Apple's Magic Trackpad: Installation and Use

By Graham K. Rogers


In mid-July, while I had the Mac mini in my hands, Apple released its Magic Trackpad. It struck me as the perfect device to go with the mini. I am less happy with a mouse now as I am so used to notebook computers and their trackpads.

The device appeared on the Apple online store with a delivery time of 5-8 days. As the credit card shackles loosened slightly, I ordered one and I was able watched its progress online as it shipped and made its way to my office, finally arriving on 10 August within the advertised time. When he saw it, a colleague who has a MacBook told me he would love one of these incorporated into a keyboard. This might work instead of the number-pad.


The device software was updated for portable Macs immediately it was released, so I did not need the installation software. As with other control devices (like the mouse and its preferences) the Trackpad panel window changes when the Magic Trackpad is used. The standard trackpad can be used at the same time.

Before use I needed to pair it with the computer: a simple process these days and one which, with the software available on the Mac is almost automatic. It took up the settings of my trackpad on the MacBookPro and I was able to use it immediately. I later decided to change the touch click-and-drag setting after trying the Magic Trackpad in a large classroom when I had to go back to the Mac to move a browser page.

The box it came in is the same size as those used for Apple's software, such as iWork and the Snow Leopard Update. The Magic Trackpad itself is slightly larger than a disk and has a width of 13 cms. It was well worth waiting for and appears to do everything that the trackpad on my Mac Book Pro will do.


It has a similar design philosophy to the Bluetooth keyboards that have shipped with Macs for a couple of years now, including its well-engineered aluminium access to the battery storage. It takes AA batteries which may need occasional trips to the local 7/11 store. We note that Apple now has a battery charger for these (the Magic Mouse also uses replaceable AA batteries). If replacement batteries are not inserted correctly the device will not work.

trackpad plus batteries

The Bluetooth menu and the Trackpad preferences window display the charge left in the battery. In the few days I have been using it, the figure has remained at 100%. The tubular battery compartment is just the right size so that the trackpad has the same tilt angle as an Apple keyboard and they sit neatly alongside each other.

I also tried this device with the Mac mini (which is still in my hands), as well as my iMac and MacBook Pro, where although it may seem redundant allowed me to move about in a classroom and not be anchored to the computer.

The Mac mini and iMac needed a different approach as these do not have trackpads. The necessary software is downloaded from Apple, but the page was not easy to find. A kind soul in the user forums provided the link. I also found details of a Magic Trackpad update for Windows systems using Boot Camp.

On the Mac the device needs to be paired, but if it is already being used with another computer, it must be un-paired from that first. This makes sense as if it were paired with two, trackpad input would affect both. Pressing the switch on the right, displays a green power light for a couple of seconds. If not paired, this continues for three minutes to indicate that it is discoverable.

I activated Bluetooth on the Mac mini and selected "Set up Bluetooth Device." The discovery was quick on all computers and the trackpad was usable instantly. In the Trackpad preferences window a user is able to adjust the gestures easily. As each is highlighted so a small video of the gesture in action is shown so users may understand the functions more easily.

trackpad preferences

Having used notebook computers as my first choice for a few years, I far prefer a trackpad to a mouse. This is a useful solution as it provides good cursor control as well as adding the benefit of gestures. It is not as sensitive as a tablet, such as the Wacom devices, nor does it have the same type of tunability of a multi-button mouse. For the home user who is eager to throw of the limits of cable based devices, this is a good solution. I may never use a mouse again.

The price I paid online was 2390 baht with free delivery. As I write this, the device is still unavailable in Bangkok outlets. Staff I spoke to in several shops do not expect them until late September.




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