How to switch tablet input between multiple monitors on a Mac

A Wacom Bamboo tabletQuickly switch your tablet input between multiple monitors using some simple Applescript – no programming required. All you need to do is download the free app bundle below and then assign them to the hardware keys on your tablet. This quick switching allows you to use your full tablet for each of your monitors rather than dividing your tablet space between displays.

Read on to make the most of your tablet in a multi-monitor set up.

Photo by Jens-Michael Cramer

This post applies to Wacom tablets running on Mac systems. It has been tested on Mac OS X 10.6.3 with a Wacom Bamboo tablet under driver version 5.2.1-3. It will probably work with other Wacom tablets on the Mac – let me know whether or not it worked on your set up by posting a comment.

The default setting for the Wacom Bamboo tablet is for the tablet to be mapped to your entire screen. If you have two screens, it splits the tablet between them and so you loose half of your precision. I wanted to be able to use the hardware “ExpressKey” buttons on the tablet to switch between using the full tablet on each screen in a multi-monitor setup.

How to do it

I’ve written three scripts to which switch the mapping of the tablet to either monitor 1, monitor 2 or both. To use them do the following:

  1. Download the latest Wacom tablet driver here and install it.
  2. Download my tablet screen switching applications here: Wacom_Switch.zip.
  3. Unzip them and place the three app files in your Applications folder.
  4. Go to System Preferences -> Pen Tablet
  5. Select the tablet tab
  6. Set the ExpressKeys to Open/Run… to each application.

Alternatively you could set up keyboard short cuts to run the switcher applications.

Then just hit the buttons you’ve programmed to switch from screen to screen – easy.

How its done

You can set the tablet to map to just one of your monitors in the preference pane. Obviously this switching method is too slow. I found one hack which used Applescript to move copies of Wacom preference files around. I could not get it to work well on my machine but it inspired me to come up with this solution.

It turns out that you can set the mapping between the monitor and the tablet directly with Applescript. The Wacom Applescript documentation was relatively cryptic but was enough to figure out how to access the map display property. I wrote an Applescript which set the map display property on the first transducer of the first tablet on the system. Each app contains the same code except for the value set to map display. A value of 0 map the tablet to all displays and a value greater than zero maps it to just the display corresponding to that number.

Here’s the code to set the mapping to screen 1:

tell application “TabletDriver”
set tabletNumber to 1
set transducerNumber to 1
set screenNumber to 1
set map display of transducer transducerNumber ¬
of tablet tabletNumber to screenNumber
end tell

You can open the apps in Applescript Editor to check them out (you can also make sure that they only do what they say they do too!) If you had more than two displays you can just re-save one of the apps as WacomScreen_3.app and change the value set to screenNumber to 3.

- Joe