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Using the Magic Trackpad

  • Apr 4, 2011
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I have been using trackpads of one type or another from sometime in the 90's.  My first was a replacement for a mouse on a Motorola Mac clone.  I've used the ones on laptops, add-ones for desktops, both Mac or Windows systems, and now the Magic Trackpad from Apple.  ($69 from the Apple store, discounted elsewhere)

This one is by far the best.  The surface is silky smooth, doesn't seem to mind if my fingers are not perfectly clean and dry, and combines sensitivity with robustness. 

The multi-touch features work very well, especially the two-finger drag with inertia.  The right-click feature can be set to be on the lower left or lower right, although it seems to me the left would be confusing.  The tap to left-click is all I have ever used, so making the lower left a right click doesn't seem useful.

The click and drag works flawlessly, unlike some trackpads on laptops. (Yes, even on Apple laptops)

I was excited about the rotate feature as I do a lot of photo editing.  I was disappointed to learn that it only works within the constraints of the program you have open.  That is, in 45 or 90 degree increments if that's what your photo editor does.  I guess independent rotation that overrides the software is a bit much to ask.

The battery life is excellent.  After using the Bluetooth-connected trackpad many hours a day for a week, the two AA batteries supplied with it are still at 87%.  When these are depleted, I will go to the rechargeable AA batteries that may not last as long but will be cheaper to use in the long term.

Now for the bad news.  The Magic Trackpad will only work on Macintosh Intel-based computers running OSX 10.6.4 or higher.  Fortunately, the base program is only $29 and upgrades are free. 

Don't have a Mac?  Look up "Hackintosh" and learn how most newer Windows systems can run OSX easily and cheaply.  You'll save on software, enjoy 95% of the Macintosh experience and be able to use a Magic Trackpad!

I have an addition to this review.  Today, I found a program, BetterTouchTool, (http://blog.boastr.net/) that extends the capabilities of the Magic Trackpad tremendously.  It allows you to use up to a five-finger tap, or swipe left right, up or down to cause certain actions to happen.  You can assign actions to certain applications or globally.  You can define those actions via keyboard shortcuts such as Cmnd+D or  from a long list of pre-defined actions.  In short, nearly any action you can invoke via the keyboard can be assigned to a particular gesture on the Trackpad. 

The really good news is this is shareware so you can try it before you make a generous donation to the creator.  This is an addition to the Magic Trackpad that is so good, I expect Apple to buy it and make it standard.

Update on 17 Nov 2012

After using the Magic Trackpad this long, I am even more enamored with it and the BetterTouchTool software.  I use rechargeable AA batteries in it and they last from 3 to 4 weeks depending upon the original battery capacity and the use I give the system.  I have found that shopping around for the batteries (i have several devices that use them) is a good idea.  Prices and battery capacity vary considerably.  In one case, I found a charger with four 2400 mAh batteries for less than the batteries alone in the next aisle of the same store!  
Using the Magic Trackpad

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April 27, 2011
Sounds like a neat gadget, I've often seen this in the Apple Store but am not quite sure what it's for! Cool!!!
April 05, 2011
Great review, James! Thanks so much for sharing :)
More Apple Magic Trackpad reviews
review by . February 11, 2011
I have been intrigued with the Mac Trackpad ever since it first came out, and finally decided to give it a try. I spend a lot of hours in front of a computer every day, and this handy and elegant peripheral seemed like an ideal gadget that could take away some stress from my poor forearm and wrist. I have also had quite a bit of experience with iPhone, iPad, and Macbook and have grown fond of the multifinger gesture-based navigation on those devices. So now that I have used the Trackpad with my …
Quick Tip by . July 28, 2010
posted in Ubergizmo
I find the multi-touch gestures on the Apple laptops incredibly intuitive, but I'm not quite sure I'm ready to go 100% trackpad on the desktop.  Maybe when my beloved Logitech VX dies on me, I'll give it a try...
About the reviewer
James Smith ()
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Retired bum, technical writer and fitness fanatic in João Pessoa, Brazil.
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About this product


The first Multi-Touch Trackpad designed to work with your Mac desktop computer, the Apple Magic Trackpad lets your fingers do the clicking, scrolling, and swiping. The Apple Magic uses the same Multi-Touch technology found on the MacBook Pro, giving you a whole new way to control and interact with what's on your screen. Swiping through pages online feels just like flipping through pages in a book or magazine. Inertial scrolling makes moving up and down a page more natural than ever. And users can press down anywhere on the Multi-Touch surface to physically click or double-click on an item--no clumsy buttons involved.


The Largest Multi-Touch Trackpad Ever

The Apple Magic Trackpad responds to a variety of finger gestures for clicking, scrolling, and swiping. The Magic Trackpad is just like the trackpad on the MacBook Pro--but bigger. It's made with the same advanced touch-friendly and wear-resistant glass surface, but with nearly 80 percent more area. This gives you even more room to scroll, swipe, pinch, and rotate to your fingers' content. And because the entire surface is a button that clicks, you can use it in place of a mouse without losing a hint of functionality. The Magic Trackpad's full set of gestures includes two-finger scrolling, pinching to zoom, rotating with your fingertips, three-finger swiping, and activating Expose or switching between applications with four fingers.

Plus, the trackpad is customizable. Simply access the Magic ...

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