UPDATE 12/13: We've already published a new version with improved icons. Check out the details here.
When I published my review of 3d apps on the Surface Pro last week, many of you wrote to suggest I check out ArtDock. This fascinating utility creates a touch toolbar with common commands that can be used in conjunction with a pen. While we're waiting for developers to embrace touch and tablet oriented interfaces for their programs, this useful tool is the next best thing.
I first encountered a sibling of ArtDock shortly after I launched this blog. The ArtRage Pen-Only Toolbar seemed pretty geeky at the time and not very necessary, given the relatively simple UI of ArtRage.
But the continued frustration with Photoshop forced me to take a closer look. It turns out that using and modifying ArtDock isn't as difficult as it first appears. The biggest challenge is to cobble together the various files needed to make it work on the Surface Pro.
To make sure credit is given where it's due, below are the sources I referenced when researching this topic. These links are not essential to getting the Surface Pro Artist ArtDock up and running, so you may want to skip ahead to the installation instructions links below.
These customized toolboxes, or docks, are made possible by an ingenious program called AutoHotkey, which enables users to assign common keyboard, mouse and touch commands to onscreen icons.
The AutoHotkey script RawInputControlTest.ahk was first written for the Asus Eee Slate EP121.
The script was then adapted for the Samsung Series 7 Slate here by tbaldree and dubbed Paintdock.
Konartist3D further modified the scripts at his DeviantArt page, creating GUIs for Photoshop, ZBrush, Maya and others and dubbing the program as ArtDock.
Over at TabletPCReview, DoctorBunsonHoneydew adapted the Konartist3D ArtDock for the Surface Pro.
Enter The Surface Pro Artist ArtDock
Although Dr. Honeydew's script is minimalist and very Surface-y, I found it to be a little inscrutable and not really aimed at artists. Therefore, I decided to go back to Konartist3D's work.
Because it was developed for a larger screen tablet, I decided to scale all his icons up 150%. The buttons are now a nice size that is difficult to miss. I also made all the toolbars 100% opaque because I wanted to make sure that the small type on some of the icons was readable.
Konartist3D also included a lot of desktop controls on his ArtDock that I couldn't make work on the Surface Pro, so I removed those. I also deleted Topogun and MyPaint controls because I didn't have those programs to test. Lastly, the original ArtDock includes a program called TGuard that toggles touch on and off. This is supposed to guard against stray marks, but I find it's very dangerous to use on the Surface Pro because it disabled both touch and pen control while I was experimenting with it. Needless to say, I deleted that as well.
Here is the resulting launcher.