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Wayland protocol for graphics tablets

This description provides a high-level overview of the interplay between the interfaces defined this protocol. For details, see the protocol specification.

More than one tablet may exist, and device-specifics matter. Tablets are not represented by a single virtual device like wl_pointer. A client binds to the tablet manager object which is just a proxy object. From that, the client requests wp_tablet_manager.get_tablet_seat(wl_seat) and that returns the actual interface that has all the tablets. With this indirection, we can avoid merging wp_tablet into the actual Wayland protocol, a long-term benefit.

The wp_tablet_seat sends a “tablet added” event for each tablet connected. That event is followed by descriptive events about the hardware; currently that includes events for name, vid/pid and a wp_tablet.path event that describes a local path. This path can be used to uniquely identify a tablet or get more information through libwacom. Emulated or nested tablets can skip any of those, e.g. a virtual tablet may not have a vid/pid. The sequence of descriptive events is terminated by a wp_tablet.done event to signal that a client may now finalize any initialization for that tablet.

Events from tablets require a tool in proximity. Tools are also managed by the tablet seat; a “tool added” event is sent whenever a tool is new to the compositor. That event is followed by a number of descriptive events about the hardware; currently that includes capabilities, hardware id and serial number, and tool type. Similar to the tablet interface, a wp_tablet_tool.done event is sent to terminate that initial sequence.

Any event from a tool happens on the wp_tablet_tool interface. When the tool gets into proximity of the tablet, a proximity_in event is sent on the wp_tablet_tool interface, listing the tablet and the surface. That event is followed by a motion event with the coordinates. After that, it’s the usual motion, axis, button, etc. events. The protocol’s serialisation means events are grouped by wp_tablet_tool.frame events.

Two special events (that don’t exist in X) are down and up. They signal “tip touching the surface”. For tablets without real proximity detection, the sequence is: proximity_in, motion, down, frame.

When the tool leaves proximity, a proximity_out event is sent. If any button is still down, a button release event is sent before this proximity event. These button events are sent in the same frame as the proximity event to signal to the client that the buttons were held when the tool left proximity.

If the tool moves out of the surface but stays in proximity (i.e. between windows), compositor-specific grab policies apply. This usually means that the proximity-out is delayed until all buttons are released.

Moving a tool physically from one tablet to the other has no real effect on the protocol, since we already have the tool object from the “tool added” event. All the information is already there and the proximity events on both tablets are all a client needs to reconstruct what happened.

Some extra axes are normalized, i.e. the client knows the range as specified in the protocol (e.g. [0, 65535]), the granularity however is unknown. The current normalized axes are pressure, distance, and slider.

Other extra axes are in physical units as specified in the protocol. The current extra axes with physical units are tilt, rotation and wheel rotation.

Since tablets work independently of the pointer controlled by the mouse, the focus handling is independent too and controlled by proximity. The wp_tablet_tool.set_cursor request sets a tool-specific cursor. This cursor surface may be the same as the mouse cursor, and it may be the same across tools but it is possible to be more fine-grained. For example, a client may set different cursors for the pen and eraser.

Tools are generally independent of tablets and it is compositor-specific policy when a tool can be removed. Common approaches will likely include some form of removing a tool when all tablets the tool was used on are removed.


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