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I am using a Magic Trackpad 2. I do a lot of design, so I have to drag and move items several hours a day. I click with my right thumb near the bottom of the Trackpad, and I drag with my index finger. The trackpad is very close to the laptop, less than 8 inches away on the same table as the laptop, the battery is fully charged every day.

But the trackpad doesn't behave in a consistent way. Sometimes, when I want to click an object and drag it, the trackpad thinks I am scaling in or out, and scales the view on my page. So I have to undo the last action, and try again.

Other times, I click on an object and try to drag it, but nothing happens, my index finger just swipes the trackpad without anything moving on the screen.

And other times, the trackpad doesn't click when I press down on it, no matter how hard I press down.

I have been using trackpads for 20 years and it's the first time I find one so approximative and unreliable.

I am extremely annoyed and disappointed by this erratic behavior - I think it was much easier back when trackpads had a clickable bar, and a non-clickable dragging area. It makes me lost time and confuses me several dozen times a day.

Are there ways to make sure the trackpad understands what I am trying to do without getting confused?

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  • Ah, I see, but clicking with the index feels completely unnatural for me and hurts my carpal tunnel pretty quickly... also might be a lot less precise to click and drag with the same finger – MicroMachine Feb 9 at 2:59
  • This drives my graphic artists to distraction. They need a Wacom tablet or Apple Pencil for many of them since their brains are already wired and optimized for an experience different than multitouch. Should I add that to my answer? – bmike Feb 9 at 16:13
  • Sure! Thank you for the thorough explanation! – MicroMachine Feb 9 at 19:12
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I also have problems with my hands and using force to press down on the trackpad. I have mine set up to not need any pressing down at all, by enabling "Tap to click" in the Trackpad settings and using the options under Accessibility to enable dragging by quickly double tapping the trackpad and then keep moving my finger.

To set up this drag mode, go to System Preferences -> Accessibility -> Pointer Control -> Trackpad Options... and check the box in front of "Enable dragging". I use it with drag lock so that I can reposition my finger if I run out of trackpad to drag on, but you can try either way to see what feels best for you. There's also a three finger drag option here, so try them out and see if any of them feel better.

Screenshot of Accessibility preference pane with Enable dragging enabled.

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  • How do you make a difference when you click and when you put down your fingers on the trackpad? I always touch my trackpad to remove dusts and i’m afraid that would click things – MicroMachine Feb 9 at 9:23
  • The trackpad only clicks when you do a quick tap on it, if you rest your fingers on it or move them it doesn't register as a click. I can usually swipe away dust without issues, but if you're worried you can turn the trackpad off first. – Lizzan Feb 9 at 10:08
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Apple magic mice and trackpads are all designed as Multi-Touch devices so every brush and even close calls will register with the capacitive surface as opposed to direct pressure at one point. Just like the iPhone and iOS based devices, there are dozens of gestures in all devices with even more gestures available on the newer devices.

If a single touch device (or multi touch that tracks fewer digits or less gestures) is what you ultimately want, that would explain all the confusion and need to learn and then retrain your digits how to not trigger any of the many ways gesture recognition will foil your intentions. Even if you disable most of the gestures in settings, the hardware is still tracking all those touch points even if the OS ignores some the hardware recognizes.

The mental model needed to move a pointer with a different surface handling the mouse down/up control is very different than a multi touch mental model of input. Just like those of us that learned to drive with a manual transmission, something is missing, even when we find vehicles shift paddles on the steering wheel. The old design allows behaviors the new cannot, despite the other new things multi touch allows.

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I have my trackpad set up so that a left click is initiated by pressing my finger a tiny bit harder into the trackpad, from anywhere on the trackpad.

Neither the bottom left corner nor bottom right corner of the trackpad are special.

I believe it's possible to change this configuration in the System Preferences > Trackpad area.

I would strongly recommend you to start adopting the same usage. With this configuration and usage, a drag can never be mistaken for a scroll or zoom, because a drag has only one finger on the trackpad. No matter how perfect you may have perceived your previous experience to be, there can only be additional issues with using multiple points of contact on a capacitive touch surface, as compared to only one.

Using this clicking method also makes general usage easier, because you don't have to hover your thumb anymore, you can just conveniently exert the tiniest amount of force through your index finger—your index finger never has to leave the trackpad surface, a feeling I quite like—nor will you risk accidental two-finger gestures at any other point.

In a comment you have written

clicking with the index feels completely unnatural for me and hurts my carpal tunnel pretty quickly

Then obviously you shouldn't use this answer. You can adjust the force necessary to click in System Preferences > Trackpad > Point & Click, I have it on the lowest possible and barely feel any part of my body move when I click. You will also find that you can click with any action in your chain of articulation, using movement from your shoulder, or your elbow, or your wrist, or your finger. If you can find a single-finger solution that works for you, it would be the best solution, but please don't endanger your own health of course.

Your other concern

might be a lot less precise to click and drag with the same finger

Is not an issue (I have never found it to be), but in case you really feel impeded by the friction of your fingertip, you should move most of the weight onto your nail which will glide across your trackpad like you've never experienced before.

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  • I find it difficult to adapt to a different behavior, especially since I use another older mac computer (2011 MacBook Air) where I never had any problems with the trackpad. I would prefer to configure the trackpad to work the way I am used to. I am not sure I understand how your right clicking method works, I usually use CTRL + click (if you press harder to right click, say to open a menu, what happens when you lift your finger? The menu disappears?). I need to lift my fingers from the trackpad very often (typing, stretching fingers, because it's not comfortable etc) – MicroMachine Feb 9 at 3:05
  • ctrl + click is identical to two-finger right clicking. ctrl+click is preferred by lots of people and I think it is a good method. I've specified my answer that the only right clicking method I think is bad is dedicating the bottom-right of the trackpad. If you need to lift your fingers from the trackpad very often, then you can continue to do so even if you adopt the recommendations of this answer.... – theonlygusti Feb 9 at 3:18
  • Thanks for your help I will try it – MicroMachine Feb 9 at 3:41
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I find the three-finger drag option (inexplicably hidden in Accessibility > Point Control > TrackPad Options) to be the best way for dragging. It's a clear gesture that can't be confused with anything else, and becomes second nature after a bit of practice.

Note that the noise and 'firmness' of the click can be controlled in software - in the System Preference pane, and isn't really a mechanical movement at all. Therein lies the 'magic'.

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  • Absolutely this. I have no idea why three finger drag isn't more visible, or even the default behaviour. – nekomatic Feb 9 at 11:22
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    Three finger drag is great as long as the drag doesn't take you to the edge of the trackpad. Still struggling with that, how did you solve it? – nohillside Feb 9 at 12:31
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    @nohillside Firstly, going faster moves the pointer exponentially faster. If you drag very slowly, you'll run out of room fast, but if you give a fast 'flick', then you can get right to other end of a large monitor for a tiny move on the pad. Second, once you've initiated the drag, you only need one finger on the pad, and you can 'ice-skate' and swap fingers . – benwiggy Feb 9 at 13:01
  • Interestingly enough, the "use one finger after initiating the drag" trick doesn't seem to work in Mail... – nohillside Feb 9 at 16:17

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