Window Manager for Tablet users

Having since bought my shiney new Wacom 2 tablet (which incidently works perfectly under XOrg, Ubuntu has it configured out of the box) I’ve started to wonder if there’s more use for it than just graphics editing.

If you’ve never used a graphics tablet before, I encourage you to do so at some point. Once you get used to them, they’re really quite intuitive. My particular one has pressure sensitivity, more expensive ones even detect the angle you’re holding the pen at. My only issue is, while the tablet is superb for working in the GIMP and Inkscape, it becomes completely useless elsewhere. Obviously it’s useable in other applications (such as OpenOffice) but with a normal desktop enviroment it’s more hassle than benefit.

So I’ve been thinking, partly triggered by trying to think of a good 3rd year project for my degree, partly because I’m a geek and I’m forever thinking up hacks and such to muck around with in my spare time, and I’ve come up with what I believe will prove an interesting adventure: a X window manager designed for graphic tablet users.

Some of the issues I see with existing window managers and graphics tablets are:

  • Total reliance on double clicking and right-clicking, both of which is quite an effort on a (at least it is mine) graphic tablet.
  • Small and hard to select menu items, window borders and mostly visual components in general
  • Interaction occurs pretty much anywhere on the screen, with little (if any) logical flow

So for my window manager we will see some big differences:

  • No double/right clicking (atleast not in the window manager itself). Keyboard combinations will replace this (i.e. Ctrl+Alt+C for double left click, Ctrl+Alt+X for right click)
  • Larger menu items. Prehaps some kind of funky “zoom” mode, so as the pen moves over the items they enlarge and shrink, making selecting one significantly easier.
  • Less buttons to click. No more double clicking the title bar to maximize the window, rather an easy to remember, left handed key combo (i.e. Ctrl+Alt+W). Same for quitting windows (Ctrl+Alt+Q prehaps), minimizing and of course switching.
  • Window borders will be bigger. Prehaps just the bottom right and top left corners will be significantly thicker, allowing easy grabbing with a pen. Alt+drag will be implemented early on, a superb X feature that works well with graphics tablets.
  • Alternative scroll wheel method, some super key (prehaps Ctrl+Alt will bring up a temporary menu under the pen or something) which when held while dragging the pen will scroll up and down respectively.
  • Menus and toolbars will move to the edges, much alike in OSX. For graphics tablets this is a lot easier to navigate to, you know the top of the graphics tablet will jump you toward menus, the right hand side toward toolbars etc.

So the next step is to finish Saturday’s exam, and then I’m free to produce some layout designs etc, and start looking over some WM’s source to find out how bigger-a-task I’m taking on 😛

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