Why I ‘m trying to tap more and click less (with my trackpad)

savian glover

My MacBook Pro spent a couple of days this week hanging out with the service folks at Nashville’s MacAuthority.

The less-than year-old (so therefore in warranty) MacBook needed its trackpad replaced. It seemed odd to me that something so new would need to be replaced.

Because the malfunction coincided with the announcement that Apple is coming out with a peripheral device for its desktop machines called the “magic trackpad,” I had just looked at that Apple.com page and had noticed that, unlike on my MacBook Pro, there seems to be no way to actually “click” the new device — everything is done with tapping. (Thanks to a comment below, I stand corrected. I should always try out a device before deciding what I think it does or doesn’t do. It clearly says the entire pad “clicks.” )

Over the years of using each new generation of Macs, I have typically brought along my “legacy methods” of controlling them from one generation to the next. Usually, any major change in interface is gradual or extremely intuitive, so I wondered how such an ingrained user-interface action as “clicking” could be missing from the “magic trackpad.” (This is something akin to what hard-core geeks experience when some obscure key-command doesn’t work the way they expect it to.)

It was only then, months — perhaps years — after using the current model trackpad, that I, in a classic “duh” moment, realized I have been “clicking” my trackpad when I should have been “tapping” it hundreds, perhaps thousands, of times a week.

Now, the difference in clicking and tapping may not sound like a big deal, but “tapping” is electronic and “clicking” is mechanical. The life time of a trackpad is probably related to a specific number of “clicks” while the number of “taps” is likely many times that.

After getting my MacBook home and diving into the whole “tapping thing” at a much deeper level, I realized that, had they chosen to, the MacAuthority service people could have pulled a Steve Jobs on me and said, “Hey, you voided the warranty by clicking it too much.”* But, in this case, they honored my warranty and didn’t charge me for the repair.

Even though they’ll fix it if “clicking” is the way I want to control it rather than tapping, I’m working on tapping more and clicking less. But old user-interactions are hard to give up. Even when Apple (as they do in the “systems preference” trackpad controller) bakes how-to video into the interface for setting ones preferences (which is, by the way, a rather impressive user-aid), I imagine there are lots of people who use “click and drag” commands rather than the “tap-tap/hold-drag-tap” method.

But the time for “tapping” is nigh, people. You probably need to learn to master the tap. Why? For two reasons: Your MacBook trackpad will last longer and, more importantly, you’ll be preparing yourself for life without a mouse. That’s right. We’re moving to a “click-free” world where tapping (and then gestures with our hands or eyes) will mean there is no reason for a mouse. Learning to tap will help you get there quicker. (But, don’t worry, mouse users — I’m sure you’ll be able use your mice for a long, long time.)

Bottomline: Even if your name is not Rex, you have to remember that old dogs need to constantly learn new tricks. (And Apple needs to make a bigger deal about “no more clicking.”)

*To knee-jerks: That is a joke. It is a reference to Steve Jobs saying “you’re holding it wrong” and Apple saying that jail-breaking an iPhone voids the warranty. It’s just a joke, and, come to think of it, a very lame one. I apologize to fanboys that I even included it.

  • I made the switch a while back. Now I can't use other people's laptops if they are setup another way.

  • Tapping is great. Once you get used to it, it's painful to use a laptop without it. This is exactly why Steve Jobs decided to not enable “tapping” in the Boot Camp drivers for running Windows 7 on a Mac Book Pro. Whenever I use my Windows 7 install, I am painfully reminded how large and “un-clickable” the trackpad on a MacBook Pro is!

  • Tapping is great. Once you get used to it, it's painful to use a laptop without it. This is exactly why Steve Jobs decided to not enable “tapping” in the Boot Camp drivers for running Windows 7 on a Mac Book Pro. Whenever I use my Windows 7 install, I am painfully reminded how large and “un-clickable” the trackpad on a MacBook Pro is!

  • I've been using a Wacom Intuos (http://www.wacom.com/intuos/) for about a year, so that's one of the reasons I've not completely grasped the trackpad tap thing. The Wacom “pen and pad” (lots of the technology is in the pen) adds a “sensitivity” to interacting with the computer that's impossible for me to describe, but after a while, it becomes hard to do without. There's something magical about it knowing when you mean to “click” and when you want to “draw.” It's like what a magic pad on steroids would be.

  • markcarey

    Second paragraph from the link posted above: “And since the entire surface is a button that clicks…”

  • Thanks, Mark. I've noted my mistake in the post.

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  • I used a macbook, recently, and the trackpad was just lovely; except that anytime I wanted to click on something, I had to physically depress the whole trackpad. It was unseemingly garish for a macbook, when everything else about it was supposed to evoke grace.

    I understand completely why they'd keep the clickyness of it, just in case people want it, but there's no reason a tap should do nothing.
    (I have no knowledge of these things, so is that something one can change in the settings? If so, is it on or off by default?)

  • Yes, you can change lots of preferences regarding clicks and taps.