Is a digital tablet useful for videoconferences?


Do you think a digital tablet could be useful to quickly draw diagrams, equations… while speaking with Teams, Zoom… or even on a on-site in-person conference?
Or it’s gonna be another unused and expensive piece of junk?

One of those models where you can view what you paint directly on them.
There are some very expensive ones such as the Wacom Cintiq and the iPad Pro, but also cheap alternatives such as Huion or XP-Pen.

I’m hesitating between 12 inches (maybe too small to draw but less bulkier) ir a 13 inches one? Larger seems to much for these things.

I don’t own one of those tablets, but I do own a laptop (Dell XPS 13) that has a touchscreen.
All I can say is, I never ever use that touchscreen even though I thought this would be a good idea. Not via zoom, nor for anything else.

Many teachers (including myself) used one when teaching/meeting over Zoom over the past 2 years. I did not use it as much as I thought I would, but I know some who became power users and even use it now in the classroom. Mine is just a Wacom with no screen, but if I were to suggest something I’d say get one with a screen.

Even if I had a touchscreen laptop I would be afraid of scratching its surface or degrade it.

Do you think they can be used without installing any software on the computer?
I would be using it on my company’s laptop, and I have no permissions to install any.

What size do you think is ideal for this?

When teaching, my wife will join a call with her computer for the webcam and microphone, then join as another user from her iPad to draw. (Disable the iPad mic and camera.) It works well for her. Bigger drawing surface is better, especially if you will be sitting at a desk.


I’ve been using a Wacom One, cheap and does the job, with some habit it is better to draw than a tablet. In my experience the software for drawing makes a big difference, and one of the best I found was MyPaint. On linux you don’t need to install any driver, I’m not sure how that goes on the other OSs.

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Hi. If you are taking it into a consideration I would say go for it as you might really find yourself using it. I have old Surface Pro 2 in perfect shape. It is 10 inches. I have it connected to ultra wide / large monitor. I do not use pen / touch functions that much during video conferencing (mostly I do not have such a need), however, I use it constantly for taking notes during meetings and conferences. I also use it for reading and marking books. After several years of usage what I am finding interesting: a) the most important thing for me is to have everything in one place / to have one device for work, notes, reading I mean no paper notes and books - everything immediately available; b) the shape of the screen - I prefer rectangle vs square as it is better when using it together with monitor in duplicate mode (again, I am using ultra wide monitor), c) I agree with you re portability vs bulkiness, in general I would go for something really large like Surface Studio but then I would have to use two devices, so I think for me the more portable the better, d) silence - I do everything that requires more power in the cloud, including coding and sporadic gaming. To sum up, I think that this Surface Pro 2 is the best thing I came by since the Atari time. Seriously. :slight_smile:

I use Xournal++. It’s more focused on writing and drawing than painting. It can also be used to annotate PDFs. I think it’s brilliant.


Alternatively, you could use a document camera: Document camera - Wikipedia, i.e. a down-facing camera, ideally with some lights. Then you just write on paper. Whilst you could probably hack something good together with an old smartphone, the ready-to-use ones seem to be pretty expensive for what they are.


Yes, I made a DIY document camera with an old webcam and a bit of wood. It works very well. Instead of paper, you can also write on a slate (although good lighting can be more of an issue if the slate surface reflects light)

To practice, buy yourself an A4 whiteboard and some dry-wipe pens and see how often you use them during a call.

I have a touchscreen X201 laptop / pad hybrid. I find the support for it in Desktop OS’s weak. Windows & Linux (pop_os).

I also have a ReMarkable - that is great for notetaking during lectures etc. you can also use it like a whiteboard but I woulnd’t buy one just for Zoom calls.

You could also consider a pen tablet with no screen. They are much cheaper than the ones with screen.

I have a Wacom Intuos and I am very happy with it. It was very useful for teaching online classes during the lockdowns, and I still use it all the time in remote meetings.

The fact that where you draw/write is separate from the display is intially a bit confusing, but after an hour of scribbling it becomes easy use.

And I second Xournal++

I have a rather nice touch screen laptop with a high resolution screen and pen input.
I never use it. You have to ask yourself what is your use case here.
Many years ago I worked in the animation/SFX industry. All the animators used desktop Wacom tablets, these are pressure sensitive.
I would buy a cheap desktop tablet - those ones which use a pen and look like big mousemats.
If you do not use it much you have not wasted much money.

I use a Microsoft Surface Pro tablet. PDFAnnotator for writing on PDF documents. Also works on Zoom whiteboard. I also use this configuration for writing code, pointing with my finger instead of with the mouse. Works flawlessly.

I have a Thinkpad X1 with a touch screen. I didn’t really plan on using the touch screen when I got it, but it worked really when when teaching online. I use Linux, and Openboard. I also have access to a big Ipad, with a pen, and I preferred to use the computer, as it allows using a lot more tools.

Thank you for all your opinions.
And you haven’t said anything about the ideal size of the tablet.

I have had a look at the Xournal++ app and it looks nice and simple enough for quick drawing and annotating.
What is the best alternative with real-time handwriting or equations recognition? (it seems that xournal++ has a plugin but still in development).

My Wacom Intuos S has an active area of 15,2 cm x 9,5 cm. I found it enough to write during classes, although I recognize that a bigger model would make writing more confortable. Something that takes sometime getting used to with Wacom tables (with no built in screen) is that the tablet surface maps in an absolute way the screen of your computer, i.e. the top left corner of the tablet correspondes to the top left corner of the screen, the bottom right corner of the tablet corresponds to the bottom rightcorner of the screen on so on.

The downside of larger tablets is that they take more desk space and are generally pricier. If these two factors are not important for you, I would recommend going with a larger model. The One by Wacom Medium might be a good compromise with a active are of 21,6 cm x 13,5 cm and price close to the Wacom Intuos S.

As for handwritting and equation recognition: the note taking app in samsung tablets is pretty good at this. In desktops, I believe One Note also does that. I am not aware of any such app that works in linux.

This is optional, you can use it as a mouse (and for me that is way more practical).

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That is true, although I ended up prefering the absolute mapping over the relative mapping (as a mouse)