Freelance consultant for digital heritage

Nine months with an Apple Magic Trackpad

As of this week, Apple will be offering customers of new desktop Macs the choice of either a Magic Trackpad or a Magic Mouse for no extra cost. Multitouch is here to stay.

Since I first saw a multitouch device, the original iPhone, I have always wanted to see more multitouch technology find its way onto desktop computers. When Apple first released the Magic Trackpad in July 2010, I was curious to see how well it would work as a primary pointing device (read: mouse replacement). I tried one out at an Apple Store, and I read the mixed reviews on the numerous review sites. It wasn’t long before I bought one.

My Magic Trackpad, which has replaced my mouse for the last 9 months.

When I started using it, I kept my mouse close at hand. I was cautious, but I liked the Magic Trackpad straight away. I had been getting an aching arm from using my mouse, despite careful positioning of my iMac, keyboard and mouse, with attention to posture. One of the first things that I noticed was the slight change in position of my arm through using a large trackpad had made the numb ache disappear.

Within a fortnight, I had put the mouse away in a drawer. It has, for the large part, stayed there. The Magic Trackpad is just a joy to use, so much so that I find myself blogging about it. The trackpad surface is smooth, positioning accurate, and the multitouch gestures are incredibly useful. My mouse only comes out when I have any complex 3D modelling to do, but even then, only for long complex modelling sessions.


Aside from two-finger scrolling and panning, the gestures that I have found that I use the most are a swipe of four fingers up to reveal the desktop, and four down to activate Exposé. The least useful are pinch to zoom and the two-finger rotate – I’ve switched these off, as occasionally when clicking with my thumb with a finger still on the pad, as had unintended consequences.

I have enabled the right-click in System Preferences, and clicks register with a nice physical ‘clunk’, so despite the multitouch capability, there is still tactile feedback where it counts.

To really unlock the multitouch potential of the Magic Trackpad, or indeed, of the Magic Mouse, you will need to download the free MagicPrefs app. You can configure your own swipes and tap combinations, as well as play with the realtime multitouch visualisation. I have mine set up to use a three-finger swipe to use Spaces in OSX, a feature I hardly ever used until now.

Mac OS X 10.7 Lion

We know that Apple are taking lessons learned in iOS and bringing some of those features to the Mac. This will include many more multitouch features which will make a Magic Trackpad even more useful. The following video, of a beta of OS X 10.7, gives a good example of why multitouch is here to stay: (video no longer available)

So if you’ve been sitting on the fence wondering whether to buy a Magic Trackpad, I heartily recommend them! If you’re in the UK, it is work looking for them on Amazon as they can be much cheaper (£48 from Amazon [disclaimer: affiliate link], vs £59 from Apple).