Current options for custom art shortcuts dock, as of 2021?

Discussion in 'Artists' started by Steve B, Mar 18, 2021.

  1. Steve B

    Steve B Moderator Moderator

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    Hi all.

    So, it's 2021. What do people use now for an art dock? There used to be the actual Art Dock, and there was Touch Key, and I see now that there's a Tablet Pro app. There's even the old old pen-focued one with AutoHotkey, that me and lblb made a decade ago. Is there much more that's new out there? I'd like a touch enabled dock that I can use for shortcuts, but maybe that old autohotkey dock does the trick? Something simple, for undo and redo, and maybe a few other commands-- brush resize, lasso and move, eraser and pencil. That sort of stuff. I've been poking around, but after a few wasted hours, I thought I'd ask and see what other artists are using.

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  2. darkmagistric

    darkmagistric Pen Pro - Senior Member Senior Member

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    One thing there currently is the Tap Keyboard 2. Its a wearable Bluetooth keyboard that maps the keys to a specific arrangement of taps. So you type by tapping your fingers.
    I bought the 1st gen model a few years ago, with the intent to use it pretty much exclusively for keyboard shortcuts at life drawing classes where I'm holding my tablet and remotes & dials just won't do.
    I also tried to learn how to use if fully as a keyboard but gave up (I found physically tapping things kind of annoying)

    For the purpose of Art/Keyboard shortcuts, I found the damn thing kind of awful. To set up you own custom tap map was annoying, confusing, and very glitchy. Like I would have to reset the custom map in tap software almost every other day. In addition it has a critical flaw hardwired into it.

    There is an auto-shut off command that is hardwiring in to the device and you can't change it. I forgot the exact key, but it was a single tap of either the pointer or index finger done in 3 or 4 quick successions. So if you programed a single tap to engage something like "Increasing a Brush" size....which you would naturally need to tap multiple times in succession, it would auto shut off the tap device. What was worse...something in the driver/firmware would also delete your current layer if your using Clip once the tap disengages by the auto shut off command....what ever layer your working on will be cleared and there is no way to undo it. So for art purposes it was rather horrific, since it didn't work and then deleted your work to boot.

    I messaged the company multiple times about this problem, and if there was some fix, or a way to reprogram the auto shut off command to a different tap combination that wouldn't be so easy to accidently trigger. Sadly all my concerns fell on deaf ears.

    However, in the past year they have come out with a second generation Tap....and they are quite actively marketing it to artists pretty much exclusively as a keyboard shortcut device. I've seen Art focused ads for it all over Social media.

    So naturally I emailed the company and again asked if for the Tap 2, if the auto shut off command was changed (or at least made changeable) to which they told me no, and that command has remained the same and hardwired into the device. :(

    Hopefully they were at least able to figure out how to get it to stop erasing your layer. But I'm not gonna give it a second chance until they can change the auto shut off command.

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  3. Steve B

    Steve B Moderator Moderator

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    Well, I tried out the ol' AHK toolbar, but I couldn't get the sexy streamlined nature of Tablet Pro out of my head. I don't like disengaging my mind from drawing so that I can move my hand somewhere else onscreen to tap a button-- even a setup as small and customized as the AHK toolbar. Waaaaaaaay back when (literally a decade ago), I got an old Motion le1600 with the buttons on the side, and I've never gotten over that. It worked so well. I LOVED using my left hand for that while drawing with the other, and was very dissapointed when physical buttons went away. So, I trawled around the internet and found more videos and finally got Tablet Pro to work.

    The short of it is that I feel the hassle of setting it up its worth it, if you can get over the hump. I love that the functional screen space on this15.6" EMR 2-in-1 is as big an iPad Pro, even with the Tablet Pro buttons taking up 1.5-2". Matte screen protector and felt nibs for some friction with my HP zbook pen. I use a lightweight Moft laptop stand between the screen and backwards-keyboard to keep it propped up at a more ergonomic angle. And the touch UI on Tablet Pro is great. This is a setup I could lean in to for digital sketching.

    As for Tablet Pro-- I unchecked "ignore touch input when using your pen" in the Pen Settings, and this has allowed me to quickly and easily activate buttons while the pen is right there next to the screen, only a mm away. This is great for quick undo/redo/lasso/move actions where I don't want to have to move my hand away and get away from the drawing-thinking-acting mode just to press buttons and such. I'm working on more functionality with the program. For now, I'm using a set of provided button shapes that I've reprogrammed for alternate shortcuts. 8 buttons is a enough, and with the device elevated with my laptop stand, my thumb is always just there by the undo. No real moving around to do.

    Having said that, the videos for how to get it to work are not helpful enough. I'm sorry to say that, because I'm sure Justice is a great guy, but there's no simple "This is how you program buttons" video or instructions. No explanation that it's 2 programs (an app and a desktop program to program it, that you have to move back and forth between). No video that I can find (and I've been looking!!) on how to make your own layout. It's bonkers how hard it is to set up. Having gotten over that hurdle, if I can help it, I don't think I'll ever draw on a windows device without it.
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2021
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  4. pm2334

    pm2334 Pen Pal - Newbie

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    Hi Steve B, I'm glad you made this thread. TouchKey is still my favorite art shortcut dock.

    I too have found Tablet Pro to be a pain to set up so I gave up on it.
    What are all the possible options anyway?

    Free Art Docks that use rawinputcontrol and AHK:
    rawinputcontrol (the first script to use AHK)
    toolbar creator
    CHOMP toolbar

    Other Free programs:
    radial menu

    Tablet Pro
    Tap Keyboard 2

    Am I missing any?
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2021
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