Wacom Pen and Touch performance on openSUSE 12.2

Most of the default releases of popular Linux distributions such as Fedora Gnome and Ubuntu Unity now include packages that support Wacom devices. Moreover, there's a well-supported Linux Wacom package available in Sourceforge. The number of Linux users who use Wacom tablets for their projects is huge and there are various workarounds to setting up non-Wacom devices too so there's really no reason why you shouldn't use your Wacom in Linux.

Plug and Pen

openSUSE 12.2 actually supported my Wacom Pen and Touch out of the box using the xf86-input-wacom package. Once plugged in, the pen and tablet worked without any further setup. The performance, however, was inconsistent. Sometimes, the mouse pointer would shake as I clicked and dragged across the desktop. Only one of the buttons on the tablet worked and double tapping would be seamless one moment and then unusable the next. Forty percent of the time, the tablet was too sensitive when used with the pen. The Wacom Pen and Touch has functionality for both multi-touch and pen input in Windows, but on openSUSE 12.2, I don't recommend the touch functionality at all if you want to avoid a frustrating experience.

Without the openSUSE packages for Wacom, you won't see the Tablet settings when visiting the Input Devices window in the Configure Desktop area. You can, however, configure the tablet by changing the touchpad settings (if you're using a laptop) and mouse settings (if you have a mouse plugged in). Take note that changing these settings will affect the touchpad of both your laptop and your Wacom device.

Installing the Wacom packages using Yast2

Using the default repositories for openSUSE 12.2, you can install the necessary packages to improve the Pen and Touch's performance. You can also install the wacom and libwacom libraries directly from source by searching for "wacom" in openSUSE's online software repository. However, using Yast is more than adequate.

After installing the packages, the option Tablet device will now appear in the Input Device window. A message will inform you that you need to reconnect your Wacom after reboot in order for the Wacom to be detected. Now, here's where it gets a bit dodgy. Rebooting your laptop and reconnecting the Wacom will get you a different message about the tablet not being detected. Mileage probably varies depending on your setup. For my part, I was using my Lenovo Ideapad Z360 with the Wacom Pen and Touch.

The good news? The Wacom works much better with the Wacom software packages. The cursor no longer shakes like it has arthritis and the tablet is able to track pen movement efficiently. Touch functionality is pretty usable too, but if you're using your Wacom with a laptop (like I am) than you don't really need touch functionality anyway. The pen buttons actually work. The top button on the pen triggers the context menu while the bottom button functions differently depending on the application. In Scribus, it is the equivalent to the Pan tool in Adobe products, while in Thunderbird it pastes from the clipboard. By holding down the lower button, I could pan around the workspace of Scribus and Gimp.

Software rundown: Ksnapshot, Scribus, Gimp, and Fedora on a Virtualbox guest

To check if the tablet is detected properly, open Konsole and run dmesg and you should find the Wacom tablet listed if everything worked out well.

I tested the tablet with Ksnapshot first and was able to click and drag like I was using a mouse. The screenshots taken for this blogpost made use of Ksnapshot with the Wacom.

Next, I launched the open source desktop publishing application, Scribus and made a few basic copy and paste tasks using the pen controls. With a double-tap using the Text Box tool I was able to add a message on a template. I'm not a regular user of a tablet and generally inept with touch devices but it was surprisingly easy.

When you're in Linux and require even basic image editing, there's little doubt that you'd want to use your Wacom with Gimp. Gimp thankfully has its own settings for configuring the Wacom controls. But even if it didn't, functionality is good enough for some serious image editing and painting. Since the openSUSE Wacom packages in my setup didn't provide tablet settings, I would probably use Gimp due to the Wacom settings it provides. I was able to quickly edit a comic book panel from Silver Surfer#41 (1990) even with my amateur skills with a tablet and Gimp.

Although I'll be using the Wacom Pen and Touch with the previously mentioned Scribus and Gimp on openSUSE, I wanted to see if the Wacom functionality would have issues with a Linux guest on Virtualbox. Since the Guest additions in Virtualbox allow for seamless windows between host and guest, I was hoping it wound't interrupt the Wacom's functionality. And thankfully, it didn't. With the Wacom, I could click and drag files between my Fedora 18 Xfce guest and openSUSE 12.2 KDE desktop.

Additional methods - Proceed at your own Risk

My Wacom needs are fairly basic so Gimp's Wacom configuration settings are more than enough for my projects and as mentioned, the pen works great on the KDE desktop. However, serious Wacom users may want the flexibility of tweaking the Wacom's settings.

There's actually scant information currently available about openSUSE 12.2 support on Wacom devices, which is both a good thing and a bad thing. There's a somewhat dated script for a Wacom installer found in the openSUSE community support pages. Moreover, you can visit X11 community forums for ways to manually tweak input settings. Due to the successful support of the Wacom Pen and Touch on my hardware, I haven't tried either of the two methods, though I would probably prefer using the steps found in the Linux Wacom project if I needed additional functionality.


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