24 Hours With a Magic Trackpad

A guy I work with bought a Magic Trackpad a few weeks ago, and has been raving about it. Since I haven’t used one outside of a quick demo at the Apple Store — and don’t use the trackpad on my MacBook Pro much — I thought it would be interesting to use one for a solid 24 hours.

I’ll be updating this post throughout the day, into tomorrow morning. Be sure to stay tuned…

Wednesday — Morning

  • Setup wasn’t as easy I was hoping. My MacBook Pro wouldn’t connect to it. My guess is that it was an issue with the Trackpad having been setup with his machine. After a quick trip to the user guide online, it was paired and ready to go.
  • It is weird to use a trackpad off-center from my screen. I currently have it to the right of my Apple Extended II keyboard at my office.
  • I don’t use gestures often, being a Magic Mouse guy. But the 4-fingered one for Expose (All Windows) is pretty sweet.
  • Even though my MacBook Pro has one of the fancy no-button trackpads, I still hover my thumb and use it to click. Doing that on the slightly-raised Magic Trackpad is already making my thumb hurt. God, I’m wimpy.
  • The Magic Trackpad seems to have assumed the settings I had set for the internal trackpad. Related: I hate “Tap to Click.”

Wednesday — Afternoon

  • When I got back from lunch, the trackpad woke the machine up as quickly as the Magic Mouse does. Not surprising, but nice.
  • After a few hours, I’m finally used to clicking with my fingers, not my thumb.
  • I’m working in Photoshop and QuarkXPress[1. Please refrain from sending me hate mail. I know what you’re going to say about Quark. Believe me, I know.] this afternoon. I feel way less precise with the Magic Trackpad than I do with a mouse.
  • Quark just crashed. But I don’t blame the Magic Trackpad.
  • I’m really craving some green tea. Also not the Magic Trackpad’s fault.
  • Safari just comes alive with gestures, but the trackpad doesn’t offer any more magic than the mouse.
  • My friend Katie weighs in on the Magic Trackpad and being left-handed. I’ll have to see if my wife agrees.
  • The size of this thing is impressive. Gestures and scrolling are super easy on the seemingly-never-ending surface. My fingers haven’t fallen off the edge a single time.
  • The Magic Trackpad is over half the size of the keyboard on an Asus EeePC 900HA.

Wednesday — Evening

  • It won’t sync with my Clamshell iBook, since Bluetooth hadn’t been invented yet in 1999. A forgivable flaw.
  • It feels more natural to use it right next to the MacBook Pro when its open, rather than with an external keyboard and display. I’ll pair it with my 27" iMac in a bit.
  • I knew the four-finger horizontal swipe would bring up the App Switcher (like CMD+Tab), but I didn’t realize that swiping horizontally with just two fingers would move the selector across the App Switcher. Apparently my MacBook Pro does it, too. Whoops — I guess I spend too much time on the keyboard.
  • I had some cooked spinach and noodles with white sauce for dinner. So good.
  • The Magic Trackpad has to be the most minimal piece of hardware I’ve ever seen. I really like the looks of it.
  • I’m drinking a beer while being on the DadCast. The Magic Trackpad wouldn’t make a good coaster, due to the pitch of the surface itself. I like the trackpad a lot more in this type of situation — laid back, with just a few Safari tabs and Skype open.
  • The feet-do-the-clicking thing is pretty neat, but it seems to be louder than the Magic Mouse when its depressed. Again, I say: I hate Tap to Click.
  • Headed to bed. If I dream about the Magic Trackpad, I’ll post it here in the morning.

Thursday — Morning

  • Got the trackpad setup with the new iMac. Turned Tap to Click on, to be objective, and since several readers asked me to.
  • Having gestures on a desktop computer is pretty cool. I think the Magic Trackpad adds a lot more to the iMac experience than it does the MacBook Pro.
  • Using the Magic Trackpad for actual work continues to be annoying. While gestures are nice, they aren’t worth losing the fine control I can achieve with a mouse.

Conclusion: I hate the Magic Trackpad

All in all, the Magic Trackpad is a pretty simple device. But at the same time, it is quite complex. Using the built-in trackpad on a notebook makes sense, but using one with a desktop just doesn’t do it for me. It just seems to add another layer of abstraction between me and the computer in a way that isn’t present on a notebook.

I’ve tolerated it for casual[2. That’s the word Ben Brooks used to describe his in a conversation we had during the course of my review.] computing like surfing and checking email. Having notebook-style gestures on the desktop is a lot of fun. I’d imagine its just about perfect to use on the couch with a computer hooked up to a television.

However, I struggled to maintain the speed and accuracy I can achieve with my Magic Mouse in programs like Photoshop, Illustrator and QuarkXPress. Gestures don’t add any value to these apps, so the trade-off just doesn’t add up. The Magic Trackpad has slowed me down in several key applications in my workflow.

Maybe more time would help me adapt, but I don’t like adapting to tools, especially if I already have a superior one at hand.

In short, I won’t be replacing my Magic Mouse with it. The Magic Trackpad is just too casual. Excuse while I go apologize to my Magic Mouse for making it live in a drawer for 24 hours.