Programmers should use drawing tablets

Now this one might sound counter-intuitive. Drawing tables are for artists, right? I will try to make a point that they might be a great addition to the arsenal of a programmer as well.

One quick and easy way to communicate an idea is to sketch it out. Maybe on a piece of paper, maybe on a whiteboard. Especially during meetings it is great if different people can just pick up a pen and add details to the whiteboard. It does not have to be pretty, but your colleagues will have a better time following what you are talking about with a visual aid. Now that we are living in the age of Homeoffice and distributed teams, this has gotten much more difficult. There certainly are a lot of online collaboration tools that help alleviate this, like miro and lots of others, but the hurdle to use a visual aid definitely got bigger and if you are not prepared for the tools, your mind may be on the tooling instead of on your ideas, and the experience suffers. You can put a whiteboard behind you and draw there, but your are the only one who can draw there and it may be out of focus, depending on the camera used. This is where the drawing tablet and virtual whiteboards come into play.

Basically a drawing tablet will make it easier to communicate your ideas as well as document those ideas. You can easily use a shared digital whiteboard during your meetings. This will make it easier to reason about those ideas during the meeting, and drawing on it is as easy as on a piece of paper (after a few minutes to hours of practice). An additional bonus is that you can save those drawings and use them as documentation or as the starting point to a follow-up meeting. Instead of revising your meeting notes afterwards and putting hours into getting proper digital diagrams, just use the drawings that were created during the meeting and don’t bother creating more professional looking diagrams. They stay just as editable and changeable as a whiteboard, without the need to redraw everything from scratch in basically every meeting (as with an actual whiteboard that is used in other meetings as well). In my opinion this makes the hurdle smaller to keep those diagrams up to date as well.

I found it to be a very pleasurable experience to use a digital whiteboard and a drawing tablet during trainings. The biggest disadvantage for meetings is that every team member needs an additional piece of hardware, because it is seriously not fun to try to draw with your mouse and other collaboration tools will probably yield better results.

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