No more mouse

It’s been a while coming, but I no longer use a mouse on my primary computer (not counting the thing I use for work) as my main pointer-controlling input device. That’s an easy enough thing to say if you’re on a laptop of any modern vintage, since the touch areas on modern systems tend to resemble something worth using for long periods of time, but my main computer isn’t a laptop or even close to being portable.

Long the masters of truly useful multi-touch surfaces, and owning one of the their computers and thus giving it something familiar to connect to, Apple now provide my primary mousing device: and it’s not a mouse. The hilariously named Magic Trackpad now takes care of pointer control duties on my home system, and I think I’m going to get along with it just fine.

I’ve got existing training on modern Apple touchpads with a MacBook Pro, which I’ve given to Christine to use for her university career, but my more fixed installation iMac at home has been paired with a Magic Mouse for most of its life, and more recently an older Logitech MX Revolution.

The Magic Mouse, while promising, has some issues that the hardware can’t solve and 3rd party software struggles to provide. Even with my small hands, there’s not enough surface area on the top of the Magic Mouse to, for me at least, interact with it as a competent, modern, gesture-supporting, touch interface. As a way to move the mouse pointer around the screen and deliver left and right clicks it was pretty much perfect. But it promised more, with a multi-touch top side and support for most of the modern Snow Leopard and Lion touch input gestures.

Sadly I couldn’t get on with it in Lion; missed gestures, unwanted gesture activation and other foibles conspired to sully the experience, and not even BetterTouchTool and its companion software, BetterSnapTool, could fix things. I tried going back to a ’normal’ mouse: I had left over from my previous computer a Logitech MX Revolution, one of the best mice ever made. Given a fresh charge and some modern OS X software to better use the buttons, it seemed like a nice substitute, swapping touch gestures for mechanical switches. Sadly, though, it seemed to have lost some accuracy from when I last used it, skipping the pointer around too much on smaller movements. Accuracy is something I crave, otherwise I think I’d be using it now and wouldn’t have written this.

Earlier today I mooted to a friend that the Magic Mouse was up for sale and he seemed keen, and not much negotiation later he was sold. Combined with selling the wireless keyboard that came with the iMac initially, I had enough for a Magic Trackpad. It’s basically the same glass multi-touch pad as seen in a modern MacBook Pro or MacBook Air. It detects 10 separate touches simultaneously, is well supported in OS X, and it’s large so I’ve got room for mistakes and inaccuracy in my multiple touches.

In the half a day or so I’ve been using it with this machine, I’m smitten. Muscle memory has me using it almost identically to the MBP, to the point where I touch in front of the spacebar on my keyboard in order to move the pointer despite the pad being off to the right. Behaviour customisation in OS X Lion is key, since I don’t like _un_natural scrolling, the default right click behaviour, or the standard acceleration properties. Mac OS X’s controls and BetterTouchTool have fixed those and the default gestures are great.

For all their problems, not least with Lion, Apple get a lot of things right; input devices and integration with their own OS is one of them. Long live their big multi-touch pad, and long may the mouse be relegated to occasional use status.