Perhaps to avoid confusion with the soon-to-be-released Surface Hub displays, Microsoft has renamed its Surface Pro 3 app and added some new pressure increments.

You can now choose 12 steps of pressure for the SP3's N-Trig pen.

To achieve the broadest range of strokes (the equivalent of Wacom's firm setting), select the leftmost position, shown above. The curve slope at this setting is not as gradual as you can set in Manga Studio. In fact, a linear curve is only three steps away.

The majority of the new increments seem geared to note-takers who will want to minimize stroke variability and apply the least force while writing. Setting the pressure slider all the way to the right (see above, what Wacom calls soft) provides a very dark stroke with minimal effort.

In addition to the pressure settings, the app allows users to choose between the Modern or desktop versions of OneNote for the Pen Top Button action. And the physical Windows button can be disabled if you find it gets in the way as you draw or ink.

Unfortunately, the app does not address side switch addressability. For that you'll need to use a third party utility like Radial Menu.

The updated Surface app is now available in the Windows Store.

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AuthorRick Rodriguez
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Is Surface Hub more than a pretty face?

The long-awaited Surface Pro 3 pen pressure control panel app just went live in the Windows Store under the vague name Surface Hub.

I've only had a couple of minutes so far, but here are my first impressions. UPDATE: After 24 hours with the Hub, I've added a bit more information below.

The app is very pretty, clearly the product of the Microsoft marketing team. 

The app is very pretty, clearly the product of the Microsoft marketing team. 

When I first loaded the app, it couldn't find my pen although the pen was clearly working. The instructions in red are somewhat difficult to understand, so after a couple of failed attempts, I just restarted the Surface Pro 3 and the pen was recognized.

When I first loaded the app, it couldn't find my pen although the pen was clearly working. The instructions in red are somewhat difficult to understand, so after a couple of failed attempts, I just restarted the Surface Pro 3 and the pen was recognized.

Besides editing pen pressure, the app allows you to determine which version of OneNote (desktop or Modern) opens when the pen top button is pressed.

Besides editing pen pressure, the app allows you to determine which version of OneNote (desktop or Modern) opens when the pen top button is pressed.

Moving the pen pressure slider all the way to the right yields a uniform line. This will be helpful to users who complain that applications require too much pressure to register their strokes.

Moving the pen pressure slider all the way to the right yields a uniform line. This will be helpful to users who complain that applications require too much pressure to register their strokes.

I'm very disappointed by the lowest pressure sensitivity setting. The resulting curve is not nearly shallow enough. It would be great to have a multiple stroke pressure curve as seen in Manga Studio or Clip Studio Paint. Initial activation force (tip sensitivity) is also not addressed.

I'm very disappointed by the lowest pressure sensitivity setting. The resulting curve is not nearly shallow enough. It would be great to have a multiple stroke pressure curve as seen in Manga Studio or Clip Studio Paint. Initial activation force (tip sensitivity) is also not addressed.

A final screen allows users to give some feedback. Please stop by and let us know what message you're delivering to the Microsoft Surface team.

A final screen allows users to give some feedback. Please stop by and let us know what message you're delivering to the Microsoft Surface team.

UPDATE 10/12/14: The Pen Pressure Sensitivity slider offers seven settings: -1, 0, +1, +2, +3, +4 and +5. Selecting -1 as I illustrated above makes the pen somewhat unresponsive in many applications that already have spotty pen response, such as Google Chrome. Increasing sensitivity was very helpful in getting blacker blacks in Sketchbook Pro. Although it's not ideal, you may need to change the Hub pressure setting depending on the art application you're using. I've settled on +1 for the moment and I've changed my Manga Studio/Clip Studio Paint pressure curve (see below). 

Clip Studio Paint EX 1.3.8 pressure curve and resulting line variations with Frenden's Inker Brush. The Surface Hub setting is +1

Clip Studio Paint EX 1.3.8 pressure curve and resulting line variations with Frenden's Inker Brush. The Surface Hub setting is +1

Several of you have commented or tweeted that you're having difficulty getting the app to recognize your pen. Make sure you have the System Hardware Update - 10/6/14 installed. This is the firmware that enables the app to work. After installing the app, you may need to restart your Surface Pro 3. Anyone still having issues should leave a comment here and we will try to get Microsoft's attention.

ORIGINAL CONCLUSION

Overall, Surface Hub is a decent first effort, but I believe it needs a few more iterations before it will address all the concerns of the Surface Pro 3's creative community.

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AuthorRick Rodriguez
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The long-awaited Surface Pro 3 pen control panel should finally be available in a couple of weeks according to Surface Audience Marketing: Creators manager Markus Weickenmeier.

I had a chance to catch up with Markus during this week's Adobe Max and when he wasn't busy either shepherding executives to media briefings or helping new users set up their shiny new Surface Pro 3s, I pressed for an update regarding the much needed pen utility.

I was surprised to learn that the control panel will actually be a Windows Store app that will allow you to set the tip's initial activation force, edit the pen's pressure curve and map the cap button to either the desktop or Modern flavor of One Note.

The app should be available for download from the Windows Store in two weeks, but in anticipation of its release, users will first have to install a set of firmware or driver fixes coming during the next Patch Tuesday. UPDATE: That patch was actually released on Tuesday, October 7 as System Hardware Update 10/6/2014.

Unfortunately, remapping the pen's side switches won't be part of this release, but that function may be added to future app updates. As a store app, it will be easier to add future functionality, according to Weickenmeier.

