I found lots of other people asking which cheaper-than-wacom tablets work well with linux, but not many good answers, so hopefully google will shepherd this first full day’s report to anyone else who needs it:
cellwriter works great. It’s in the standard repo. For those who don’t know, it’s a hand-writing recognition program. When working on the tablet, if you need to look something up on the internet, it can be easier to write it with the stylus in hand than to shift over to the keyboard. Compared to Microsoft Ink, it might seem a bit awkward at first, because it simplifies its own job by first requiring you to train it by writing each letter 5 times, and second by requiring you to write each letter in a separate little square - the cell. Bottom line is that these tricks make it more accurate than MS Ink, at least interpreting my writing, and the training session isn’t really that onerous.
Write (third-party download from styluslabs.com) is a small, nifty app that’s like a word-processor (okay, really just a chainsaw editor) for hand-written notes, and it works too.
Inkscape doesn’t support pressure sensitivity but otherwise works great. With a calligraphy brush, it’s where I got the best results.
I can’t seem to get pressure-sensitivity working in GIMP, either, though I didn’t mess with it much. From what I understand from its gurus, GIMP has an idiom that makes sense when you get to know it, but I’m still alien to the interface. Still with a little help from youtube I managed to find the place to set brush “dynamics” to pressure-based size or opacity, but I couldn’t tell a difference either way.
Krita is amazing, and the pressure sensitivity works well. At first, I found that light pressure made no mark at all, but in the settings there’s a tab for tablets where you can adjust the pressure curve. It ran from 0 at the low end to 4 units at the high, so I just raised the low end to 1 unit and otherwise left a straight slope. It seems to work much better now.
Blender grease pencil also supports pressure sensitivity.
In all these cases, the performance was smooth and snappy, with lines appearing where I expected them to. Same with Tupitube, but opentoonz was just weird. I’d draw a line rapidly, and it would appear in slow motion. The shape of the squiggle was perfect, but the placement was off, and the line started when I started but formed in slow motion, with a very noticeable delay between when I finished a stroke and when the program caught up.
I’ve played a bit more with express key configuration. The Dial has a menu of 5 items which unfortunately don’t include “act like the scroll wheel on a mouse”. Default is zoom in/out, but I changed it to PageUp/Down (next best thing to the scroll wheel).
For the bottom 2 buttons, default is Ctrl +/-. See why I changed the dial? However, in Krita, Ctrl+ didn’t zoom, so I changed it to Ctrl= which works fine.
The top button defaults to Alt, but otherwise I can’t program modifier keys stand-alone. I can program mod+click, which is the main reason I’d want the modifier anyway. Oddly, nothing appears in the input field when I do this, but it saves the result. Why is this important? Because while working with the stylus, mainly for painting but with the occasional need to open files, I can do ctrl+click or shift+click to select multiple files. Also, with the Shift+Click in conjunction with that Alt button, I can move a row in libreoffice-calc. It’s awkward, but it works.
There are undo and redo presets that have no effect, so I added my own Ctrl+Z which is undo in most programs, and for now at least I’m not worried about redo, but I need Esc to get out of things I get into accidentally (because I don’t know these programs very well yet). For some reason, the input box won’t sense Meta or Tab, and the preset Alt won’t work with the dial, i.e., I can’t input Alt+PageUp with that combination. If I could, I’d set that as a shortcut to change desktop. Instead, I set a button to Ctrl+Z, because I use that combo for the cube (way more natural than KDE’s default F11), so that’s my way of changing desktops with the stylus. So my net layout is as follows:
K1: [Alt] preset works in conjunction with the next two:
Dial: PageUp/Down to scroll in apps that support that
K5: Ctrl+Z for undo
K6: Alt+Z for desktop switching with cube
K7: Ctrl+= for zoom in (that is, Ctrl+Shift+Plus)
K8: Ctrl± for zoom out
These settings are saved for all users, which is fine because I’m the only user on this computer. If there were more users, I’d need multiple copies of the driver, launched from different folders, or I’d have to figure out which file holds the configuration and write a fancy command in the desktop file to swap it in and out.
kcron, which is to say KDE’s task scheduler in system settings, fails to launch the thing, so if I get too annoyed with the password requirement, I’ll have to learn to work with cron tables directly.
The included stand to hold the pen is - oh hey, the forum software bleeped the fairly mild derogatory word I wrote here. However, I’m quite pleased with a bit of velcro tape. The stand for the tablet itself works okay, with a shallow angle, but you can use the thing in your lap. A better stand is available (ac18) but costs $50.
PS: I also have Win10 in a vbox. All the best free drawing app in windows land come from linux, so I really didn’t have any different choices except sketchbook which only supports wacom even in windows. I installed mypaint just to test the tilt function, and actually I was underwhelmed. Yeah, you can tilt the brush to make a wider line. Or, you can press harder. Or, you can select a bigger brush tool. I figured I could use any brush for calligraphy, but that didn’t work because tilt makes thick vs. thin lines 90° off of where I’d expect for calligraphy. Tilting the pen in another direction while trying to make fancy letters is really uncomfortable, so now I figure I’d have been fine with one of last year’s models, which the linux driver also supports, like the artist pro 16 (which comes with that better stand) or 22 if I wanted more real estate. Actually, I think I’d have still gone for this size, fits nicely in the bag with my 17" laptop.