Wednesday, June 26, 2024

GNOME tablet support papercut fixes

Over the last months I've started looking into a few of the papercuts that affects graphics tablet users in GNOME. So now that most of those have gone in, let's see what has happened:

Calibration fixes and improvements (GNOME 47)

The calibration code, a descendent of the old xinput_calibrator tool was in a pretty rough shape and didn't work particularly well. That's now fixed and I've made the calibrator a little bit easier to use too. Previously the timeout was quite short which made calibration quite stressfull, that timeout is now per target rather than to complete the whole calibration process. Likewise, the calibration targets now accept larger variations - something probably not needed for real use-cases (you want the calibration to be exact) but it certainly makes testing easier since clicking near the target is good enough.

The other feature added was to allow calibration even when the tablet is manually mapped to a monitor. Previously this only worked in the "auto" configuration but some tablets don't correctly map to the right screen and lost calibration abilities. That's fixed now too.

A picture says a thousand words, except in this case where the screenshot provides no value whatsoever. But here you have it anyway.

Generic tablet fallback (GNOME 47)

Traditionally, GNOME would rely on libwacom to get some information about tablets so it could present users with the right configuration options. The drawback was that a tablet not recognised by libwacom didn't exist in GNOME Settings - and there was no immediately obvious way of fixing this, the panel either didn't show up or (with multiple tablets) the unrecognised one was missing. The tablet worked (because the kernel and libinput didn't require libwacom) but it just couldn't be configured.

libwacom 2.11 changed the default fallback tablet to be a built-in one since this is now the most common unsupported tablet we see. Together with the new fallback handling in GNOME settings this means that any unsupported tablet is treated as a generic built-in tablet and provides the basic configuration options for those (Map to Monitor, Calibrate, assigning stylus buttons). The tablet should still be added to libwacom but at least it's no longer a requirement for configuration. Plus there's now a link to the GNOME Help to explain things. Below is a screenshot on how this looks like (after modifying my libwacom to no longer recognise the tablet, poor Intuos).

Monitor mapping names (GNOME 47)

For historical reasons, the names of the display in the GNOME Settings Display configuration differed from the one used by the Wacom panel. Not ideal and that bit is now fixed with the Wacom panel listing the name of the monitor and the connector name if multiple monitors share the same name. You get the best value out of this if you have a monitor vendor with short names. (This is not a purchase recommendation).

Highlighted SVGs (GNOME 46)

If you're an avid tablet user, you may have multiple stylus tools - but it's also likely that you have multiple tools of the same type which makes differentiating them in the GUI hard. Which is why they're highlighted now - if you bring the tool into proximity, the matching image is highlighted to make it easier to know which stylus you're about to configure. Oh, and in the process we added a new SVG for AES styli too to make the picture look more like the actual physical tool. The <blink> tag may no longer be cool but at least we can disco our way through the stylus configuration now.

More Pressure Curves (GNOME 46)

GNOME Settings historically presents a slider from "Soft" to "Firm" to adjust the feel of the tablet tip (which influences the pressure values sent to the application). Behind the scenes this was converted into a set of 7 fixed curves but thanks to a old mutter bug those curves only covered a small amount of the possible range. This is now fixed so you can really go from pencil-hard to jelly-soft and the slider now controls an almost-continous range instead of just 7 curves. Behold, a picture of slidery goodness:

Miscellaneous fixes

And of course a bunch of miscellaneous fixes. Things that I quickly found were support for Alt in the tablet pad keymappings, fixing of erroneous backwards movement when wrapping around on the ring, a long-standing stylus button mismatch, better stylus naming and a rather odd fix causing configuration issues if the eraser was the first tool ever to be brought into proximity.

There are a few more things in the pipe but I figured this is enough to write a blog post so I no longer have to remember to write a blog post about all this.


Andre said...
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josepfebrer said...

Great work!
I really missed calibration support.
It will be possible to also disable touch mode?

Peter Hutterer said...

@josepfebrer - libinput should do touch arbitration by default so in theory you shouldn't need to disable touch mode. It's best to file an issue with libinput so we can figure out why that isn't enough in your case - could be that we do need a switch, could be that something just isn't working as it should.

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Great work!