May 30, 2006
When it comes to pointing devices on laptops, there are two schools of thought. There's the touchpad..
.. and there's the trackpoint, which was popularized by IBM thinkpads:
I recently switched to a work-provided Thinkpad T40 as my primary laptop, and it has both trackpoint and touchpad-- great for an apples-to-apples comparison.
I'm a touchpad man, myself. This entire post, including the image editing, was performed with the touchpad. At no point was I frustrated or rate-limited by the touchpad. I've had such good results with touchpads lately that I find myself forgetting to use the external USB mouse I regularly carry in my laptop bag. There is no stronger praise for any alternative input device.
The touchpad wins, for me, because it's such a simple input method -- yet it supports some complex, subtle nuances that are surprisingly intuitive:
- click, double-click, and right-click by tapping the pad. In case you were wondering, on the Mac, a right click is a two-finger tap.
- scroll horizontally or vertically by dragging your finger along the edges of the pad.
- press harder to drag items further.
- slide faster to move faster.
A lot of the touchpad's functionality is dependent on the software drivers. And Synaptics has done an incredible job, year after year, of harnessing the touchpad functionality in useful, usable ways. The first thing I do when I get a new laptop is make sure I have the latest Synaptics drivers. In fact, the Synaptics drivers are the only OEM input drivers I ever install.
I noticed that the trackpoint has improved over the years as well. For one thing, I can now press the trackpoint to click. But scrolling is out of the question, of course. And the trackpoint's motion is a lot smoother compared to the old models I remember, which makes it less fiddly. On the new T60's at work, it's so smooth it almost feels like a slider. Still, it speaks volumes that even IBM/Lenovo offers both input methods by default on their laptops. If the trackpoint is such a great input device, why would anyone need a trackpad? But choice is good, I suppose. And the trackpoint is a clear winner if space is at a premium.
If you're looking for an empirical way to prove the superiority of one input method over the other, good luck. This Fitt's law backgrounder, and the related Java test applet, will at least give you some actual data points to support your position.
Before we get too worked up on this topic, I suspect the most common pointing device for most laptop users is an external USB mouse. Which renders the whole touchpad vs. trackpoint debate moot.
Still, the fact that I can use any kind of alternative input device and not feel compelled to immediately plug in an external mouse is pretty amazing to me.
Posted by Jeff Atwood
A great touchpad can be an awesome thing. I still miss the touchpad on my Compaq laptop (also a synaptics device if I recall correctly) - if done right, it is seemless to use and doesn't even require concious thought to use, almost as if it was magic. A BAD touchpad is probably the worst thing in the world (got one around here somewhere), and you just end up disabling it (or worse if it is cable bound)...
However, I would ALWAYS rather use the keyboard mouse emulater than that stupid little nubb that ibm calls a mouse. I have ALWAYS hated those. Using them without thinking just isn't possible. And I just love how easy they are to destroy once and for all - after all, anything that moves to covert kinetic energy into electical potential is GOING to wear, and fast.
I thought it was particularilly amusing to see one of those warts on a mouse to do scrolling instead. Sort of the ultimate clue that they've failed as a mouse, huh?
Oh, for my true input preferences, you can pry my logitech mouseman from my cold dead hands. Not the new ones, the old half-moon white ones. I wish they would re-release those with side to side scrolling.
sigh Why does MS make such great keyboards but such LOUSY trackballs??
Robert: "I can't stand the touchpads. I'm constantly moving the mouse by accident because of my fat hands." - I did as well, but then i tweaked 'palmcheck' settings in drivers and I dont have the problem anymore
I'm amazed that the trackball hasn't caught on much either. It's always fun to pretend to play "missle command" while working. :)
One caveat: we have an alienware laptop at work which has a hideously bad implementation of the touchpad: the right 20% of the pad is DEDICATED to scrolling. And there's no tactile edge or anything to let you know when you've entered that scrolling area, so it's a constant guessing game when you move your finger around the touchpad.. will you hit the hidden scroll edge?
Oh man, it's so painful.
The existing touchpad scrolling behaviors work because you can FEEL the edge of the pad as you're doing it. The minute you can't, game over. Fitt's law, indeed..
At the Swedish IT-department where I used to work the track point was called the "clit". All because of the funny analogy. It's true I tell you! :)
Myself I'm using the external USB mouse rather than the track point and touch pad because it is much easier to move around. But if I couldn't use the external mouse it would be the touch pad because it responds better than the track point.
I prefer the trackpoint because of its impact on overall laptop design. If you look at the apple laptops even the large sizes have tiny keyboards because the trackpad takes up so much room. For someone with chronic wrist problems that's a big deal.
And oh, the blue middle button in the thinkpads provides scrolling functionality.
Sign me up for the love-touchpad hate-clit-mouse camp.
I love the touchpad because I can use it with my thumb. I haven't seen anyone else do this, but it's extremely accurate - you have much better side-to-side dexterity with your thumb than with your fingers. And you can leave your fingers on the keyboard.
After two years of using my laptop as my primary computer, it was hard to go back to using a real mouse. So slow to move from keyboarding to mousing!
Trackpoints are like a slow, fiddly joystick. Too much mental differentiation (in the mathematical sense) going on. There's a reason why the joystick isn't used to control your PC's pointer.
I'm just the opposite. I've been using Toshiba's or Thinkpads at work for the last the 5 years and love the trackpoint. And Kartik is correct, the blue button provides the scrolling functionality. However, I've recently bought a Dell laptop and the one thing that annoyed me more than anything was that it only has a touchpad. I will say that I am getting use to it and liking it "ok".
I guess I like the trackpoint more because it feels less sensitive....I can move it around more like a mouse and not have to worry about accidentally tapping it or hitting it with my thumb when I type, etc..
I can't stand the touchpads. I'm constantly moving the mouse by accident because of my fat hands.
On the other hand (no pun intended) I love the trackpoint. So much so I spent 99 bucks and bought a keyboard from Lenovo that is the same keyboard IBM fits in their laptops, only in an external light weight keyboard that plugs into the usb port. Has both the trackpoint and touchpad.
