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A pen tablet was not on my List of Things to Get for my OS/2 system. However,
I chanced upon a post in the newsgroups that mentioned ACECAD had good, cheap pen
tablets that were OS/2 compatible. At $60US, I decided to purchase one on a whim.
(I had a lucky week on the stock market).
ACECAD's Home Page is relatively simple
and easy to navigate. It now loudly proclaims OS/2 Warp compatibility. Nice! I wish
other manufacturers weren't as shy about it! In addition to the usual technical
support links, the site also supports a User's Forum forum. It's just a message
board where people post their problems, comments and advice. It appears to be monitored
by ACECAD technical support as well, who respond fairly promptly.
Prior to running the install, the manual recommends that you run a short test
program. Unfortunately, this program will only work in "true" DOS mode.
A DOS window does not suffice, so I had to re-boot to a command prompt in Win95.
The upside is that the test program is almost totally unnecessary, unless you suspect
you have a faulty tablet. Everything else afterwards was almost brain dead, because
the driver install consisted of shoving in the floppy disk, running OS2SETUP.CMD
and following the prompts.
The installation program modifies your CONFIG.SYS and puts a little control panel
on your desktop to configure the ACECAT III. Upon reboot, I found the mouse and
ACECAT III working seamlessly. I can simply pick up whichever pointing device I
choose and use it immediately.
As you can see, the control panel is very complete. The pen itself is configured
as a 3-button pointer (there are 2 buttons on the barrel, and the tip itself is
a button as well). Each one can be individually assigned the same or different functions.
You define any combination of Button 1, 2, or 3, Single click or Double click. I
found this feature quite handy, as it was difficult for me to perform an actual
double-click with any of the pen buttons. (Maybe I'm just clumsy).
The driver control panel for OS/2 is almost exactly the same as the Windows version.
Actually, the only missing feature is the function to change between relative (i.e.
works like a mouse) and absolute positioning modes. In OS/2, you are stuck with
using absolute positioning. (So, for example, pointing to the the middle of the
ACECAT III will always move you pointer to the middle of the screen, regardless
of where your pen is coming from or how much you've moved it).
ACECAD has a lot of arguments on its web page for its corded pen approach. Simple,
lightweight, cheap, no battery and never a lost pen. I have to agree that the arguments
are true, and the cord is very lightweight and flexible. I haven't noticed it getting
in the way yet. But if cost were no objective, I'd prefer a slightly heftier, cordless
pen. (I've used a cordless, pressure-sensitive Wacom before). In keeping with the
same philosophy, the pen is not pressure sensitive either. ACECAD's justification
is that pressure sensitivity is not supported by many applications. That may be
true, and certainly in the OS/2 world, but the ones that do support it are some
of the biggies, including Corel Draw. (Curiously enough, ACECAD did mention on the
discussion board that ACECAD Taiwan sells the "Flair" line of tablets
that does support pressure sensitivity). From an OS/2 point of view, it is certainly
not worth the extra bucks. But if you dual boot and need to do some serious graphic
work, I can assure you that pressure sensitivity is a pretty killer feature for
For navigating around your desktop, I could see how the ACECAT III could be very
efficient. You simply point to an absolute location and press down with the pen
tip to select. With one of the barrel buttons set to double-click, it's even easier.
However, I still haven't accustomed to it yet, and I'm still sticking with the mouse
for everyday use. For graphic work, the ACECAT III wins hands down easily, especially
for bitmap graphic work. A pen is just so much more intuitive and easy to control.
I tested the ACECAT III with most of the OS/2 graphics apps that I had at my
disposal. Photo>Graphics Pro, ColorWorks v2.0 and StarOffice 5.1 all worked fine,
as expected. Win-OS2 full-screen presented a bit of a problem. Motion was very jerky
and the cursor would only move about 2/3 of the way down the screen. Fortunately,
the mouse still worked. On the other hand, seamless Win-OS2 sessions worked flawlessly.
I used Corel Draw 5.0 and Photo-Paint without problems. ACECAT III is also bundled
with a copy of Fauve Matisse in Gray, a Windows program. This is actually the "shareware"
version of Fauve Matisse (since bought by Macromedia and "retired") which
only allows grey shades. I've used Fauve Matisse before, and at the time, I was
really impressed. It was the first program I'd encountered that would allow me the
control, textures and techniques that was close enough to the real world things.
It's still a good program, if you can put up with working in grey shades only. Fauve
installs and runs just fine under Win-OS2. (I do not have the latest Win32 stuff
hacked in. Plain Win-OS2 install).
The driver install, features and ease of use are up to par with the WinXX drivers.
The latest Wacom Graphire tablets are targeted towards a similar market, but are
a little bit more expensive. Up here(in Canada), they cost about 40% more than the
ACECAT III. They do, however, sport a cordless pen and a new, cool looking design,
as well as pressure sensitive tip and eraser. But without OS/2 drivers, they're
not terribly useful for my purposes.
Despite the drivers being a year old for the last refresh, there is no cause
for concern, as 99.9% of all the features are already covered and I have yet to
experience any system stability issues. There are a few minor glitches, but nothing
close to being a show-stopper. The Win-OS2 full screen "bug" would be
nice to fix, but since the work-around is so simple, it is not of high priority.
ACECAD support appears to be quite good, but fortunately I did not have to resort
to any support at all, which is even better!
Any OS/2 users who have been wanting to find a pen tablet that's inexpensive,
easy to use and has good OS/2 driver support should consider an ACECAT III.
Manufacturer: ACECAD, Inc.
Suggested Retail Price: $99.95 USD
On-line Special: $59.95 USD
Author: Isaac Leung