The CinTweak Story

Back in 2012 I upgraded from a 21UX to the new 24HD Cintiq interactive pen display.

The Wacom Cintiq 24HD is a big graphics tablet. This thing dominated my desk and occupied my entire field of vision when I worked. Did I mention it's big? When I first saw the 24HD, I was certain that they used a small framed person to demonstrate it's use in the promotional videos to super-size it. I was quite wrong.

 

 

As an Autodesk Maya user, I am a big fan of the radial menu in the Cintiq tool set but it requires setup time for each application and can feel either limited with too few options or inefficient with too many layers.

Using the Standard on screen keyboard (Windows 7 accessibility tool) is fine for a key press or two, but if you plan on doing more, it can quickly become frustrating. Press too quickly or accidentally jitter and you will spend a lot of time tapping the backspace key. Another shortcoming of the on screen keyboard is that you can't hold keys down while working in your application. It is a poor substitute for a hardware keyboard.

Upgrading to the Cintiq 24HD from the 21UX, I noticed the reduction of programmable hardware buttons (6, or 3 if you like to bind for Display Swap, Button Info, and On-Screen Keyboard functions which are now on dedicated buttons at the top of the 24HD).

The reality is that even if Wacom had provided 20 or 30 buttons on this fantastic production tool, it would still not be enough for me. My keyboard is an intrinsic part of my work flow - more importantly, I am familiar with my keyboard and don't want to program and train my hand to new key configurations with a keyboard alternative like the Nostromo N52 (which I have and love for gaming).

 

The size of the Cintiq 24HD dictated where I could place my keyboard. One option is to place it off to the side - if you have sufficient desk space. Luckily I have a very large desk but it just felt less than ideal to have the keyboard on the side.

While I was able to position my 24HD to my preferred work angle, every time I needed to access my keyboard, I had to twist my upper body to keystroke. This took me completely out of the 24HD's "work zone" and repeatedly broke my focus, reduced my work efficiency, and led to some serious muscle tension by the end of the work day. It's was also a literal pain in the neck.

Another option, if you have limited desk space or want to bring your keyboard closer to your work space, is to place your keyboard on the Cintiq 24HD's stand below the tablet. This is acceptable when working with the Tablet tilted in the upright drawing position but limits your tablet's movement range if you want easy access to your keyboard at all times. This was not an option for me. I always felt like I was leaning over my keyboard to access the drawing surface.

Whenever I set my tablet angle flatter, the keyboard would become visually blocked. It Just didn't feel right.

Having to constantly pull the keyboard out to keystroke and push it back in for comfortable access to the tablet just was not acceptable to me.

You can place your keyboard in front of the stand, pushing the Cintiq further back on your desk, but this requires that you stretch over the keyboard to access the drawing surface.

You still have to look down and away from your drawing surface to keystroke breaking your focus and interrupting your work flow. Hunching over like this also leads to unnecessary back and neck stress over the course of your work day.

My preferred work position is to use the Cintiq 24HD like a drafting table and hang it off the edge of my desk. It's a remarkably comfortable position, but I can't realistically lift the tablet to access my keyboard every time. Its may be a great workout, but it flat out interrupts every aspect of my work flow which is why I had resigned to having my keyboard on the side of my Cintiq.

Some users of the Cintiq 24HD end up putting their keyboard on their lap when they have the tablet down in the drafting position. That's just not a realistic option for me and is in my opinion even more unwieldy and uncomfortable as those cramped under the desk keyboard drawers.

I rely too heavily on both the Cintiq buttons and my keyboard during my work flow. I knew I had to find a better solution.

After searching on-line and reading that others were experiencing some of the same keyboard issues, I decided to design a Cintiq keyboard tray for myself that would address my work flow needs.

- A keyboard tray had to bring the hardware keyboard directly into the Cintiq 24HD's workspace while eliminating the need for me to turn, twist, push, pull, lift, bend or stretch to access the keyboard.

- A keyboard tray had to allow me to maintain my focus on my work and minimize the amount of unnecessary ocular adjustments while shifting between my tablet and my keyboard.

- A keyboard tray had to be simple, easy to use, and sturdy and safe for the tablet.

- A keyboard tray had to integrate into the visual work space cleanly and travel with the tablet as it was repositioned.

- A keyboard tray had to respect my work zone, and not infringe on it or impact my access and my natural working position in any way.

- Most of all, a Cintiq keyboard tray had to enhance my comfort level and improve my work flow - the tray had to feel like a natural extension of my workspace without negatively impacting my work flow.

I went through a number of design concepts from pivoting arms to split keyboard layouts with half of the keyboard on each side of the tablet.

A top-mount tray design was the only solution that checked all the boxes.

This solution brought my keyboard back into my work zone without being intrusive, increased my comfort by eliminating the need to twist and turn to keystroke, and improved my productivity by allowing me to focus on my work instead of interrupting it to access my key binds and macros.

 

I had multiple requests to extend the CinTweak product line to cover the older model Cintiq tablet, so I redesigned the base tray with a dual-tether mounting system and access ports to fit not only the Cintiq 24HD, but also to accommodate the Wacom stand and power button locations of the Cintiq 21UX, the Cintiq 22HD, and the new Cintiq 27qHD.