The thing I love most about the trackpoint is that I don't have to move my hands off the keyboard home position to click something. Very handy when I'm coding. Fell in love with it back on my old IBM laptop, to the point where I seldom bothered to plug in an external mouse.
I love the keyboard so much I cart it back and forth from work to home. My one issue (and if someone knows a solution PLEASE let me know) is with my HP laptop.
Seems both my laptop and the Lenovo / IBM keyboard both use the Synaptics drivers for their touchpads. So when I plug the Lenovo / IBM keyboard in, the keys work fine but the touchpoint and touchpad do not. I'd happily live without the touchpad, but the touchpoint was the main selling point to me. I've tried disabling the touchpads on both the laptop and keyboard (and both at the same time) but (shakes head sadly) no luck yet. :(
I'll never understand why more keyboard makers don't include touchpoints or pads in their keyboards. It always seemed to me on the split keyboards that area between the g/h keys would be a good place to stick a trackpoint.
Noone's mentioned the two-fingers-to-scroll-the-active-window feature of the powerbook's (and I guess macbook's) touchpad. Like a wheel mouse, you love it as soon as you try it. (Way better than using the edges of the touchpad to scroll, if you ask me).
Touchpads suck. Trackpoints suck worse. But the worst pointing device yet conceived is the hybrid, with both options live (a misconfiguration if ever there were one, but the default on some systems I've used). Your pointing attention is on, say, the trackpoint and you get ready to press the spacebar and on your way to it your thumb brushes the trackpad and puts you in a whole 'nother window altogether. Give me an external mouse anyday.
One problem I have with the trackpoint - the sandpaper-like texture rubs the skin off my fingers. So I vote for the touchpad...
I prefer my helmet and gloves
I've got the best pointing device in the world (well, at least to me). It's a Fingerworks TouchStream LP. It's both the keyboard AND mouse. Depending on which fingers I use, it knows if I'm moving the mouse, typing, right clicking, etc.
I never have to move my hands away from the keyboard. I can scroll, point, do chords, etc all on the same surface.
Cons - You'll never get your full typing speed (there's no tactile feedback to let you know what key you're on).
They're unfortunately out of business now, and I'm just hoping someone bought their technology and will be coming back because it is a fabulous product. Expensive, but for those of us whose mice cause us pain (repetitive clicking), it's a godsend.
Apple's made a nice improvement in recent MacBooks; use TWO fingers together for scrolling, either vertically or horizontally. Very natural.
I have an HP notebook with both a trackpad and pointing stick. I use the trackpad "all the time" and the pointing stick when on an airplane, where elbow room is limited.
Maybe I'm in a minority here, but I HATE computer mice. On laptops I slightly prefer trackpoint over touchpad because a trackpoint-only laptop (like my small Thinkpad tablet) is less cramped).
But on a desktop machine, the Microsoft Trackball Optical 1.0 (name according to its label) is the only pointer I'll use. It has two big buttons, two little buttons, a pushable scroll wheel, and a ball the size of a golf ball. It was recently discontinued (I guess I'm in an extreme minority here) so I bought several extras.
My wrists never give me any trouble, until I use a mouse--any mouse--for about ten minutes. I spend a lot of time on computers, and I'm sure I don't want to subject my wrists to constant mouse use if they don't like it.
You know, I just realized, in these comments, that there is a lot of LOVE and HATE going on, and it doesn't seem to be very unified. I sure am glad I'm not a laptop designer. :^)
The trouble with the trackpoint is that it takes about an hour of practice to learn to love it. Thereafter, it is fantastic - far far better than anything else. On my linux machine, I have the trackpoint set up with the following:
- 3 button mouse (middle click too!)
- Horizontal and vertical scrolling
- Very high sensitivity - just a very light touch.
You also have to learn to take your finger off the TP when not using it; else it will start to drift. If you do see it drifting, it will recalibrate in about a second, just release the button.
Also, you don't have to move your hand out of typing position.
Anyone who doesn't love the trackpoints - I advise you to spend a little time with it, and get it set up right. The default sensitivity is far too low, and it takes a bit of practice.
I've got a T40 also, and the touchpad is generally, OK, but if I'm doing any sort of fine mouse work (diagramming or what not), then I have to go back to the mouse. Generally, I'll have one hand on the mouse, and the other on the hotkeys, and that's just not possible without the mouse.
you should be able to scroll on your T40, probably via the control panel, my T42 does.
I believe you just drag down the right side of track pad
Come on, pointing devices are soo stone age. This is 2006, why can't the computer see exactly what I'm looking at?
As more laptops now come with both devices, I'm surprised nobody's implemented a hybrid scheme - for example, where the pad works as your pointing device, and the 'point' does scrolling.
Or, maybe someone has, and I haven't found it yet...
As more laptops now come with both devices
I don't think there's any data to support this assertion-- the only laptops I know of that have both are Thinkpads. Admittedly a big and important brand, but it's only one brand.
And since IBM invented the Trackpoint, why should they, of all vendors, use both? I think it says a lot about the love/hate attitudes people have on this issue.
I've never seen a stand-alone touchpad. I'm sure they must exist. I nice big one like a mousepad would be interesting.
As more laptops now come with both devices
I don't think there's any data to support this assertion-- the only laptops I know of that have both are Thinkpads.
The Dell Latitude D610 I am typing on right now has both. I actually disabled the nub because there's a physical flaw in the frame of the laptop that causes the trackpoint to start drifting. Since I'm not a fan of the pointer (not responsive enough for me), disabling it doesn't affect me.
I like touchpad because sliding is more convenient than rolling movement which I have to do on trackpoint. Ergonomically touchpad offers more degrees of freedom. The physical location of trackpoint makes it extremely difficult to me.
el - I bought a standalone touch pad about 10 years ago, it is a serial mouse. it's about credit card sized and about a half inch thick.. Problem is that it is waaay to light to be useful, you are usually pushing it around the desk instead of the mouse about the screen.
Still, it sits in my emergency reserve pile.
As more laptops now come with both devices
I don't think there's any data to support this assertion-- the only laptops I know of that have both are Thinkpads.
Sorry, I wasn't clear. That was meant as "more than previously". And, yes, I have no data to back that up assertion either ;-(
Anyway, I have a Dell D610, which has both...
