The Magic Trackpad (hardware, obviously)

My old Apple Mouse (formerly known as Mighty Mouse) is almost dead. I had opened and cleaned it, glued it back together and so got another few months of lifespan.

And then there was the Magic Trackpad. I had to wait for it for quite some time as not many of them made it to Germany in the first weeks of its existence, and most of them were in Apple stores which are not around where I live.

Finally almost two weeks ago I got one. The handling is cool and very easy (with extra software for extra gestures added), although I never had a MacBook.

So I like it. But my hand and arm don’t seem to.

Since I had a Tendonitis years ago I must be very careful—and that’s why I was interested in the Trackpad at all.

The Apple Mouse seems to be the one mouse that fits my hands best, I always had problems with Logitech mice and I tried quite some.

So back to an old mechanical device that has significantly smaller lifetime than similar products? But is easy on my hand (and doesn’t need batteries which is a big plus)? And no more gestures?

Why am I posting this, you ask? I’m not quite sure about why. Maybe I’m waiting for someone posting something like “Do this yoga exercise twice a day and all strain problems will be gone!”

Or maybe it is “Cut the crap trying to use cool gestures like Tom Cruise in Minority Report, your Mac is your working machine. And Scientology will anyway never accept you as a member because you are completely broke!” I want to hear.

The last paragraph may apply. I do find it odd that all the “keep them in the cellar” nerds like me seem to avoid the newfangled devices and stick to terminal sessions and green screens though.

As to a solution to your problem, use both. Keep a good old fashioned mouse attached and use the track pad for the gestures. I have a wireless mighty, but I still use the trackpad on my laptop (often at the same time). Nothing wrong with doing what works for you.

If mice were a perfect solution I would have never looked for something else. But they aren’t and when you already had problems you try to find new ways.

Both isn’t an option, when I said broke, I meant broke. The trackpad is a gift (or more precise: a favour for a favour) and it or another Apple Mouse will replace the dead one.

At the risk of saying something that may come back to haunt me, I agree with Jaysen. I have a Magic Mouse (oh I love that device!) but I often find myself reaching to the trackpad for a gesture that is just so much easier than mousing around (if you know what I mean). I do this often enough for me to consider buying the Trackpad to go with my wireless keyboard & mouse. Student income prevents me…

I highly recommend the Magic Mouse as an alternative to the Mighty Mouse (with it’s bl**dy stupid gunked up excuse of a roller ball). In the interim, regular cleaning with alcohol swabs are an excellent way of keeping the ball in the Magic Mouse clean enough to actually work occasionally.

EDIT: just saw your post. If I had to choose, I may go for a mouse for the extra precision it allows. But it would be a tough call. I could live quite happily with a trackpad. But I do like my Magic Mouse, truly…

Something you could try is to place two relatively thin books on you desk in front of you, and then place the trackpad between these two books. Now place the keyboard on top of these books, behind the trackpad—basically mimicking the setup of a laptop, where the track pad is below the thumb and your wrists are resting on a surface below the keyboard. I tried setting up something like this in the Apple Store last weekend, and it seemed to work pretty good, even without the right books available to do the job correctly. I think for longterm usage, I’d always want to prop up the front end of the trackpad so that it was level.

It looked like a neat device. I like having a trackpad available on my MBP, and it is fundamentally the same as this one. My only real complaint with the device is, again, batteries? Why? What is this infernal fear of cables? I can almost understand it with the mouse because in some cases the chord can get tangled up and in the way, it moves around a lot. But a keyboard? I just Sits There! why does it need to be wireless? Why does this thing need to be wireless? It just sits there! How can having a few extra cables on your desk be any worse than supplying every single piece of equipment on your desk with a steady stream of batteries? I put up with it for the Magic Mouse, because I really like that thing, but it’s frustrating how difficult it is getting to find a decent mouse with a tail.

I have a Macbook pro with the multi touch track pad. I also have a Mini with a Magic Mouse, the Magic trackpad and Apple keyboard. I love the touch pad on the Macbook pro and thought that the magic track pad would be the cat’s meow for my mini. I do like the feel of it but I also got cramps and other strange sensations in my hand after using it for a while. I don’t understand why but it happens. I have since stopped using it and only use the Magic Mouse with the mini. Cramps gone. It is a lovely mouse with the momentum scrolling, sideways scrolling, etc. Rechargeable batteries are the only way to go on the Magic mouse–it eats batteries like candy.

I would guess, based on my brief usage of it in the Apple Store, is that it’s just an ergonomics problem. It’s not as easy to use it with you arm resting on anything, and so floating over the device all of the time produces more stress on the arm muscles required to move your fingers around and click the device. If you try clicking with a mouse and pay attention to the muscle groups being used, nearly everything up to the elbow is engaged. Now try lifting your arm up in the air and clicking the mouse button—any extra tension on the bottom muscle above the wrist? There is for me, due to the reduced leverage, and that would lead to nerve stress over time. I really think placing this device below the keyboard, under the spacebar like a laptop is set up, would help a lot with it.

I have been using mine for about six weeks now. Actually, you can rest as much of your hand on the trackpad as you like. It only responds to the part of the hand that’s actually moving. So I have my hand resting on the pad in a cupped fashion with all five fingers normally resting on it, and my wrist resting on the desk.

