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.)

Is the Apple Magic Trackpad capable of totally replacing the mouse? How does its ergonomics compare to let's say the Apple Magic Mouse? Better or worse for the wrist. Is it accurate enough for touching up photos with Aperture? Thanks.

  • Have you tried using a tablet? I would be curious to see how one of those stacks up.
    – user5118
    Commented Nov 8, 2011 at 21:09

5 Answers 5


I've found the trackpad to be great for general purpose use (particularly the 3-finger swipe-to-drag gesture and the wonderful inertial scrolling) but I've found it too inaccurate for GUI development work.

When I'm laying out screens for software development, or creating graphics for said software, it's too awkward to exactly position things with. I suspect you will find a similar problem if you are touching-up images etc.

I've found the ergonomics to be good, to be honest - I mostly use the Magic Trackpad and when that's not suitable for a job (see above) I switch to a Magic Mouse for a couple of hours. I have relatively small hands and find the Magic Mouse to be a really comfortable mouse, with no strain on fingers or wrist even after prolonged use. The trackpad gives you less to 'lean on' but I haven't found myself with any wrist ache or strain even when I've been using it solid for a day, etc.

  • 1
    I like your setup. Ergonomics is very important to me. Switching between the two should reduce RSI. I think I'll get them both.;-)
    – GeneQ
    Commented Oct 7, 2010 at 15:23
  • 2
    +1 - I would have said much the same. You get much better precision with a real mouse, but when you don't need pixel-perfect movements, then a touchpad is a lot more comfortable because it's zero-force. I'm not using a Mac or a "magic touchpad" but the original FingerWorks multitouch devices. (Apple bought FingerWorks, and their touch tech is what you're seeing now.) Commented Oct 8, 2010 at 8:49

The Magic Trackpad is very similar to the trackpad found on newer Apple MacBooks. It is suitable for most kinds of work. Though it is capable of completely replacing a mouse in function, it is much less adequate, and perhaps even irritating, to use with image editing programs such as Aperture. The wrist motion is in large the same.

  • @sentinel I must disagree: I find Photoshop and the like easier to use with a trackpad. So: it's very much personal preference.
    – Cajunluke
    Commented Aug 29, 2011 at 17:48

EDIT: Summary of my answer: It does not perform very well as a replacement for a mouse.

Ymmv I guess. I got into the hype as well, bought it, and eventually put it back into its box and considering selling it on eBay. I'm not wholly disappointed with it, but on 27 inch iMac, I found it to be significantly slower for pretty much any kind of operations, compared to a mouse.

Like you, I was very excited when I heard about it, because I had gotten used to the trackpad on a Macbook Pro during a long holiday. Unfortunately, in my opinion, it doesn't translate well on a large screen. On a desktop computer, you expect to have more control than on a laptop. You have more keys, more space. So no, the Magic Trackpad is not a replacement for a mouse, at least not on a 27 inch screen.

What I did like on the trackpad, mostly, was the ability to scroll pages in the browser with the double finger swipe. Task switching with the trackpad was always awkward.

Since I still felt I needed a mouse, I also unwrapped the bluetooth keyboard that came with the iMac, and put the trackpad next to it. That way it took approximately the same space as my aluminium keyboard. Unfortunately I found I had more strain in the wrist because I needed to move the arm between the trackpad and the mouse, and using a cushion under the arm moving sideways from time to time didn't work well. Now that is my opinion as well, but I didn't enjoy the wireless keyboard; it felt cheap and light compared to the aluminium keyboard. Typing on the wired aluminium keyboard felt a lot better. Since it was rather cumbersome to try to fit the trackpad in between a large Aluminium keyboard (comes with keypad) and the mouse, I moved the wireless keyboard and magic trackpad back into their boxes :(

That is my honest opinion. I love Macs. I think the Magic Trackpad is a great idea. I even tried gaming with it. I still wish it worked. But it doesn't. It works better in a few ways, but it can not match the prevision and speed of a mouse.

For a web developer who needs to switch tabs, click small things in the window, toggle the Firebug console and all its panels every now and then, switch between gaezillions of windows; it doesn't work.

Perhaps it is still a good choice for people who do primarily typing and editing documents.

This, for me, would be the perfect aluminium keyboard:

alt text

This is not a joke. If that space was used as a trackpad, it would be so convenient to do the swipe gestures for scrolling down webpages. I guess it would be just as useful for most other gestures. Unless you are a hardcore "the vim way" user, like me you will often use the cursor keys. Since the hand often ends up there, and the home/end/pgup/pgwn keys are hardly necessary on a Mac (think Cmd-Left, Cmd-Right, etc), this just makes sense.


I mostly use my Mac to write code and have found the Magic Trackpad to be very well suited for this task. The main drawback is drag and drop can be a little awkward - however, its usually possible to find ways around drag and drop in most interfaces.


I can't say I've used the Magic Trackpad, but if you're looking for some of the touch gestures and scroll inertia (which I love), while keeping the accuracy of a mouse, I'd go for the Magic Mouse. I've been using mine since they were first released and it's served me very well in everything from image editing to web browsing to programming (can't say enough about how much I love the inertial scroll for getting around large documents...)

The one downside to the Magic Mouse (again, can't say if this also applies to the Magic Trackpad) is that it burns through batteries. Each set of 2 AAs usually lasts me about 2.5 months. For this reason, I also picked up Apple's rechargeable battery set (6 AAs & wall-mounted charger). That was about 2 months ago, and I've been happy with the charger set as well.

  • Yeah, the Magic Mouse does seem to be a trackpad in mouse form factor. I think I'll go for both devices then I'll have the best tool for the task at hand when the need arises.
    – GeneQ
    Commented Oct 7, 2010 at 15:25
  • A sincere warning against the magic mouse! It's neat as a mouse, but it's too small for any serious amount of gesture commands. Don't get me wrong, the device works (probably; lack of personal experience) but the touch surface is sized and positioned in such a way (because a mouse just isn't very big) that force you to move your fingers in awkward ways, so you are much more likely to develop RSI problems. For this reason alone, I would always recommend a regular mouse (if you need one), plus a separate multitouch surface (if you want that). Commented Oct 8, 2010 at 8:52

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