I haven't been granted a look at the utility, so it remains to be seen whether it will satisfy my needs. In most software I use, I find that light strokes register too heavily, but users of Fresh Paint (for example) complain that they have to press too hard for their strokes to appear. It will be interesting to see if the IAF will have to be adjusted for different applications.

Another interesting question is whether the app will behave well with programs like Manga Studio which allow users to set their own pressure values.

The Manga Studio 5/Clip Studio Paint pen pressure preferences dialog box. It's unclear how the new Surface Pro 3 pen app will interact with these and other programs that allow users to adjust pressure curves.

The Manga Studio 5/Clip Studio Paint pen pressure preferences dialog box. It's unclear how the new Surface Pro 3 pen app will interact with these and other programs that allow users to adjust pressure curves.

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AuthorRick Rodriguez
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One of the pleasures of running this site is that I get to take some credit for passing along tips and tricks given to me by readers who are far smarter than I am.

That's definitely the case with this find by eagle eyed reader Graham Mackarel, who let me know of a quiet post on the Photoshop Help site that eliminates the need for Wintab drivers in the latest versions of Photoshop CC (14.2x).

Wacom calls its Wintab drivers "Wacom feel IT" and the latest version (7.1.2 released in October, 2013) has exhibited calibration issues (http://surfaceproartist.com/blog/2013/10/7/wacom-updates-feel-it-drivers) and doesn't work with new hardware like the Asus Vivotab Note 8 (http://surfaceproartist.com/blog/2014/2/11/developing-asus-vivotab-note-8-review). For N-Trig tablets, we spotted an obscure 32-bit only Wintab driver from Sony which we were also able to apply to Acer's Aspire R572G. (See http://surfaceproartist.com/blog/2014/1/5/sony-n-trig-devices-now-pen-pressure-sensitive-in-32-bit-photoshop)

Now with this fix, which enables RealTimeStylus functionality, users of Photoshop CC won't have to download anything to see pressure sensitivity in both 32-bit and 64-bit versions of that software.

Simply create a text file called PSUserConfig.txt containing the following:

# AllowRTS
uRTS 1

Place this text file in the Photoshop Settings folder: C:\Users\[User Name]\AppData\Roaming\Adobe\Adobe Photoshop CC\Adobe Photoshop CC Settings\

When pen pressure is unavailable, Photoshop displays a warning if you attempt to use it in a brush control.

The next time you run Photoshop, pen pressure will be recognized.

I tested this technique in 32- and 64-bit Photoshops on the Surface Pro, the Sony Flip 15A and the Acer Aspire R7-572G. I deleted calibration data and uninstalled any Wintab drivers to ensure that the two wouldn't conflict.

If you'd like to read the full Adobe post on RealTimeStylus, including instructions for disabling it, check out http://helpx.adobe.com/photoshop/kb/tablet-functions-dont-photoshop-142.html.

The advantage of running your tablet pc without Wacom's drivers is that you will now be able to use a higher resolution calibration using the method we first reported here. Wacom's installation uses only 4 pt. calibration and overrides any TabletPC calibration you may have already performed.

Of course, if you run any other software that requires Wintab support, this fix isn't for you. But it's a good sign that we may soon be leaving this early 90's technology behind.

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UPDATE March 20, 2014: N-Trig today published 64-bit version of its Wintab driver. See this post for details.

* * *

ORIGINAL POST

Sony and N-Trig have taken a major step closer to Wacom-equipped competitors with the release of a hotfix for VAIO devices with active digitizers.

The "Pen Pressure Update Software" installs a driver named N-Trig Wintab x32 that enables pressure sensitivity in 32-bit versions of Adobe Photoshop. I've confirmed that the update works with Adobe Photoshop CC on my Sony VAIO Flip 15A. Other users on the Sony Community site have reported success with 32-bit versions of Photoshop ranging all the way back to CS2.

Available for download from Sony's eSupport site here, the update is dated September 26, 2013, but curiously Sony does not link to it as part of machine-specific updates. In fact, the link to the list of Applicable Products on the download page is broken. I can't fathom why the manufacturer would keep this a secret, because users of Duos, Flips and other N-Trig enabled VAIOs have all reported success with the software.

Installing the software requires a reboot and doesn't create a Control Panel entry. The only indication that the software has installed correctly is in the Programs and Features control panel, which will list the driver.

Although limited to only 256 levels of pressure, the results in 32-bit Photoshop CC are still impressive.

Without a control panel to adjust the pressure curve, it takes a bit of concentration to achieve the lightest strokes.

Without a control panel to adjust the pressure curve, it takes a bit of concentration to achieve the lightest strokes.

I haven't tested the driver with other Wintab applications, but 32-bit versions of programs like Corel Painter should also benefit from the update.

UPDATE January 10: From my limited testing with SAI 1.2 Beta 5 and ZBrush 4R6, it appears only Photoshop recognizes this driver.

UPDATE January 16: The latest version of Adobe Illustrator CC released yesterday now supports Microsoft's Ink API. I tested the 64-bit version (17.1) on the Sony VAIO Flip 15A. See this post for more details:  http://surfaceproartist.com/blog/2014/1/16/new-adobe-illustrator-cc-improves-surface-pro-windows-tablet-support

Demanding professional users will likely miss additional levels of pressure and the lack of 64-bit support is disappointing, but for hobbyists or doodlers, this update puts the Sony VAIO Flip 15A towards the top of our list of Windows 8 convertibles. It's hard not to fall in love with its ample 15.5 inch display which makes even the unscaled Photoshop UI accessible to touch.  For more details on the Flip, see our earlier post here.

Thanks to Google+ follower +IvorThomas for the heads up about this update.

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