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November 1, 2011 / Randy Coppinger

Magic Trackpad

I used the large Kensington Turbomouse trackball for 16+ years. I’ve seen some cool mice and other devices but always gone back to that big trackball because:
(1) I could go to any location on a screen without having to lift my hand,
(2) It stayed in one place (especially important for keyboard trays), and
(3) The four buttons were programmable, letting me do more without having to change to the keyboard.

Well I took half a look at the Apple Magic Trackpad and knew I finally found my trackball replacement. It’s a 4.25″ by 5″ conductive metal pad that runs on batteries and connects via bluetooth. Combined with Lion, the Trackpad allows you to gesture. With one finger it behaves like a mouse. With two fingers it scrolls. Not only can you pinch with two fingers to zoom, you can pinch with four fingers (think thumb, no pinky) to call up Launchpad, a collection of all of your applications.

Unlike the iPad, these gestures are not completely supported for all applications. For example, Safari will zoom in/out via gesture but Firefox will not. I’m holding my breath for a track pinch-zoom in ProTools, not found in version 10. Yet.

I can’t seem to program any custom gestures, but it’s so intuitive and quick I don’t really care. If you find yourself near an Apple Store, check out the Magic Trackpad. It lives up to the name.


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  1. bobbaffy / Nov 2 2011 8:37 am

    Interesting, thanks for posting your thoughts on this. I’ve been using a mouse on the desktop but with the proliferation of tablet devices and the touchpad on my macbook pro I’m getting more comfortable (and proficient) with non-mouse input devices. Plus I’m left-handed, so the idea of mousing on the right while gesturing with the left is intriguing. 🙂

    I’ve actually been looking at Logitech’s Wireless Touchpad, which is less slick I’m sure, but built to run on Windows 7. Any audio folks reading this who’ve used the Logitech product, please speak up; I’d love to hear your experience with it. I may go pick one up today and give it a test run.

    • Randy Coppinger / Nov 2 2011 9:42 am

      A friend of mine recently got the Logitech keyboard for his iPad2 and really likes it. Logitech has been in the peripherals business for a long time. They’ve made some very cheap stuff but seem to be raising the bar lately. If you get their touchpad let us know how you like it, Bob.

  2. Steve Urban / Nov 2 2011 12:35 pm

    I’ve been using a Magic Touchpad for a while now. I love it. It made that throbbing pain in my right shoulder almost completely disappear.

    But for app-specific gestures, check out BetterTouchTool ( It lets you define gestures to application-specific tasks. It’s still in alpha, but it works reasonably well. I’m not certain if it’s Lion compatible yet, but it’s running smoothly on my 10.6.8 machine.

    Plus a couple things I’ve had my eye on to add to the Magic Pad arsenal:

    If you’re running a bluetooth keyboard for some reason, grab the MagicWand from 12 South ( and connect your Magic Pad to your keyboard and keep it all together.

    Also, I’ve been putting this off, but I intend to get this for my laptop system, the Magic Numpad from mobee ( Finally, I can have a number pad on the go again!

    • Randy Coppinger / Nov 2 2011 2:50 pm

      Great info Steve. Thanks much.

    • Steve Urban / Nov 2 2011 7:00 pm

      One caveat to add… While I love the Magic Pad, it’s precision is a little lackluster. For redrawing waveforms, or really anything where pixel distinction is relevant, I still reach for my mouse.

  3. sydneygalbraith (@sydneygalbraith) / Nov 2 2011 7:50 pm

    Are you able to throw the mouse across the screen using the trackpad, like you can using a trackball? Using multiple screens means I have a lot of space to cover sometimes.

    • Randy Coppinger / Nov 2 2011 8:02 pm

      Great question, Sydney. When scrolling you can definitely “throw.” Pinch and cursor functions are pretty tight though.

      I’m using it on a single screen, so I can’t say how well it works across more than one from experience.

      Much like mouse/trackball controls there is a “tracking speed” slider control so you can adjust how quickly it moves. Would be cool if you could hold Option or some key combo to track at half or quarter speed for finer resolution.

  4. Billy James / Nov 17 2011 4:37 am

    On the point about “stays where you put it”: here’s a simple, well-designed way to combine a Magic Trackpad and the current Apple keyboard into an all-in-one unit:

    It’s just a tad pricey, but Twelve South makes really excellent stuff, and the MW has become one of my favorites.

    • Randy Coppinger / Nov 17 2011 12:34 pm

      Thanks Billy. Steve Urban agrees with you. I’m currently enjoying my touchpad at a slight angle to the right, away from me. And I have found that a gel pad in front makes things more comfortable over periods of long use.

  5. Steve Currington / Nov 19 2011 4:16 am

    I agree the Apple Magic Touchpad is cool.. I have one but also agree precision is an issue so I always have a mouse handy for when I need it.. Which is rarely.

    I also agree the “built in” gestures are cool but there are more I would like to try or use. There are plenty of applets out there to enhance the Touchpad experience by adding user defined functions etc. Just look around and find one that suits you. Beware setting up too many will eventually cause confusion for you and the Touchpad.

    Some like the Magic Mouse but I found it too small and annoying but hey whatever rocks your boat…. Magic Touchpad works for me.

    And Randy as Ryan C would say … Ride The Lightning!!

    • Randy Coppinger / Nov 19 2011 4:25 am

      Thanks Steve. So far I’m just using mine stock (no additional software or programmed gestures) with great results. Most of the time I can work around the resolution issue simply by zooming in. That’s what I used to do anytime I needed finer control with the Turbomouse or a stock mouse too, so it’s a natural reaction. I probably zoom in a bit more with the Touchpad, but not dramatically more. In the trade-off between resolution and scrolling more quickly, the Touchpad is a significant net gain.

  6. kiwiSteve / Nov 21 2011 11:00 pm

    I use MagicPrefs as my add on for the MagicTouchpad. Suits me..

    BTW you can also set it up to the high side (battery roll) is closest to you.. There are instructions on the web.. Very useful for these that prefer their hand to droop rather than having the finger to tips high.. If ya get my drift. Might even be ergonomically better for some but takes some getting accustomed to.

    • Randy Coppinger / Nov 21 2011 11:48 pm

      I like that upside-down idea Steve. I can see how that might be more comfortable. Thanks for the tip!

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