Well, after having owned a number of Macs and Thinkpads over the years, I recently bought a MacBook - my first Apple laptop. I simply can't get used to the Touch pad.
I regularly find myself at the edge of it (with maximum acceleration) with no space left, and still not quite were I want the pointer to be (annoying for drag and drop). With tap-clicking enable, I end up clicking by mistake, and having to move my hand away from the home row is both frustrating AND painful for the wrist in the long run (did I mention the sharp edge of the cabinet under the wrist ? Terrible.)
So after a week or so, I'm going to be selling my MacBook. Love the OS, love the UI, am a BSD user myself so it's familiar. I could live with the single mouse button, but no, definitely no, using anything else than a TrackPoint is useless. Sorry Apple.
still not quite were I want the pointer to be (annoying for drag and drop)
On a normal Synaptics touchpad driver install, you continue pressing at the edge of the pad in this scenario; the movement will continue and even accelerate as you press harder.
That said, drag and drop is not ideal on a touchpad, but I think drag and drop is not ideal as an interaction metaphor anyway..
I have a Powerbook 1400 cs and a powerbook 165. my brother has a thinkpad g41 with no trackpad. the trackball is good too but i like tracpad the most. i like the trackpoint the least
I can't use touchpads. Every time I try to "move the mouse," it registers as a click, instead. Maybe I need to update the drivers, maybe I need to fiddle with the settings, but I just don't have the patience to mess with this.
The only problem I have with the trackpoint is that the occasional drift freaked me out. I did find this http://wwwcssrv.almaden.ibm.com/trackpoint/files/nonoise.html which finally explained what the heck was going on. :)
The trackpoint is the only pointing device that allows touch-typists to keep their fingers close to asdfjkl;. A typical mouse slows me down, as my hand has to leave the keyboard. A touchpad is almost a solution, but it requires some awkward thumb stretching to keep one's fingers on asdfjkl;.
To be fair, I try to avoid using the mouse and often use shortcuts or hotkeys etc to get around the screen. Some seem to think that this is backwards thinking, but when it comes to getting around the screen I seem to be able to run circles around mouse user coworkers.
If you don't use alt-tab, you probably don't get where I am coming from.
I had a work-supplied T23 Thinkpad for two years and never used the trackpoint. In fact, I hated it. Then I forgot to take my mouse on a two week trip and I was forced to use it. Since then, it is a dealbreaker for my laptop purchases. I've even gone so far as to bring a USB keyboard w/ a trackpoint to labs in the computer because my productivity drops w/o it.
For graphical work, the trackpoint is not up to snuff. A mouse is better, a graphical pen is the best.
trackpoint is the best because it's what I'm using.
I also feel that if one spent a bit of time with the trackpoint they would like it over the touchpad. I have two full sized keyboards with the trackpoint and hope to always have them. My desk is too cluttered for a mouse and the touchpad is too imprecise. My ideal would be a trackpoint and a high quality trackball in the same keyboard.
At the Swedish IT-department where I used to work
the track point was called the "clit".
Myself I'm using the external USB mouse rather than the track point and touch pad
I assume you prefer a "gearstick" in general then???
Someone who believes that "scrolling is out of the question" with the TrackPoint interface couldn't have spent more than two minutes using it. And of course, Jeff never acknowledged the corrections or retracted this false claim.
Also, Jeff cited the "slide faster to move faster" touchpad feature, but he failed to note that the TrackPoint is pressure-sensitive ("press harder to move faster").
Lastly, the argument regarding IBM's/Lenovo's decision to include touchpads on some models is ludicrous. This says nothing about the relative quality of either. It's simply a company giving consumers what they want. Some people hate touchpads and love pointing sticks, while others hate pointing sticks and love touchpads. IBM/Lenovo set out to satisfy as many ThinkPad owners as possible. In particular, consider a situation in which two people (one from each camp) share the computer. This way, both can be happy.
Touchpad vs. Trackpoint is a matter of who got used to what.
I would pay up to $300 if I could upgrade a touchpad on MacBook to trackpoint.
But here's some things that make trackpoint better:
1. you do not have to move you hands away from keyboard to move a mouse
2. trackpoint is a lot more precise
3. no incidental pointer moving and jumping because you hand touched the pad and there is no worrying about it (which causing me to stress my hand more, thus pain as a result)
4. it can be integrated in a small keyboards and save space
I use trackpoint all the time, I even got IBM server keyboards with trackpoint to use with my PowerMacs. And I use it to do all sorts of tasks. I use it to draw pretty complex images too.
I do have a regular mouse, but primary use for it is to help my visitors who are not that good with trackpoint.
Third button can be programmed for scrolling.
There are different tips.
What I think is that cost of adding both trackpoint and touchpad is relatively low, so all laptops (maybe except for the super value budget models) should have both
I hate touchpads, I am using an IBM R 40 that has both touchpad and pointing stick. The touchpad gives me problems such as the wandering pointer. The mouse moves slightly off the target. And the wrongful selection problem, the pad sometimes selects words unexpected while on the web.
What I want to know is why noone has made made my dream keyboard for a stationary PC:
* in stead of the numeric keyboard, a fairly large touchpad (not in the way of your wrists, always there just within reach, and never moves)
* on the left hand end of the keyboard, a separate set of mouse-buttons, so that right-clicking and dragging witht the touchpad is not such a pain.
As soon as I get my compact keyboard and adesso standalone touchpad I'll be halfway there, but I'm still loking for a solution with the buttons on the left. Maybe I'll just glue a mouse to to the desk. But it would be nicer to have it all in one piece. I have found exactly one keyboard model with builtin touchpad on the right, but it also has the buttons there, which is even more useless than the laptop layout, since over there you _have_ to use it with one hand.
Any one use left hand, instead right hand, to control the trackpoint?
its sad that most laptops don't come with a trackpoint (i have no idea why??). im stuck with a laptop that doesnt have a trackpoint and its hell.
To answer "learner's" question, I use both left and right index fingers to operate the trackpoint when browsing. But I always draw with my right even though I am left handed (I work in a number of CAD programs). Since the keyboard is set up with the Ctrl and Alt buttons on the left, it would be awkward to switch from point to putting in keystrokes with the same hand.
