How To: Set up a digitizer or drawing tablet for use with ArcGIS Desktop 10 and later versions


Despite the growth and increased access to digital information and online data, "heads-up" digitzing via digitizers and drawing board tablets is still used and can be set up for use with ArcGIS Desktop software.

The guidelines provided describe helpful tips for setting up a digitizer or drawing board for use in ArcMap.


It is highly recommended to read the following documentation, which includes the base directions for setting up a digitizing tablet and driver installation.

In addition:

  • Read the directions provided with the digitzing software for connecting to the digitizer, installing the driver software, turning on the digitizer, and configuring the puck buttons.
  • Register "digitizer.dll". If ArcGIS was installed prior to the digitizer, the tab may not appear in the Editing Options dialog box until the 'dll' file is registered. Follow the instructions provided at the web help link, About preparing to digitize a paper map.
  • Each tablet must be WinTab compliant. This can be determined by reviewing the tablet documentation or by contacting the manufacturer. Most manufacturers provide download links on their website for the tablets they currently support. Performing a web search for "wintab driver download [digitizer type]" can assist in finding this information.
  • A degree north to south measures 69.2 miles (111 kilometers), while the east-west distance varies depending on the distance north or south of the Equator. When registering a paper map, it is most accurate to type in the decimal degree coordinates, and include the maximum number of decimal places that are provided.
  • Alternative solutions are to:
    • Convert paper maps to PDF and use the PDF to TIFF geoprocessing tool to bring them into your GIS and do any heads-up digitization based on the original map’s image.
    • Scan the mylars, georeference the scanned images, and digitize features from those in ArcMap.
    • Use the Raster to Feature tool to convert lines from the scanned images to vector data. Instructions for the latter process are available at ArcGIS Web Help: An overview of the From Raster toolset.

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