I'm planning to replace my mouse entirely with the Apple Magic Trackpad on my desktop Mac. My work involves lots of typing (both code and prose). I also use Aperture quite a bit for processing photos. I don't play games; other than chess (Yes, it's that sad.)

  1. Is the Apple Magic Trackpad capable of totally replacing the mouse?
  2. How does its ergonomics compare to let's say the Apple Magic Mouse? Better or worse for the wrist.
  3. Is it accurate enough for touching up photos with Aperture?
  • I have played with it at the Apple Store; but hey, everything feels nice at the Apple Store. I would like to hear from people who have used it for a while for real work. – GeneQ Oct 7 '10 at 6:36

I've been using the Magic Trackpad for over two weeks now since I asked the question. It can surely replace a mouse for most things except touching up pictures in Aperture. It's really painful to use. Literally. My wrist hurts after editing a dozen or so pictures. (I believe Lightroom or Photoshop users would face the same problem too) Generally, operations involving lots of dragging (like using brushes) is really hard on the wrist while using the Magic Trackpad. An oversight (software-based) Apple made in my opinion is the lack of support for gesture based zooming and rotation in Aperture. (Or maybe I'm misunderstanding something here, but the said gestures don't seem to work in Aperture for me)

However, the Magic Trackpad works exceptionally well for surfing the web and almost everything else. Inertial scrolling and gestures are wonderful; almost feels like surfing on iOS devices. The ability to fly through pages of code and documentation fluidly is also a very productive experience (for programmers). Gesture based zooming is useful too.

So can the Magic Trackpad really completely replace a mouse?

For my use case, the answer is no.

I'll say the Magic Trackpad alone is sufficient only if you don't use a lot of dragging operations such as using brushes within graphics or photo editing software. Movie editing is probably a pain too. Paired with a normal mouse for the occasional dragging would be a more practical thing to do. I ended up using it together with a Magic Mouse and love the complete lack of wires and connectors. Ergonomically, I find using two different input devices (three counting the keyboard) does help prevent the overuse of certain hand movements.

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I've found the trackpad quite good as a 'gesture pad' - switching between windows and a few other custom gestures using BetterTouchTool.

Where I found it lacking was doing precision work - for instance trying to do fairly simple task like positioning arrows to annotate charts in InkScape was far better with a mouse.

All said I still use my trackpad as my pointer device when coding.

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I haven't started using my MagicPad much on the Mac (not running Snow Leopard most of the time) but I've been using a Wacom Bamboo touchpad on my work PC for most of the year. I use the touchpad on the left and my mouse on the right and have got very used to just reaching left of my keyboard to do gestures and fine control with the mouse.

Ironically, I have a MagicMouse on my Mac at home which I use on the left and, thanks to the free MagicPrefs, use some gestures on that. I bought the MagicPad because I find doing pinch zoom and sideways swipe awkward on the narrow top of the mouse.

So, I'd say you're going to be best off using both hands and keeping a mouse for the fine stuff on your dominant side.

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I love the trackpad for all tasks except dragging. I tried all the dragging and drag lock options but it was still a pain, so I wrote an app to make it easier.

It is called Click and Drag and lets you use the caps lock key as a mouse down toggle.

This means you can hit caps lock and then simply move your finger around the trackpad without any pressure to perform a drag.

You might like it.

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