I feel like a prisoner of the Thinkpad world because the trackpoint and scroll functions are so much faster than the other methods.
If I could design my own laptop, I would use the space given to the touch pad as a slider control of how sensitive the trackpoint responded to pressure. CAD heaven.
You're nuts. Just about everyone I know (including myself, of course) who has spent a great deal of time with both a trackpoint and Synaptics touchpad with the latest Synaptics drivers still thinks trackpoint blows touchpads away. The reason most laptops have touchpads? It's cheaper, and it's what most people are used to. It's like the English vs. Metric (in the USA), Beta vs. VHS, QWERTY vs. Dvorak. The inferior format won, because people like what they're used to and are apprehensive to try things that are unfamiliar.
I agree most laptop users DO use a USB mouse - it's because touchpads are so tedious and inefficient. Very few people who are proficient with Trackpoints bother with a USB mouse. I personally don't know any former Thinkpad users who felt the need to use USB mice with their Thinkpads. Unfortunately for most of them, they have been forced by IBM/Lenovo's high prices to buy run-of-the-mill laptops of other brands that only come with touchpads... and most of them now DO use USB mice and every one of them says they miss the trackpoint. I am the last holdout, unable to bring myself to buy a new laptop and give up the trackpoint. Instead, I have bought a 2-year old used, off-lease Thinkpad for $150 more than the cost of a brand new non-IBM just to get the trackpoint.
I had a Trackpoint for four years on two laptops. I had to give it up because I wanted a *very* specific configuration for my new laptop and at the time having a Trackpoint on the new laptop would have added $4000 to the price of a $2000 laptop (or perhaps more accurately, I saved the difference by choosing a configuration that happened to use a Touchpad instead of a Trackpoint).
The key to understanding trackpoint is that it is pressure sensitive. Once you figure out that your finger is supposed to touch the thing and stay stationary (the opposite of the touchpad behavior), then it just becomes a matter of learning to dole out pressure relative to where the mouse should go. Combine this with an exponential acceleration curve and Missile Command is easy with the trackpoint. Using a bunch of ordinary desktop applications is trivial. There's a large range of usable input pressure levels but no motion of the finger in space, so it's about as close to directly connecting a mouse pointer to my brain as it is possible to achieve without electrodes. It's better than a mouse for anything except for Quake (although I did finish Quake III Arena in the second-easiest mode with the Trackpoint, just to prove the concept).
One thing that I found quite helpful is to replace the standard pencil-eraser-shaped rubber tip on the trackpoint with a concave version that the finger fits into. There are also flat-topped variants but the concave "cup" shape gives the largest degree of control.
I am able to use the Touchpad, but only after replacing its default configuration. I have to turn off touch-clicking, since it would otherwise randomly drag or click on things while I'm trying to move the mouse (or often when I'm *not* trying to move the mouse). Drag is a two-finger operation (actually finger on touchpad and thumb on button) for me. I turned on the horizonal and vertical scroll areas on the bottom and right sides--somewhat unreliable but mostly harmless, it's more useful to have scroll than it is annoying to have scroll randomly become mouse movement and vice versa. Other settings are less important, like changing the button mappings and fingertip size.
The Touchpad cannot win the contest because it needs huge finger motions due to its low input resolution. It is tracking the physical motion of an object the size of my fingertip, so increasing its sensitivity just adds noise to the cursor position.
It occurs to me that there is probably enough raw data present in the Touchpad device (internally it produces a 2D map of physical pressure values) that it could be programmed to behave almost the same way a Trackpoint does. That would be sweet...
Hello. I surfed here from googling trackpoint.
I just found schematic's for a ps2 microcontroller trackpoint.
Mouses suck vacum. Touchpads are so lame, come on humans wise up.
What really does it for me is the the trackpoint is in the middle of the keyboard. you don't have to reconfigure your posture to type.
Also the track point is an extension of your finger, after a while you just point to what you want to click, on move etc this rocks.
I sequence music on my 600e, yes it still goes fine. My trackpoint "died" a few months back, I use a usb mouse now. It's really sucks so much that I have allmost stopped using it. I had to disabled the track pont in the bios , it was like cutting off my trigger finger. sob sob :(
one day I will fix my trackpoint and throw the darn mouse away!
be gone stupid human interface device!!!!
I have to agree with Bob here. The TrackPoint nipple is amazing simply because it's right there with your fingers already. You can literally even type while moving the mouse around. Well, not really, but you can switch from mousing to keyboard really quickly.
The other great thing about the TrackPoint is that you don't have to keep resetting to the other side when you want to scroll a very large distance (say 3 virtual desktops). You just keep some pressure on the nipple. Wonderful.
I just love touchpads! They are far better than the trackpoints. The Cirque/Alps pads are my favorite. They work really well. Be gone trackpoint!
First off, touchpad is useless to me. My brain doesn't work that way. Second, the beauty of a Trackpoint is you move the cursor to the exact pixel you want, take your hand off, and click. When you're seeking one and only one particular pixel in a graphics program, I can't reliably keep one finger perfectly steady while the other finger clicks. If you can do thqat, you are very talented, congratulations, maybe you should have been a brain surgeon. For the same reason, I also prefer trackball to mouse on a desktop computer: take finger off ball, click with other finger. Finally, I like how the Trackpoint adds zero footprint to a computer. Wish I had it on desktop. Mouse takes too much room to fit on one of those keyboard trays that slide under a desk, which for many of us has better ergonomics than keyboard at desk level. Mouse also takes up too much room for music when you have music keyboard or drum machine on same workstation. Again, Trackpoint would be ideal for music workstation, not just for notebook. But trackball will do for now.
Bottom line, touchpad two thumbs down, mouse one thumb down, trackball one thumb up, Trackpoint two thumbs up.
How do you turn off the double ckicl/automatic drag feature with the touch pad at a T42? I like to navigate with it, but not the automatic function that a hovering finger gives you clicks,...????
