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Physical Pleasures  1/2/06

A few weeks ago my cute travel mouse broke enough that I stopped using it. Then the left (primary) button on my 2-year-old Wacom tablet mouse went on the fritz. Left mouseless as a FileMaker developer and Tinderbox addict on the Macintosh, I moved quickly to find a replacement, and decided to give the Wacom pen another go. I'd tried it for a day or two back when I got the tablet and couldn't get the hang of it. I use two monitors most of the time and the tablet couldn't map the proportions, the pen-side buttons were ungainly, etc.

But they've really improved the drivers, and this time I was forced to use it long enough to get used to it. And I won't go back soon because I'm really enjoying the physical sensation of using a pen for my text-work. It's thrilling to drag windows around with the pen like I'm drawing, and it feels so right to make a highlighter motion over text, then drag a link-arrow (in Tinderbox) from the text to another note to make a link. I made the main button on the pen into ctrl-click and it feels like I am really grabbing links and icons and pulling the contextual menu out of them.

All this time I've preferred to do initial hypertext sketching on paper because of the freedom to whip links to and fro with abandon, to turn notes on their sides or squeeze some more text in. There are still advantages to doing that, but I'm surprised at how much of my preference seems to have been the thoughtlessly intuitive motion and the physical pleasure of drawing with a pen on paper. Using the tablet in Tinderbox and FileMaker has brought some of that pleasure back into the digital side of that work.