Using the Wacom Pen Tablet on our Linux Desktops

NOTE: Currently the 5 buttons on the tablet itself are not detected by the windowing system. I am working on fixing that. -Greg

Because we do not leave the tablets connected to particular machines, the Xserver needs to be restarted to properly recognize the device.

  • plug the tablet in before you log in (if repeating steps you can leave the tablet plugged in).
  • press ``CNTL``+``ALT``+``Backspace`` to restart the Xserver
  • log in

The tablet should now be mapped to the display so that touching the bottom left corner of the tablet with the stylus puts the mouse at the bottom left corner of the display and touching the stylus to the upper right should put the mouse pointer at the upper right. On a machine with dual monitors the tablet surface will be mapped across both monitors, right half of the tablet is the right monitor, left half is the left monitor. If you are using the tablet and the surface of the tablet is not mapped to the entire screen it was not detected properly.

The stylus will work as your pointing device in any application. Taping it should have the same effect as clicking your left mouse button. On the shaft of the stylus is a rocker button. Pushing the side closer to the tip is your middle mouse button. Pushing the side farther from the tip of the stylus is your right mouse button1)

Some application can use the tablet as more than a mouse, they use pressure and other features to give you additional control with the tablet. Here are a few that you might find useful.


Xournal is a “Pen Journal” that also allows you to add annotations to PDF files or capture windows on the current screen and use them in xournal.

Xournal tips are on on their own page: >xournal_tips


on screen annotations

Gromit allows you to draw on top of your screen. You can create your own gromit preferences for what each stylus button does. They are kept in your .gromitrc file. You can change line color, thickness and transparency and well as adjust the size of the eraser.

gromit is not as fast, feature rich or as high resolution as xournal but it has the advantage of drawing on top of your live session. Sometimes that is just what you need. You can preserve your gromit drawings by doing a screen capture.


Scrot is a command line tool that can take a screen capture and launch an application, giving it the screen capture. For example, you could capture the current screen and send it directly to gimp. If you bind a key in the window manager to a scrot command then any time you press that key (say, ``CTRL`` + ``ALT`` + ``s``) you could have gimp open with the current screen capture in it.

There are several other ways to capture a screen or a window on a screen. Scrot simply has the advantage of being scriptable.


All of this assumes you have not remapped your mouse buttons.