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I recently acquired a Wacom Cintiq Interactive Pen Display and it was worth every penny of the $1999 that it cost me. Sure, that sounds like a lot. However, I work on a lot of maps. Without going into detail, I will just note that my commitment to over-commitment is a problem. I truly need to develop ways to more quickly and accurately compile my mapping in a digital form.

Nothing (aside from LiDAR, maybe) has streamlined my mapping workflow more than being able to map directly on the surface of a high-resolution monitor. It is one-step beyond my previous advice to run out and get yourself a wacom digitizing tablet because it removes the final level of abstraction that separated your eyes from your work. Since the monitor is quite pricey, it may be a stretch for the average ‘joe’ (you know who you are). The next best step, the digitizing tablet, is an excellent way to go if that is your limit. Put plainly, you are a pitiable fool for not using either of them. Sorry to say that, but it is true.  Deal with it.

I will admit that some of my colleagues that I have goaded into trying the tablet (haven’t let anyone touch the monitor yet) have had some issues and, unbelievably, returned to clicking their freaking mice for miles across the virtual landscape. As I have said in the past: can your write your name with your mouse…of course you can’t. Why then do you think you can map your favorite intricate contact with one better than you can with a pen? The digitizing tablet / monitor approach is far more efficient. You can program buttons on the pen and the tablet to substitute for frequent commands you use in the program of interest. In the case of the tablet, you can change its inclination to suit your ergonomic needs and can even freely rotate it through a large range of angles to get the perfect attack on the cryptic  contact you think is so important.

The Cintiq rocks for geologic mapping. Convince your boss to buy one, or write it into your next geologic mapping proposal. Don’t be a slave to a mouse…how embarrassing is that?

Disclosure: I am left-handed but also moderately ambidextrous. I use my mouse with my right hand. I use the pen in my left. I use them both when madly mapping in ArcGIS.

Dr. Jerque hard at work


  1. that’s pretty awesome … most of my mapping is now in the subsurface (along seismic-reflection horizons) … but I do a lot of clicking. I suppose something like this could work just as well … whaddya think?

    • I would recommend trying one of the two options out for sure. It is also a great tool for making diagrams and editing photos in Adobe software, for example.

      • hmmm … now that I think about it, the seismic interp software we use is (1) on Linux, and (2) I don’t think it has an option to just hold down the mouse to draw a horizon … but, still, connecting points w/ the pen in the hand is better than clicking on a mouse.

    • Wacom’s hardware works with Linux OS and we have several end users doing seismic interp with our DTZ-2100. We actually have been working with some of the software manufacturers to test and explore ways to further enhance the user experience by aligning our products more effectively. Feel free to email me direct if you want references at

  2. I’d like the chance to join thi discussion – perhaps get a webx going and talk about how to further enhance your experience. please feel free to ge me at 503.318.9248 or i a responsible for GIS business development at wacom and have some idas that I’d like to loop into the group discussion. we are working with esri and some petroleum geology software vendors and we will be further enhancing your experience with wacom interactive pen displays.

    thanks –


  3. Really? It’s that good? I’ve done tons of digitizing of published maps and from images with all sorts of methods and hardware and I still prefer to digitize with a mouse. Do you stream vertices or click them in? I never liked the lines I drew while streaming. Can you first position the stylus on the screen and then add the point with the click of a button or does a point always show up as soon as you make contact with the screen? That’s what I like about the mouse, you put your cross hairs where you want it and then hit the button while your mouse stays in one place. A pen has always been too shaky for me.

    • Works great for me. Maybe lay off the coffee…wait, I drink tons of coffee. I personally find this far more intuitive and comfortable than using a mouse. I actually don’t stream lines too often unless it is a particularly small scale map. So I peck alot. And no, like a real pen on paper, the mark is made when you contact the screen. I have not found this to be a problem while mapping at scales ranging from 1:2400 to 1:100,000. I suspect someone smarter than I could program this type of function.

      Have you tried this tablet? Certainly worth a look…although I sense you are firmly attached to the mouse.

  4. I’ve used this Wacom digitizing monitor for over a year– we now have three in our group– and they are absolutely great. Not just for ArcGIS but also Adobe Illustrator. Some folks here program the buttons on the side, but I tend to work with the pen in one hand and the mouse in the other. If you can afford one, get one and you won’t regret it! Sue

    • Yes. These devices are amazing for mapping. I believe that the New Mexico Survey is using several to make geologic maps. Sold them on it at the AASG conference. Still baffled as to why anyone would prefer a mouse.

  5. sue beard are you willing to share mor offline via my direct email at

  6. i would really enjoy the chance to speak directly with any of you “posters” to this discussion. we are looking for end users who are willing to be interviewed for our ongoing development of case studies. we are also working with pre-configured settings for arcgis workflows.
    thanks, mike

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