No doubt about it, the track point wins hands down. I have been reading all these comments and am so pleased that intelligent people like me go for the track point. I am wedded to the Thinkpad, mainly because of the track point. I have had a number of machines in the last 10 years, and I keep on coming back to them because of the track point. It's amazing how the inferior product wins. Like in the case of Word, which is a profoundly inferior word processor. I still us Wordperfect 5.2 and convert my docs when I have to interchange. Aluta track point, down with the touch pad!!!!
I just ordered a t61 and am very excited about all the features including the trackpoint. I am upgrading from a sony vgn fs-630. I love the touchpad on the sony. It is very precise and never have wandering. I just wish the touchpad was slightly larger and farther from the edge on the t61. I like to hook my thumb on the edge and use my middle finger which I won't be able to do on the t61. Anyone else use that configuration?
Someone commented that they have not seen any external TOUCHPADS. there are external touchpads galore just google it. the following website has one of the more efficient ones in that it has a velcro attachment and no buttons attached to it.
I use both a thinkpad the thinkpad is used for office administration and a qosimo and the qosimo is good for everyday stuff but hard for gaming. for gaming the optical mice and keyboard combo is alot more natural to personal movement it also depends on which games you are playing. I have gotten repetive stress from singleclicking on a mouse. I had the following symptoms swelling on my index finger I had to switch to using a mouse left handed or find an alternative to using my index fingers to click. this was while working at a call centre with only click interface with not keyboard shortcuts.
IMO, touchpads and mice are just geared to the short learning curve. You can be productive sooner than with a touchpoint or trackball.
I'm a thinkpad trackpoint convert. Once I got over the practice curve, the trackpoint allowed me to be more productive. I like that it's in the center of the keyboard and doesn't pull my fingers away from the home row.
For at my desk, the trackball help me beat carpel tunnel. Of course, for graphics work, a mouse is hard to beat.
I have a few refurbed laptops and I can you touchpads only have so much life on them before they do dodgy.
I most agree with David's comments in September 2006. And there is a clear difference between trackpoint and any other pointing device that really does impact in a measurable way: You never have to move your hand from the keyboard, saving time and preventing needless distraction while working. Every time you move your hand to a mouse or touchpad, you have to refocus. With a trackpoint, you're always in the same place ready to type 80 wpm, and a wee nudge of the finger can put your pointer wherever you want it. I read about a study on programmers using trackpoint, done several years ago, and it saved them 10% of their time.
In addition, in applications that require precise movements like the "scary maze" game that's been on YouTube lately, it's much easier to control with a finger applying pressure to trackpoint than one sliding on a touchpad or a hand moving a mouse. The reason is that sometimes in movement you slip, whether due to inconsistent friction on the surface, not applying pressure consistently while moving (it's hard to do both at the same time, but it's necessary for steady movement on a touchpad), or just overestimating. But with a trackpoint, you're always just applying pressure to the same rough spot, so you can't slip, and what controls the movement is how much pressure you apply and how sensitive your settings are in the software.
Until I discovered trackpoint, my favorite pointing device was a trackball. That was after plenty of using mouses. Later I used touchpads on laptops of friends, until I got one of my own with trackpoint. In the end, trackpoint wins out.
Has anyone had trouble using the touchpad on the MacBook because of cold fingertips? Are the touchpads particularly sensitive to cold hands? My wife recently switch from PC to Mac and has trouble getting the touchpad to register. I, on the other hand with warmer hands, have no trouble at all. We'll get an external mouse for her to use when she's at home. But are there suggestions for solutions to this issue? Thanks.
The comparison really depends on the type of user. Users who have
strong typing skills prefer the Trackpoint, users who must
look at the keyboard to type prefer the trackPad. Users who have never used a TrackPoint-type device prefer the trackpad as their limited experience with a trackPoint has not allowed them to tackle the learning curve of the device.
The TrackPoint has a much steeper learning curve than a TrackPad, it
takes several hours of continuous usage to learn accuracy with a trackPoint. That being said, after accuracy is acquired, the two are not comparable, the trackpoint wins hands down for any user who knows how to type and offers still offers some advantages for non typists, though these may find the learning curve less worthwhile. There are two distinct advantages to the trackpoint:
1) The TrackPoint allows the user to shift seemlessly from typing to pointer control without moving the hands. The speed improvement that this allows is stupendous, no need to re-register the fingers when going from pointer to keyboard, the hands are always ready to either type or point. That being said, this is not a great advantage to those who do not have strong typing skills. For those who can type without looking at the keyboard, there is no comparison between the trackpoint and trackpad: the trackpoint wins hands down. For those who must look at the keyboard to type, they may opt for the trackpoint as they will regardless have to look at the keyboard for finger registration.
2) Movements can be performed with one action, no need to reset the finger position when performing actions like moving across a larger portion of the screen. This can be offset in the trackpad by setting the pointer speed to max, allowing you to traverse the screen with a single stroke.
If you can type w/o looking at the keyboard, get a TrackPoint-type device, you'll never ever go back to a touchpad device.
If you must look at the keyboard to type, stick with a TrackPad.
My old computer was a Thinkpad, and although I could use the trackpoint fairly well, it never came close to a mouse. Also, it had a tendancy to wander into a corner, which I really hated. It wasn't sensitive enough to use for games.
My newer computer has a trackpad (touchpad), and I find it a lot easier to use, more sensitive, although occasionally I will wander into the scroll area. I cannot use it for 3D gaming, though. But, at least with the palm setting on high, I rarely accidentally move the pointer.
For 3D games, nothing beats a mouse. I like a really high sensitivity on my mouse. And that's something that you can get used to. You just can't get that kind of accuracy with a mousepad or trackpoint. And if you have to hold down a modifier key while moving the pointer, it's very difficult with a touchpad. I prefer to use a mouse, and have my touchpad disabled. Fortunately, I can turn off my touchpad with just a couple of keys. There is enough room to use a mouse to the right or left of my touchpad, on the desktop replacement, although it may scratch the surface. Although my hands do get cramped sometimes from the mouse, there is just nothing I've found that I can use to move the pointer as accurately from point to point, or at a precise accelleration. And I'm a die-hard scroll-wheel fan. And as far as removing my right hand off homerow to move the mouse, well, that just isn't that big an issue. I've gotten used to it to the point where it doesn't even take a second to find homerow again.
