Love Your Mac More for only $99.00!

I have always wanted to be a cartoonist. To me drawing funny pictures for big bucks seemed less like work and more like something you'd do to relieve boredom while you're at work. My lack of artistic ability was holding me back until I happened upon a Wacom Graphire tablet. Plunking down ninety-nine dollars seemed a lot easier than learning to draw so I figured I'd let computer do the work. From this purchase I learned two important things: If you think you can buy artistic talent you are sadly mistaken and the tablet/pen/mouse combo is the coolest thing since the Batmobile from the original series.

My initial plan was simple. Since I couldn't draw I'd come up with clever workarounds. The writing deficit is easily overcome, get some cartoon compilations from the seventies and steal ideas faster than Bill Gates at a Macworld Expo. So with an evil sneer on my face I opened the Wacom box and decided my new partner in art fraud looked decidedly slick. It's a smallish thing roughly the size of a mouse pad but with the ubiquitous translucent plastic and smooth Mac like curves. I fired up Illustrator and began drawing. While it's much easier than trying to draw with a mouse it just made my horrible drawings look exactly like they did on paper. Hopes smashed I went back to the optical mouse Apple kindly supplied.

A few days later I decided that I shouldn't let ninety-nine bucks lay around like a coaster so I tried some image editing with the included copy of PhotoShop LE. That's when I realized how cool this thing really was. If you're using the airbrush and press a little harder it fills a little more, relax your hand and the pattern lightens a bit. The box says that there are 512 levels of pressure, a statement that I do not doubt, but my lack of hand skill only achieved ten or eleven. I found the pen to be superior to a mouse for just about every PhotoShop tool, the pressure function was sweet and I could actually write words easily with the pen (try signing your name with a mouse, ugh!). In my opinion the pressure sensitive pen coupled with an image editor is worth much more than the price of admission.

Of course you also get a fairly nifty multi button mouse. The mouse feels a bit cheesier than the Apple optical mouse when hefted but once its on the tablet it is noticeably more precise. I was and still am happy with the precision of the Apple mouse but if this an important feature to you then this mouse might be your new best friend. I still use the Apple mouse the majority of the time because my wild clicking tends to get the Wacom mouse off the clickable surface area of the tablet. I do use the Wacom mouse exclusively when surfing the web. Besides having two buttons the Wacom features one of those nifty scroll wheels. Unlike the scroll wheels associated with peecees this one actually works. No more drifting over to the scroll bar to move the page up and down I can just flick the scroll wheel and keep reading continuously. Some would argue, and with some justification, that being able to read a webpage continuously should be more properly listed in the minus category the web being what it is. Still some people, myself included, enjoy the wild conjecture and useless blather that is the world wide web.

So the Graphire tablet won't make you a super nifty artist but it does make a really great Mac accessory. When I think of all the other things that I have hooked to my Mac that I use less and cost more (cdr drive, scanner, printer, media reader, palm USB adapter, etc.) I wonder why I never thought of a tablet before. It's such a worthy addition for all your artistic needs: from the very mundane (signing a letter in Word) to the more advances (creating realistic landscape in Illustrator) that there is something for everyone to love about the little gadget. So if you're on the fence wondering if you can get any use out of something that may seem a bit frivolous: trust me you can and you'll never regret the cash outlay.

Note to Apple Computer: I would love to review the new G4 dual processor model just send one on over... x