you’re using is super small. Inside that little thing it is mapped out so that each pixel on your screen has a pseudo pixel inside the tablet. So the smaller the tablet, the more pixels associated with a point on the tablet. The only way to make it actually work the way you think it should work would be to buy a bigger tablet. I have a 17″ one that maps really well to my dual monitors. 

But I use this thing for everything!!! My ass and back give out before my wrists do. And it writes/draws in Photoshop very well.

So, in short, you need a bigger tablet to make use of it during a presentation without it looking like a 2 year old is writing on the screen. 

Finally, I chatted with my new partner in Austria this morning, Daniel Holzinger of Colited, and found he has been quite happy with using pen-based input with web conferencing. Sadly, I forgot what he told me he was using.

Rob…it looks like we both need to cough up more coin, but I think it’s encouraging that it can be effective.

6 thoughts on “Pen-based input for writing/drawing in webinars

  1. Jeff Masterman

    Hi Roger! Happy New Year
    Another alternative is a resistive touch screen monitor like they they use at restaurants and a Wacom pen. I show the PPT slides on it and share it during webinars. I view the question and chat windows on my secondary monitor.

  2. Stuart Box

    Hi Roger,
    I had pretty much the same experience using a Bamboo Tablet with both WebEx and LiveMeeting. However I’ve had quite a bit of success using my Dell XT Windows 7 tablet, this has a hybrid touch/stylus screen and works very well with all the software we use. True the laptop screen is a little small, but I can draw on a shared whiteboard with the pen and all attendees get to see it. I’d love to use my Ipad in sessions as well, (after all I can watch a session on the Ipad) but I suspect it’ll need more computing power than the Ipad currently has to drive the meeting software as a host rather than as a viewer.

    1. TheVP

      Hey Jeff, great to ‘hear’ your voice. Thx for sharing another alternative.

      Stuart, that fills in the hole in Rachel’s experience. The last time I tried a Windows tablet was waaay too long ago and it didn’t have the horsepower. Nice to know it’s getting the job done!

    2. RLynn

      Not to sound dense, but, I use WebEx and WebEx teleconference at work and need a better whiteboard application (the built in ones are limited and clunky). So (the stupid question), is the Dell XT Windows tablet able to be plugged in and used as a whiteboard during a session without interfering with any of the other WebEx meeting features or difficulty switching between the two?

      1. TheVP

        The only way to be sure, of course, is to test (free trial? money back guarantee?). Being plugged in and able to be used isn’t a Webex/conferencing issue. Potential issues to test: can you draw on/in an app on your desktop and show it? I would expect that’d be a no-brainer yes. Do you want to switch between input devices (mouse vs using the tablet)? That may pose a problem, but that’s probably less a Webex thing than a computer-doesn’t-make-it-easy-to-switch-between-them thing. Is there any situation where you have applications competing for ‘what’s on top?’ I’ve had times when I wanted to use Camtasia to record something (so it wants to be ‘on top’ so as to see the whole screen) and the web conferencing app wanted to be ‘on top’ for the same reason (while screen sharing, the tools which want to be on top so they’re invisible to the audience, etc.).

  3. mikebiewer

    Man, I would love a Cintiq 24HD! That would definitely do the trick, but I would agree that it is extremely expensive just to be able to draw on the screen during a presentation.

    You might be able to get away with one of the smaller Intuos ones as well and just play with the mapping option inside the preferences as well.

    Good article, that designer guy is kind of funny 🙂


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