But, I also use some keyboard shortcuts. Like the tab key to move from one field to the next, or switch between applications. I'll also use the arrow keys to move around in text. And shift key to select text. But selection of text is not nearly as fast as it is with the mouse. Except in rare situtations where it might actually be faster. But then, I also use the right mouse button to copy, paste, select, and delete. Whatever is easiest at the time.
I hate the touchpad. I want it gone. Not just disabled- it's uncomfortable to a touch typist- but gone.
I use an old T30 because it doesn't have a touchpad. I need the wrist-rest to reach 100wpm on a laptop.
I don't use an external mouse either. Ever.
I also hate the touchpad.
If i want the cursor to move in one direction, i don't think i should have to move my finger, pick it up, move it back to its original position, and repeat this process multiple times.
Simple as that. This is also why i hate the trackball.
The TrackPoint is precise, compact, motion efficient, generally fantastic, and I very much miss my TrackPoint empowered Thinkpad.
As others in this thread, I find a Touchpad coupled with a sensitive driver a delight to use. But would never try to use one with the wrong driver though they do work, however sluggishly.
1. I find the Macbook touchpad very sluggish, very insensitive (in comparison to the Dell C600 touchpad I was using with a Synaptics driver. Does anyone know of a better driver than one bundled with the latest Mac OS?
2. I am also using a Dell Latitude D610 and its touchpad is quite 'sticky' causing jerky movements at low speed (in comparison to the C600). I mean, is there a powder or a gell I need to know about to make it glide the way the C600 does?
Hey guys,, I am also one among who like the Track point more than the Track Pad..and I hate using external USB mouse in Laptop's .. (the use of external mouse looks sooo odd in laptop.. let's keep it only for desktop's)
well.. I uses IBM T43 and as all IBM's laptop it has got Track pad and track point.. i hardly remember that i ever touch the track pad ever since i got it. I find it a lot easier .. everything is possible by using track point.. you can scroll a lot easier than the traditional way of using track pad.
Track point won... :-)
I love trackpoint on my R61i
But I use my microsoft bluetooth laser mouse namally.
It's almost impossible to use Pro/Engineer with anything but a mouse. If I have no mouse I prefer the trackpoint; I can't work precisely enough with a touchpad ....
Hello out there,
I am a bed bound parapolige and fell lost without my TrackPoint "almost like I lost a member" And have been researching this subject of adding a TrackPoint not much luck yet! 'but a lot of Folk's would like this "After Market Add on" I know some type of interface is needed, but why
not go for the PS/2 port area on the M/B - IBM makes a external USB
keyboard with a Touch pad and A TRACKPOINT and these go into the USB
but I bet if I were to use a addaptor and plug into the PS/2 port "For Mice" would work also, Hence why is everyone that want and or really misses can't do without (Found a simple answer, as the driver's are out there, I understand these are small pressure transducer's =x?.
Hello! Anybody in here to get used to the trackpoint's feature "press to select". I find this very convinient in theory, but i cant achieve even 50% efficiency in clicking that way no matter how long i practice and whatever the settings i choose.
I intend to us it in drafting.
The trackpad is fine for everything else, but not for drafting.
I carry around a bluetooth mouse with my laptop...It's the better than the trackpoint or the touchpad; and no wires to boot.
However, if I was forced to choose, I would pick the trackpoint every time.
My wife recently returned her laptop to the office (she resigned). It was a ThinkPad T series with both the trackpoint and the touchpad. We bought one of the cheaper ThinkPad R61i's to replace it for surfing the web at the house.
To my horror (I didn't read the fine print) when I opened the box I found the R61i has no trackpad (only a trackpoint). I seriously have buyer's remorse now. I'm thinking about sucking up the $100 restocking fee and returning the thing.
I've used the new R series a couple of times and I keep feeling the blank space looking for the trackpad subconsciously. This has ruined everything ... I've had the new laptop for one day and I already hate it.
Count me among the people who must have a trackpoint. And, yes, I buy Thinkpads just to get the trackpoint. It's disturbingly like being hooked on reverse Polish and have to pay HP $100 for a calculator which otherwise is worth $1. No-one tell Lenovo huh....
Trackpoint always trackpoint. Here is why:
1. Never have to carry and connect an external mouse device to my Laptop - witch is the main argument for the touchpad freaks
2. Don't stress you hand and wrest to avoid accidental touching of the touchpad.
3. I can use my laptop on the road as passenger in the car or on the train or airplane. Come again touchpad freaks – you can pick your nose in stead.
Buy an IBM or Lenovo UltraNAV keyboard for your home stationary or the port replicator at work and then you don’t have to have the same mouse everywhere you don’t even have to have a mouse - I haven’t. At home I sit leaned back in my executive leather Office Chairs with my UltraNAV keyboard on my knees and here I can control the whole computer world of mine.
i think i'd probably enjoy the trackpoint if I had one. In fact, I plan on buying an older thinkpad (x31 or T40) as my next laptop. but in my experiences with touchpads, I usually dislike the ones that dell laptops have. they're always sticky and laggy, and if you move your finger all the way across it, it doesn't go all the way across the screen, which is really annoying to me. To me it makes physical sense for the touchpad to represent the dimensions of the screen (so if you move your finger across the touchpad, it'll move the arrow across the screen). My currently laptop is an old Compaq, which has a very nice touchpad that does represent the dimensions of the screen. being old, however, it doesn't have scrolling, which makes me kind of sad. but i'm used to it. My only other laptop was a really old AST, and it had a trackball. I wish they still made laptops with trackballs these days.
Ooooh, touchpads... my buddy's dad had a touchpad hooked up for a few weeks when I was a kid, and I remember it driving me up the friggin' wall, and I've never had much fun using other people's laptops either. My thinkpad, on the other hand, is a joy to work with, and I've never plugged in an external mouse because I find the trackpoint provides 90% of the accuracy without requiring a mousepad or ever bumping into the other junk on my desk.
Why are the fonts so awful on this page?
Add me to the camp that strongly prefers trackpoints to touchpads ;)
As many others who have had the chance to use a Thinkpad in the past, once you have gotten used to a Trackpoint, you've adopted it for life.
