One of my biggest concerns when I switched to Mac was adjusting to a touchpad interface. I had used IBM ThinkPads for years and have grown accustomed to the TrackPoint. The Trackpad on the MacBook is a highly lauded feature though. My friend Christelle even went so far as to call it “life-changing.” With praise like that, my expectations were high. How well does it stack up?
The first thing one notices is that there are no buttons — the entire pad is clickable. I found my natural inclination was to tap-to-click rather than a full click on the whole pad, so I’ve adjusted that in System Preferences. I also previously had a two-finger tap set to bring up the right-click menu. I’m a big fan of the contextual menus that appear with the right-click but I had to adjust this behavior as I was accidentally triggering it far too often. For now, I am using a single-finger full-click in the lower right of the trackpad.
The most compelling feature about the Apple Trackpad is the built-in gestures, predefined touch movements that trigger certain actions. They’re really handy for navigation and browsing, and are very smartly implemented.
The key to using and remembering the gestures is to know that the pad recognizes how many fingers are on it and responds accordingly:
- One finger is for regular movement of the cursor.
- Two fingers in either an up-down or side-to-side motion functions like the scroll bar allowing for easy navigation within an application, on web pages and in other documents. For browsing this is really super-handy, although I notice that it stalls when it reaches a video and other embedded objects. I have to move around the object to continue the scrolling. A turning of your fingers rotates objects such as photos while a pinching motion will zoom in or out on the page or object. While I find these really handy when I need them, they can also be really frustrating when they get triggered inadvertently.
- Three fingers swiping side-to-side works like as forward and backward navigation and is just outstanding for web browsing or even navigating around within the Finder.
- A four-finger swipe side-to-side moves you between Desktops. Swiping up clears the screen of all open windows for easy access to the desktop, while a swipe down opens up the Expose view of all open windows.
Many of these behaviors and more are configurable in the Trackpad area of your system preferences so your default behavior may be different than mine. I encourage you to play around there and to watch the helpful animations that show you how to trigger the various options.
The Trackpad is one of my favorite features of my Mac and one that I think I would have a hard time adjusting to its absence should I ever move back to a Windows machine.