Every once in a while I come across a little gem for tablets that really makes my day. Yesterday was once such moment. I do a lot of graphic design and other tasks that require finer use of a cursor than what a mouse can deliver. This could be creating images or even signing documents. When I do that, the mouse simply doesn't cut it. Yes there are Bamboo tablets that are made for this very purpose. But when you already have a Galaxy Note tablet, why purchase the extra hardware? Unless you need the finer detail of pressure sensitivity, making use of that Galaxy Note is a quick way to get a large digitizer connected to your PC.
I should preface this by saying this software (SPenDigitizer) is in early development - but it works great. It's also not something you'll find in the Google Play Store. In fact, this was a weekend project for a developer as a proof of concept - the end result being something that is quite usable. But because it is in early development, there aren't any settings to deal with or incredible feature list. This is a simple piece of software that does one thing and does it well. In the immortal words of Captain Jean Luc Picard, let's make it so.
What you should know
- You can use this with either your finger or the pen
- The tablet and PC must be on the same network
- Hovering the pen will move the cursor
- Pressure sensitivity is not read
- You can single-click on the desktop using the pen
- Orientation of the tablet must be chosen before removing the pen (you cannot change it... yet)
- You must enable unknown sources for the installation on the tablet
- I was only able to test this on Windows 7, but it should work with Windows XP
There is a tiny application that must be installed on the PC. Download this zip file and follow these steps:
- Extract the zip file
- Change into the newly created directory
- Double-click the SpenClient.exe file
- If prompted, give the file permission to run
- When the configuration window opens (Figure A), switch the port, if necessary
- Click Save
- Minimize the Digitizer window
This is all you get on the PC side.
That's all there is to do on the PC side of things. Let's take care of the tablet end now.
Installation: Galaxy Note
As I mentioned, you first have to enable unknown sources on the tablet. Here's how:
- Open the Settings window
- Scroll down to Security
- Tap to enable Unknown Sources (Figure B)
Prepping the Verizon-branded Galaxy Note tablet for the digitizer.
The next step is to download that same zip file to your tablet. You'll also need to install an application that allows you to unzip files. I use UnZip. Install that as you would any file and unzip the file like so:
- Open up the UnZip application
- Navigate to the location of the downloaded file
- Tap on the .zip file
That's it. You should now have a newly created folder that contains the .exe (for the PC, but you don't need that now) and the .apk file that's used to install the application on the tablet. Simply follow these steps:
- Open up My Files
- Navigate to the newly created folder (that was created when you unzipped the downloaded file) in your downloads directory
- Tap on the SPenDigitizer.apk file
- Select Package Installer (if prompted)
- Allow the installation to complete
The digitizer is now ready to use. All you have to do is launch the SPenDigitizer application and begin using the tablet as a digitizer for your PC.
It's not nearly as refined as the Bamboo line of digitizers, but in a pinch, this little trick does an outstanding job of working as a digitizer to help you refine your mouse actions on your PC. Use this to create drawings, write your signature, or get creative with it. The software is free, and it's a lot cheaper than purchasing a third-party piece of hardware.
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.