As a matter of fact, I found using a mouse quite awkward for the first few months when I switched to using a desktop and, until I discovered the Logitech mouseman 2, IMO the best mouse ever made, (I still use one on my old desktop), I preferred the trackpoint in that circa 1994 machine!
Unfortunately, as my needs grew and I found myself requiring a laptop again, after several years without one (my last laptop before my present one was the venerable, indestructible Toshiba 110CS with Trackpoint), I was very disappointed when I found that Toshiba dropped the trackpoint from all but it most expensive models, so I found myself with a nice widescreen Toshiba again, but with a horrible touchpad.
Believe me, I WANTED to like the touchpad. I worked a lot setting the synaptics driver correctly. But no matter what I did, this thing drove me nuts, to the point that for the first three months, I used my laptop very little and only, to make quick presentations. I've started using it again only when I discoveresd a nice wireless IR laptop mouse that is as accurate as my old mouseman, in a package that fits between my fingers :), but that's a work-around. I would much rather have a Trackpoint and if I could get a replacement keyboard with a trackpoint, I'd get one and frankly, I wouldn't mind if it cost me an extra $200 and the installtion.
In any case, the heart of the matter is, in reality, what works for you. Some touchpads may be better than others, and some trackpoints may be worse that those I've had the privilege to work with, but all comes down to how you like to work.
Moral of the story? If you intend to grab a bargain this black friday, make sure it's for a model you have actually tried in the store. Useability and ergonomics are very, very important when you spend most of the day in front of a computer, and pointing devices and keyboards are paramount to making your experinece enjoyable and productive rather than unpleasant and stressful.
I've been mystified for years watching people in Starbucks, libraries and other places frantically rubbing away at their touch-pads.
Stroking, cajoling ice-skating their way sloppily from one part of the screen to another. Their lovely new laptops soon had that worn-out, shiny look on the hand rest - ruining its appearance forever.
It never made sense - until now.
As an electronics manufacturing engineer - and long-time TrackPoint user - here are some points to consider.
1: Touchpads were cheaper to manufacture than TrackPoints and so quickly became the standard.
The thinking was - they could be schlepped out the door by the boatload – and if anyone complained how they worked – well too bad – they’d be a standard soon and tough noogies.
They even had to create special software to “teach” it some table-manners (burp!).
And so touch-pads became like the Internet Explorer - people thought they “preferred” it only because they were never allowed to try anything else.
2: The few remaining TrackPoint manufacturers are not created equal. Earlier models (and those from non-IBM suppliers) can’t compare to later model Thinkpad TrackPoints. There is simply no comparing their performance.
So take a minute to set the sensitivity speed to your taste and stop suffering.
3: If you’re not a touch-typist - but a hunt pecker - then you’d never appreciate the TrackPoint anymore than you’d appreciate the benefits of proper typing.
You're already ice-skating anyway, so what's a little more work - rubbing that magic lantern at the bottom of your keyboard ?
And who knows ? Someday a genie might appear - and grant you three wishes !
4: How could anyone not like a late-model TrackPoint that can repeatedly visit any spot on the screen on the first attempt - without overshooting, backing down the turnpike, asking the wife for directions and double parking near the fire-hydrant - before arriving at your destination ?
A TrackPoint drops you right on the street corner in one shot. Its like a Bic pen – writes first time – every time. (For those old enough to remember the TV commercial).
Besides - normal people wouldn't dream of ice-skating on the freeway.
Its just too damn dangerous.
Some good arguments in favour of the trackpoint, Cat, but touchpads are easier on the finger? I'm surprised by that.
While I haven't used trackpoints for anything more than a few minutes at a time, I'd already say I'm firmly in their camp because of my issues with touchpads. While they're technically fine, with modern laptops offering multi-touch gestures and scrolling, my fingers just can't cope with them. The constant rubbing of my fingertips against the pad's surface is horrible. It only takes a short browsing session before the sensation of numbness sets in, followed by a slight pain. Maybe it's partly a psychological thing, but I simply can't stand it.
I know I'm not the only one. I have a friend who often complains of suffering from touchpad finger after extended usage.
The question is... if trackpads aren't even finger-friendly, what benefits do they have?
- is more accurate
- requires less action/movement
- allows the user to keep palms and fingers on over the same place where they are. This is a big deal for touch typists and coders like me.
- easier on the finger
I use both: trackpoint for mouse movement, and touchpad for scrolling (all area of touchpad, not just the side).
A trackpoint is a must or me though.
BigJim mentioned the "sandpaper-like texture" of the trackpoint nub. The texture of the original nub makes me cringe (almost a fingernails on blackboard reaction) but for at least five years now thinkpads have shipped with a section of easily replaceable nubs. The two softer, rubber styles are much kinder to the fingertips, but do wear out and need to be replaced after about six months of heavy use. Fortunately, you can buy new ones for less than $1 US apiece.
I vote for the Trackpoint.
I know a lot of people don't like it because they aren't used to it. I say "Play a bit Counter Strike with the trackpoint", and you will see it works. And then try it with the touchpad :)
When I'm lying on a sofa, I have may thinkpad on my lap. In this possion it would be very inconvenient to use the touchpad.
trackpads are Evil with a capital "E". The pointer nipples popularized by Thinkpads are the only true pointing device, IMHO. I've used both extensively and I've become quite adept at both, and I HATE trackpads with a passion.
I prefer keyboard shortcuts over trackpads.
Re: Alastair - *and* iBooks - it's the Apple feature that's most ingrained itself into my muscle memory - I often two-finger-drag on my Windows laptop and wonder why nothing's happening...
I don't think I've *ever* used a USB mouse with my iBook...but I do find I have to disable 'tap to click', because I accidentally tap quite easily, causing the cursor to move (seemingly) at random while typing (doh!).
I use a Thinkpad T42, and I actually switch back and forth fairly seamlessly between the Trackpoint and the Touchpad. I use them both for various tasks. I keep the sensitivity turned up pretty high on my trackpoint, so I use it for winging around web-pages, etc. If I'm playing a game like Minesweeper or doing some precision drawing in Gimp then I use the touchpad for it's greater accuracy, but just for scrolling in web-pages the trackpoint is excellent. Why would you use the touchpad for scrolling when you can just balance pressure on the trackpoint and scroll without having to move your hand?
