For those of us who participated in Anna’s class, PenPlay Live, a recurrent question about programing the function keys on a tablet prompted a lot of discussion. Before sharing my own current approach to those function keys, I should begin by saying that I never programed the keys on my older Wacom tablet, the small CTH-480, that I bought late in 2013. I doubt I even looked at the Wacom preference panel more than once or twice over the two years I used the tablet. I simply learned to use the pen with the tablet for extractions and detail work on masks, the task for which I purchased the tablet. However, that changed for me when I bought a small Intuos Pro on sale last November to use with my 15 inch MacBook Pro.

Now, unless I am typing text, I am constantly using my pen and tablet: in Photoshop, Lightroom and the Finder. For me, this tablet and pen are more sensitive than my older tablet although I do not think the tablet’s trackpad is quite as sensitive as my Mac’s trackpad. While some tablets have only four function keys, all tablet preference panels have the same options available for programing the function keys.


My small Intuos Pro has 6 function keys and a little wheel. Over the last three months, I experimented and programed the keys on my tablet based on what worked for me. I am used to a touch pad; I want that function on my tablet always available. Since I can always turn touch on or off inside the Wacom Desktop Center if needed, I changed the default for the top function key so that it would bring up the Mac’s Launchpad showing all the available apps to open. That function key opening the Launchpad is consistent no matter which program I am in with my tablet.

The screen shot above shows how I programed the six function keys in Photoshop. I go back and forth between Photoshop and Lightroom. I chose to program the second key essentially the same way for both applications. Photoshop takes me back to Lightroom. LightroomFunctionKeysLightroom’s second function key opens a copy of a jpg or original psd file in Photoshop for editing. The four other Photoshop function keys in the screenshot above are keystrokes that require two hands or a long reach if I’m using my keyboard. For example, I have to press shift + option + command + E to create a composite in Photoshop. Since I use this command every time I create a two page spread, I programed that for a function key. The other function keys are all programed with keystrokes that I use frequently. My objective was to program the functions so that I would be able to keep my pen in my right hand. I can access the control, option, shift and command keys with my left hand. My tablet has a wheel which I’ve programed to zoom in and out in Photoshop. For other applications, it scrolls up and down. FinderFunctionKeysFor the finder, I kept the Launchpad function consistent, but programed the other keys to open windows, create new folders, place something in the trash and empty the trash, all requiring both hands on my keyboard. Will this work for someone else, not necessarily. At the moment, it works for me. Each tablet user has to decide what works best for them. I do recommend that everyone open the Wacom Desktop Center to backup and/or restore your preferences to your computer. I was glad I had a preference backup when I updated my driver on Monday. Great class wasn’t it, now I need master all the concepts Anna presented!