Operating systems optimize

Lion desktop multi-touch gestures warrant Magic Trackpad use

Erik Eckel describes the multi-touch gestures allowed on Mac OS X Lion and gives his reasons for recommending the Magic Trackpad to take advantage of them.

Certainly, some scoffed when the original computer mouse was introduced. Humans have a funny way of dealing with change, after all. That's why there are so many books on the topic. But occasionally an innovation warrants reconsidering the status quo. Mac OS X Lion's Multi-Touch Gesture functionality, mated to the intuitive operation of Apple's Magic Trackpad, make the combination a must for desktop Lion users.

Multi-touch gesture features

Mac OS X Lion takes finger gestures to new levels of functionality. One finger gesture has long moved the cursor, of course, while Macs have supported two-finger scrolling for some time.

But now, two-finger gestures possess much more power in Lion, where depending upon the gesture's direction, you can scroll windows, navigate photos and other files, and even browse web histories. Two-finger gestures also now enable zooming screen views in and out. The pinch-to-zoom feature has quickly become a standard practice for iPhone and iPad users and is now available on workstations.

Apple's new OS adds an additional gesture twist. Three fingers slid in an upward motion prompts Mac OS X Lion to open Mission Control, which provides a consolidated view of a Mac's open windows. Three fingers moved horizontally, meanwhile, switches between full-screen apps. Scrolling three fingers down can be set to trigger App Expose, which displays an application's open windows for the user.

Gesture functionality doesn't stop there. Launchpad, full-screen views of applications, can be opened using a pinch motion with the thumb and three fingers. Users battling numerous open windows can also access their Desktop immediately simply by spreading a thumb and three fingers on the Trackpad. Best of all, these gestures can be customized to meet a user's specific preferences.

Still other gestures are available. They include performing a smart zoom using a double tap motion or rotating an item using two fingers and an intuitive rotation motion, tapping to click with a single finger tap, double-clicking using a two-finger tap and even performing dragging motions using a three-finger drag gesture.

Why a Trackpad?

The problem with Apple's intuitive Mac OS X Lion motions is users need a compatible input device to leverage the gesture features. While Mac laptops automatically include integrated track pads, desktop users have a choice to make: the Magic Trackpad or Apple's Magic Mouse.

Personally, I recommend the Magic Trackpad. I believe the $69 peripheral provides a more intuitive and stable base. The device possesses higher ratings, if user-generated reviews are any measure, on both Apple's and Amazon's Web sites. The Trackpad simply provides a more natural interface.

Input devices are highly personal. Rather than forego the efficiency gains multi-touch gestures offer, users possessing objections should consider the gesture-supporting Magic Mouse at a minimum. The convenience and benefits Lion's intuitive motions extend users are too generous for desktop Mac users to overlook or fail to incorporate within their daily habits.

About

Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president o...

1 comments
Vulpinemac
Vulpinemac

Aside from a couple minor errors (3-finger is click-and-drag while 4-finger does the navigation) you're right about the trackpad. On the other hand, in some places a mouse is still the better choice--especially with gaming where you may need to simultaneously drag the viewpoint and click a target just that little bit faster. Touch on the screen itself might simplify the gestures, but at least for the moment you're right hand simply needs to perform more than one gesture at a time which isn't possible on an external touchpad. That said, I use both depending on need--trackpad for everyday navigation and productivity and a mouse for gaming. Maybe improved game software will change that view.