When I mouse around, I just move my index finger; when I two-finger scroll, I move just the index and middle fingers. Three-finger and four-finger gestures need to have the hand lifted. There are also other times when I lift my hand, but I can mostly leave my hand resting on the pad. for routine operations.

Using the tap as the mouse button rather than the mechanical click is much better IMHO especially when tap dragging is enabled. It takes a bit to get used to the timing for the click-drag but once you get it it’s routine.

Here’s a video of my hand mousing around and two-finger scrolling (1.7 MB):

I have always lamented that they do this, instead of putting the track pad “behind” the keyboard (closer to the screen), so that you reach up past your keys to move the cursor, instead of where you rest your wrists. I fear when I upgrade to the next macbook pro, I’m going to have an awful time accidentally clicking on things while I type, now that they’ve doubled the size of the pad and made the whole thing a button.

Of course, I’ve not had a separate trackpad to experiment with my idea for a different layout, but I can’t imagine it would be worse than the current laptop orientation.

Good news: Trackpad & me are madly in love now.

And how did that happen?

The more interesting question is, why didn’t it happen in the first place.

And the reason is … Delicious Library. In the two weeks before I purchased the trackpad I scanned and typed ISBNs of all the books I own (for insurance reasons). Scanning works really great in DL (a lot of other things don’t …) but still I had to move the books to the Mac at first.

In every go I grabbed as many and as heavy books my hands could take. And we are talking about 1800 titles … “titles” no necessarily meaning single books—“Completed works in five volumes” coming with one ISBN only count as one title. So it were about 2000 books. More hardcovers than paperbacks.

In short: It was at least the start of a Tendonitis if not more when I bought the trackpad. I felt it but I underestimated how bad it was.

When I realized it I gave my hands that much of a rest I could afford for about three weeks. After that, stubborn as I am, I gave the Magic Trackpad another chance. And alas, no more pain, only pleasure.

With three fingers set to click & hold and four fingers swipe to flip pages (with a little help of BetterTouchTool) I am really happy with it. Still I would like a single tap for closing windows and another one for opening a new tab.

And, like Amber, I would prefer a USB version. I finally found the perfect position for the pad and there it lies, only removed for cleaning reasons.

A year or so ago I also came down with a bad case of Tendonitis in my wrists and general hands which forced me to reduce my video game play time down considerably. Looking for every ergonomic fix I could find, I upgraded my home desk to something with a corner curve to support my right arm’s elbow (part of an L shaped desk setup) and that helped me allot.

I tried the Apple Mouse and Magic Mouse, but both gave me fatigue and soreness in the wrists and back of the hands after extended use. So I went through a bevy of Ergonomic mice from stores and online (I think I dropped 200 dollars in mice) before settling back to a simple wired Dell mouse like I use at work.

I spend most of the day working in Maya3D modeling and UV’ing, and have tried to migrate from mouse/keyboard to the buttons on my Cintiq and Stylus but it’s a slow process. Meanwhile typing for extended periods really is just an exercise in stamina as I eventually have to give in to soreness and stiff wrists.

Trackpads seem to aggravate those symptoms faster then anything, the tight controlled movements of your fingers place your hand in a constant state of tension hovering just over the pad. I limit my trackpad use when my Macbook Pro is traveling with me, opting to even take the old wired mouse along.

If anyone else is a writer and suffers from sore wrists or the same sensation of tension when using devices you can’t fully rest the weight of your hand upon (like the flat Magic Mouse which forces you to hover the hand over the mouse since it has no arc to support your palm) please share with me any suggestions or advice you have.

I’m a writer/editor and suffered RSI problems for years–wrist braces, therapy, cortisone. Nothing worked until I shifted from a mouse to a trackball. The armrest of my work chair needs to be just the right height to work painlessly with the trackball–there’s only about 3/4-inch of operating range–but when it’s adjusted correctly, and when I force myself to take frequent breaks and wander around for a few minutes every hour, it’s been pretty painless for the past 14 years. In sharp contrast to the preceding eight, when it was all mouse, all the time. And all pain, all the time.

I’ll be trying one of the Magic Trackpads shortly, as I suspect its finger-only operation might correlate to the trackball’s finger-only operation. And it should need a lot less cleaning: trackballs are cat-hair magnets.

I too switched to a trackball about seven years ago… prior 13 years with strictly the mouse. It is comfortable and I spend 10-14 hours a day on the computer (except when traveling!).

Add me to the list of trackball believers. Having one has saved my wrists.

I think the difference is that you can relax your entire hand and arm except for the fingers. With a mouse, you have to hold a button down while moving the mouse with your arm, which means a lot of tension.

I switched to a trackpad a few weeks ago, and am very happy with it so far. More flexible than a trackball, but with the same fingertip control.

(And no, you don’t need to hover your hand over it. Position it so your hand can rest on the desk.)


I’ve been using the Kensington Expert Mouse, which is a trackball, since back in the 90s.

Kensington trackballs for general computing; Wacom tablets for graphics work. Accept no compromises. :slight_smile: