Wacom's Lens Cursor is a mouse-like, very precise pointing device that architects and engineers can use in conjunction with some of its tablets.

Courtesy Wacom Europe

Who's using Wacom tablets and what for?

As we've talked about, Wacom tablets are marketed to many different audiences. The first market is, not surprisingly, creative professionals. From graphic designers to product developers, there's a Wacom tablet that just might make your job easier.

Wacom touts the Cintiq system, for instance, as a valuable tool for animation professionals, with its pressure-sensitive pen to vary line thickness and the immediacy of working on screen. (They also make a point of saying that those old, hand-drawn storyboards no longer need to be scanned in but are right at your fingertips.)

For graphic designers, the Intuos and Cintiq tablets provide a more "pen-and-paper" feel than, say, working with a mouse. The shortcuts offered, like ExpressKeys or even the expediency of drawing as opposed to pointing and clicking, are also touted as time savers. Naturally, any professional work that requires sketching or artistic operations -- or any degree of digital manipulation -- is probably going to find a Wacom tablet useful in streamlining their process.

Makes sense, but why would anyone else need one? One reason might be a hobby; if you're an artist, a tablet can easily let you transfer your art into a digital sphere. Applications like Corel Painter aren't your mama's ClipArt, either. This app allows you to create traditional-looking paintings with your pen acting as a brush. Of course, we could all use a little airbrush help with our photographs, and Wacom tablets and pens allow subtle and specific manipulation of your digital images that point-and-click navigation might not.

Specialized industries are using Wacom tablets as well. CAD/CAE lens cursors, used in architecture and engineering design, are compatible with some Intuos tablets. GIS (Geographic Information Systems) professionals also benefit from the technology, as the mapping and design of geospatial data is potentially much easier to design and implement with the pen and tablet. Wacom also points out that doctors could chart patients' data on the tablet, storing their (notoriously hard to read) notes digitally.

Note that while many of the Wacom tablet models need to be connected by USB to your PC or Mac, the Intuos models, the Bamboo Capture and the Bamboo Create can be used wirelessly. The components and battery are about $40, and the battery ranges anywhere from 6 hours (for larger models) to 15 hours (for smaller tablets).