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Artist Questions On Surface Pro 3, Pen, Artdock And Autohotkey...


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Artdock was my savior on the surface pro 1. It made all things possible for intuitive interaction with 2D/3D art apps. It's unfortunate that it doesn't work on the Surface 3, as so far it's my dream device.


It was suggested that we try "toolbar creator" to replace some of the Autohotkey tools that worked on Surface Pro 1 and 2. That said, it's still does not function as artdock once did. 


Let's ignore for a moment whether certain modifier/click/pen combinations are used for specific actions in certain specific art applications. Thus speaking purely in terms of functionality; I just want to clarify a few things...


What worked on old Surface Pro...

Using autohotkey/artdock to create a virtual button (or something similar) on the surface pro 1 and 2, it allowed the user to have both finger and pen on the screen and register their action in combination  Is this correct? That sure seems like what I experienced. Thus allowing me to have a true virtual keyboard that worked in sync with a pen. 


Note, when I say virtual keyboard, I'm not just generically saying virtual buttons. I'm saying virtual buttons that played nicely with simultaneous interaction via pen input. No unintuitive toggling, etc. 


What doesn't work on Surface Pro 3...

On the surface pro 3 you cannot have both pen and finger in combination. The pen overrides touch. Is that the root problem?


People have been saying Ntrig is the issue, is this true? Or is it an issue on the Microsoft side? I remember reading that Microsoft had to custom code a number of things to get wacom working properly with the Surface as they desired. Is it possible they simply were not as thorough with Ntrig implementation?


This toolbar-creator script is certainly rad. Love the customization aspects and the flexibility. But all of that doesn't fix the root problem that worked so smoothly in the old artdock/autohotkey tools. The fact that pen and touch played nicely in combination.


What is technically preventing functionality that allows touch/pen to work in unison. Is the problem with Autohotkey? Microsoft? Ntrig? I wonder if people are just a little to quick to presume that N-trig is the issue simply because it is not Wacom. 


Are there other programmable "virtual keyboard' options that I may be overlooking?


Very much appreciate any feedback. 


Edited by Handson
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My "limited" understanding is that the N-Trig pen purposely disables touch when it is within close range of the screen (close enough for the cursor to appear). This is by design. I am unsure whether this is something that can be disabled or modified by Microsoft or anyone else.


My buddy Alex Cheparev, who designed the icons and functionality I released as the 2nd generation Surface Pro Artist Art Dock, has just sent me a couple of toolbars he created using Toolbar Creator. They're for Mudbox and ZBrush.I haven't tested them yet, but I'll make them available as soon as possible.

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  • 4 weeks later...

it does work, chomp toolbar handles it, i made a quick version for zbrush that needs some polish but it works, pen and touch at once, like the artdock, thanks for that surfaceproartist, it was great on my samsung slate.


anyways here you can find it, not sure if this is the working version with photoshop, leslie van den broek modified chomp to work in photoshop



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I am not sure what it is, sometimes the buttons behave as if they are toggles. Which is different from the artdock. so from time to time you will have to hit the button again to have the normal behaviour again. Would love to have those kinks out. But without chomp (or a way to have touch and pen workign at once) i would have returned my surface by now.

There are so many things which should be really easy to fix and would add so much more comfort.


Like allowing the touchcover to work in portrait mode, or on the back of the device. Boom instantly many more shortcuts.


Or remapping the buttons of the pen. Those would be really helpfull additions to the overall workflow with the surface. Without it it's just a laptop with a touchscreen.

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I tried Chomp and I couldn't get it to work consistently. I also think the icons (while pretty) aren't very intuitive. But I'll definitely keep an eye on it. I'm much more hopeful about Toolbar Creator. It's really close and the developer (only identified by his TabletPCReview forum name lblb) is incredibly proactive about incorporating users' suggestions.


I recommend that anyone who's serious about using any Windows tablet as a creation device invest in a compact bluetooth keyboard like the Microsoft wedge mobile keyboard.


It may not be as elegant as on-screen shortcuts, but it just works to keep it within reach at all times.

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the problem is, that i only have two hands :D

so how would i hold the tablet, use the pen and press shortcuts at the same time?


thatvwas the great thing abput your artdock. it made the use of zbrush on my slate pretty much flawless.

i checked the toolbar crwator but as i understand it was never designed to make pen and touch at the same time possible?

but of course a creator tool is much more convenient than doing it in a text editor

Edited by AirbornStudios
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Yeah, I don't recommend trying to hold the tablet and keyboard at the same time! 


If I'm at a desk, the Surface Pro is reclined to about a 20 degree angle and the keyboard is off to my left. I like to draw while seated on the sofa with the tablet in my lap. So I cradle the SP with my leg crossed and keep the keyboard next to me. 


I'm hopeful the next version of the Toolbar Creator will allow us to mimic the ArtDock functionality.

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