I do just enough digitizing (and touching up/ drawing when post-processing) to perhaps warrant the purchase of a Wacom tablet. Just wondering how well it plays with ArcGIS. What are your experiences? Is there a learning curve. Can the tablet and pen replace the mouse all together?

  • I should have mentioned that this question pertains to the Intuous or Bamboo tablets and the likes not the interactive display. Commented Jun 1, 2011 at 13:24

7 Answers 7


I have been using a wacom tablet with ArcGIS for the past 5 years and have found it to be incredibly useful. I have only used the Intuous 3 (A4) but the ability to program the 8 shortcut keys as well as the trackpads has saved countless repetitive hand trips to the keyboard - and when you are capturing a lot of little areas of data this can be quite some distance.

However, by far the most beneficial aspect is that your hand rests in a more natural position, rather than rotated (like you get with a mouse) and so you can use it all day everyday, and you do not get any pains in the hand or higher up in your arm. I no longer use the mouse for any of my applications because the tablet is so easy to use once you have got used to it.

If you are capturing lots of data and need to be returning to the keyboard a lot then you should seriously consider purchasing - at around $400 it is well worth it.

Apologies if I sound like an agent for Wacom, I am not and the same would go for any tablet.

  • Would you recommend the big A4 tablet or would be A5 enough? My concern is that A4 model will take all the desk space.
    – geekQ
    Commented Apr 20, 2013 at 9:28

I use mine all the time with ArcGIS Desktop. The learning curve isn't as steep as you'd think. It becomes much more natural to draw on the canvas than trying to use a mouse. I've noticed that ArcGIS 10 seems designed for the Wacom tablets so it makes it very easy to work with.

My productivity goes up using the Wacom tablet, the quality of my work goes up and my arm doesn't hurt like it does with a mouse. GIS and tablets should go hand in hand.

  • Thanks James. All positive so far. I am excited to get one. Commented May 31, 2011 at 18:21

We've used the Wacom Intuos 4 for a couple of digitizing jobs in the last year, and had a really positive experience. We've used it with both ArcGIS 9.3 and 10, no conflicts or other problems there. It took a day or so to really get into the swing of using it properly, but once past that learning curve, I'd say it improved our productivity significantly. I'd also say it helped in the area of ergonomics - much less wrist/hand strain than using a mouse.

That being said, it hasn't replaced the mouse for everyday use for us. Didn't really get into the shortcut buttons, but I can definitely see how they might be useful. It took some minor tweaking of digitizing settings in Arc to make it work just right. Not sure if this applies to you, but we had some minor problems running Photoshop and Illustrator simultaneously with the tablet, but I understand there's a fix out there.

All in all, well worth the $300 or so it cost us.

  • 1
    What size of tablet did you use? L (A4) or M (A5)? Which size would you recommend?
    – geekQ
    Commented Apr 20, 2013 at 9:25
  • 1
    Ours is a smaller one, the total size of the tablet is around A4 and the usable space on it, ie. the digitizing space, is probably closer to A5. It has been fine for our heads-up digitizing needs, we haven't needed any bigger. Commented Apr 21, 2013 at 12:56

I've seen the Wacom used by a few Photoshop expert friends, and they really like it. Just be sure to get a big enough model, as the small ones are tough to use on a high resolution screen.


"Just wondering how well it plays with ArcGIS. What are your experiences? Is there a learning curve. Can the tablet and pen replace the mouse all together? "

I have used Wacom technology for over three years (IBM ThinkPad and also experimented with their interactive penable monitors). Most of my work is in Public Safety (Search and Rescue, Law Enforcement).

  1. It "plays" very well with ArcGIS 10, especially with the new and more powerful Editor environment (editing polygons!!!). I think Esri had such tablet/penabled technology in mind when they developed the latest release.
  2. There is not much of a learning curve at all...
  3. However, you might want to look at how other people have customized their settings with the pen in the ArcGIS editing environment to take full advantage of the technology. Then you can replace the mouse for most functions.

Hope this helps.

  • Paul D.

Our soil scientists like using it but when you have a really large datasets that can became an issue. We have a large dataset and they have to make line change with topology and it takes them forever for the topology to finish its work. Thank God I don’t have the Wamcom tablet. They just hating it now and wish they could have their workstation back. They are not sure if they will replace Wacom. I feel sorry for them. They are frustrated because when you load ArcGIS to their Wacom tablet, it is really realy SLOW. They are on network server.

I have 2 dual monitor’s workstation and I am glad I did not get it because I was not sure how will it work with my time doing GIS work. It saved me from getting frustrated. So, I am not sure if anyone has any experience with large datasets on Wacom tablet. Anyone ?

  • Thanks. Good to know. I did not even consider the tablet with the display. I've read some reviews about it being cumbersome and people having to look at the tablet rather then the screen. Is this what your scientists are using? I already have dual monitors and will be keeping my mouse (depending on the level skill i acquire with the tablet) I am thinking of the large Intuos tablet. At first i will only be using it for digitizing in ArcGIS and drawing in CorelDraw but will also try it as a primary pointing device. Commented Jun 1, 2011 at 12:55
  • just to be clear, and hopefully I'm not too late to the party to get an answer, but are you saying a wacom digitizing tablet with large datasets and topology is painfully slow, while a mouse with the same data is not? Commented Nov 9, 2012 at 16:48
  • Matt, no your not too late. I believe so they have tried both ways and they are not happy with the results. They do not have a workstation like I have and it gives them the limit to run a large datasets. You might want to find out others. Remmeber I work for the Government and they like to give us cheap computers. For the private sector, you might want to customize what you like like a high end workstation with the monitor. I would stick with the high end workstation and use with my mouse because it is more powerful. Maybe find out where you can go and have yourself to see what it looks like.
    Commented Nov 10, 2012 at 18:57
  • They said when you digitize with the pen, and sometimes when you want to change a line it gives them some sort of shifting when you try to move or change the line. I think this is what gave them frustrated. But If I were you it is better for you to go and have yourself to see it so you will know what it look like, Matt.
    Commented Nov 10, 2012 at 19:00

We have a detailed blog post on our experience using the Wacom DTU-2231. http://letters-sal.blogspot.com/2011/05/digitizing-wacom-way.html

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