Magic Trackpad + BetterTouchTool

For the past week, I’ve been using Apple’s Magic Trackpad instead of my mouse. I’ve used the Magic Mouse in the past, and though there were some things I really liked about it, I found that I was frustrated with all of the accidental gestures that occurred. But a couple of weeks ago, I worked with my team on-site and several of them were using the Trackpad and had great things to say. Work offered to purchase one for me, so I thought I’d give it a shot.

After spending a week tweaking this thing, I must admit, I can see the appeal. It definitely takes some time to adjust, and wouldn’t be recommended without the free app BetterTouchTool by boastr. The first thing you notice when using the Trackpad is how much larger it is than a MacBook’s built-in trackpad. Your entire hand can rest on the trackpad with room to spare. But early in the week I found my wrist getting tired because, by default, you can’t rest your hand on it like you can with a mouse.

This is where BetterTouchTool helps out.

BetterTouchTool allows you to create custom gestures to launch anything you like. The list of options is overwhelming, so you need to start with one or two simple gestures for the things you do most.

Early in the week I went about creating a few simply one and two-finger shortcuts. But by mid-week, when my wrist was tired, it occurred to me that if more of my gestures were four and five-finger shortcuts, I could rest my hand on the trackpad more naturally. It wasn’t until then that I really became a convert.

So here are the settings I’d recommend for getting started, should you decide to give this a try.

First, go into Apple’s Preferences under Trackpad and adjust some of the defaults:

I turned off the “Look up” because I accidentally was tapping with three fingers and never used this feature. It just looks up the word under your cursor in the dictionary. Not useful to me.

Then go into the “Scroll” tab:

I uncheck the Scroll direction natural. The default mode has always confused me. Lastly, go into the “More Gestures” tab:

  • I really like the two-finger scroll between pages (for back and forward in the browser), so leave that checked.
  • I uncheck the “Swipe between full-screen apps” because I don’t use full screen very often, and because I’m using that for something I actually do use (BetterTouchTool took precedence on my MacBook Pro, but I uncheck it anyway).
  • Uncheck Mission Control since we’ll be using that Gesture too.
  • Unckeck App Expose (because who uses that anyway)
  • Uncheck Launchpad (because Alfred is a better replacement)
  • I leave “Show Desktop” and use that one a lot.

Okay, now its time to setup some easy to use BetterTouchTool settings:

Here are the Gestures I would recommend for getting started (these feel the most natural to me). First things first, you want to be able to open this preferences pane easily.

  • Single Finger Tap Top Left: Show BTT Preferences

Next, you want to optimize getting around the browser:

  • Four Finger Swipe Up:  Home (beginning of the page)
  • Four Finger Swipe Down – End (end of the page)

So you are browsing a website, and you can use Apple’s two-finger swipe up and down to scroll up and down the page. But using four fingers to swipe up or down take you to the top or bottom of the page. Very easy to remember, and this encourages me to let my hand rest on the trackpad. It also works just fine in other apps like Sublime.

  • Four Finger Swipe Right: Ctrl – Tab

This also encourages you to rest your hand on the trackpad. What this does is allows you to switch to the next tab by just swiping your hand to the right.

  • Four Finger Swipe Left: Command H

This one is different. You may want to change this to “Ctrl – Shift – Tab” so that swiping to the left switches to the previous tab. But I found over the week that I wasn’t using it as much. Instead, when I swipe to the left, I have it hiding the current application. This gets used a whole lot more for me as I switch back and forth between apps a lot. Which leads me to the next Gesture:

  • Five Finger Swipe Left: Application Switcher

This one isn’t used as much as plain old Command Tab, but I found that I used it a decent amount, so thought it was worth mentioning. It just pulls up the Application Switcher so you can jump around a bit easier. My left hand usually stays on the keyboard anyway, so you may not want to bother with this one. Okay, the last one that I really used quite a bit:

  • Five Finger Swipe Right: Command Q

Try this out and you’ll see why I like it. You swipe all five fingers to the right and it closes the application in a way that says “I don’t have time for this application”.

You can also setup Tap Sequences, which were hit or miss – they didn’t always work for me, but when they did, it was nice.

  • Tap Sequence [1], [2], [3], [4] – Opens iTerm

In theory, I’d just tap my four fingers in succession and iTerm would open up. The reverse (going from pinky finger to index finger triggers F6, the keyboard shortcut I use to Hide/Show iTerm). Because it wasn’t super-reliable, I didn’t end up using it all that much.

Its worth mentioning that all of these were setup as “Global”, but you could just as easily limit them to specific apps. In the end, its best to start with just a few that you can remember and build from there.

Cheers!

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