They both have their advantages, and I use them both. I also hardly *ever* break out the USB mouse that I lug around with me in my laptop bag -- that one usually only comes out for Unreal Tournament.
I don't know what I'm going to do when I have to get another laptop -- I don't want to shell out the cash for a Lenovo, but noone else really seems to offer a trackpoint + touchpad. :-\
Well.. I stopped using Mac after 6 years of horribly trackpad use souly because I wanted a trackpoint ones more. I love Mac design, I love MacOS X, and if it wherent for the trackpoint issue I would still use Mac.
Now I have Fujitsu-Siemens P1510... and unless Apple release something equal, I wont switch back.
I prefer trackpoint! (I *hated* it immediately after powering on my first thinkpad - but it *really* grew on me!)
Keyboard and mouse can be a better solution for certain mouse-sensitive applications like working in 3D/Graphics/Visualization apps, where very little typing is required, but nothing beats trackpoint when touch-typing!
The touchpad seems more like a torture device than an input device to me - I agree with just about every complaint written above about trying to use them for pointing, scrolling, clicking, dragging and dropping - and about accidental inputs from the wrists.
Swipe/gestures and multi-touch *are* very neat - but not neat enough to compensate for how terrible the touchpad is at pointing, and they still require your fingers to come off the home keys.
I would love to buy a macbook, if only I could have it with a TrackPoint! But I don't expect that to happen anytime soon :-/
P.S. I don't use trackpoint single-finger clicking, I do use trackpoint scrolling (via middle-mouse), and my pointer sensitivity is at maximum, with pointer acceleration enabled. I also use the "Soft Dome" cap.
It may sound as blasphemy to some of you here that would only use Trackpoints like myself, but if there is any lesson to be gained from this, I will be happy.
As I previously stated, at the time that this site did not require registration, when I posted under the name "Chris", back in November 2008, I came from a long time of Trackpoint use and hated the Touchpad literally for years before finally getting used to them (at least on my now three year old laptop).
Back near the end of 2009, I was looking for a replacement for my laptop. It was getting long in the tooth so to speak, after all, typing away for hours on end every day doesn't help keeping it in great condition. Every thing was starting to rub away, the case developed some small cracks and I was getting ominous disk errors.
So, for a replacement, I refused to consider any other laptops than those that had Trackpoint like devices and eventually settled on the HP 8730W, a top of the line at the time Workstation laptop.
Guess what happened: in the time that it took me to investigate getting a new laptop and the time I actually got it (4 months later), without noticing it, I finally got used to that darn Touchpad!!!
What happened? After extensive tweaking so it would respond in an acceptable manner to my natural gestural behaviour, use and habit finally got the best of my reservation and, after having forgotten my portable mouse once too many times, I finally got used to the Touchpad and can now pretty much use it for everything without having to concentrate on it at all! Talk about a complete reversal!
And guess what happened when I got the HP: I found out it was easier to use the Touchpad than the Trackpoint, even after extensive tweaking!
I do admit the Touchpad on the HP was a bear to adjust, because with a WUXGA screen, it is impossible to zoom from one side of the screen to another even with settings maxed out. It had to go into obscure windows acceleration algorithms to make it work in a decent manner (for more info, see this excellent Japanese site, translated here from Kanji to English, http://tinyurl.com/252eyjd )... Another thing on the HP, you cannot set the Touchpad and Trackpoint speed and acceleration parameters independently...
It may well be that the whole issue is due to the quality of software drivers, hardware and hardware revisions, especially when comparing vendors and revisions such as an old IBM and a newer HP, In any case I tried the Trackpoints on both my old Toshiba and my old Thinkpad and wouldn't you know... They felt just as clumsy...
Bottom line? It boils down to how close you can get your device to work in the most natural way possible, and use and force of habit, just like one can become proficient in a foreign language simply by using it everyday!
Have I come back to the Trackpoint after 6 months with the HP? Frankly, I haven't felt the need, and I don't even use a mouse anymore, even when making technical drawings! And the nice IBM nibs I bought to go with the HP Trackpoint? They've been sitting, unused, in their packaging ;)
Moral of the story? In reality, what's best for anyone is dependent on two factors: how you feel about a device when you first use it and how comfortable you have become with it. Just like one prefers one's old worn shoes than the shiny new ones that looked so good in the store ;)
I've used IBM Thinkpad laptops for over 15 years and as soon as I buy a new one the first thing I do is disable the touchpad - the trackpoint is vastly superior.
I have seen a lot of people attempt to use the trackpoint and to some people it's not intuitive, and I think that's the problem.
One poster on here, BigJim, is clearly one of those people who doesn't understand how it works - he said that the surface of it hurts the skin on his finger - the only way that could happen is if you're moving your finger on it - and, believe it or not, I have seen quite a lot of people attempt to use it like that - and they always say 'this thing is rubbish'. You never move your finger on a track point - you place it on there and you keep it completely still - as though it's glued in place - the dimples are there to prevent your fingers sliding off as you put pressure on in each direction. I've also seen people move the pointer to the scrollbars at the side - the way you used to do before mousewheels were invented... again, can't they figure out that if a scrollwheel is between the two buttons on a mouse and there's another button between the two main 'clicking' buttons on a Thinkpad - perhaps that might have something to do with scrolling? To me it's all very intuitive - and I'm no rocket scientist. If you take the time to figure out (or get someone else to show you) you will find, in every case, that the trackpoint is better thank the touchpad - it's faster, more accurate - and above all else saves you taking your fingers away from the home keys - but that's another point - the people I see unable to figure it out are the same people who can't touch-type and refuse to learn because they say they have their 'own system' - yeah, their own system that restricts them to typing about 20 words per minute with two fingers whilst most people who touchtype regularly can reach 100+ words per minute.
I'd like to agree with the people who have said that the lack of trackpoint is what prevents them switching to Mac. I will not even consider a Mac until they make one with a trackpoint - needing to use a touchpad or an external mouse is an immediate and absolute deal-breaker for me. I love my iPhone 4 and I'm led to believe they make pretty decent computers too - but I absolutely must have a trackpoint on a laptop.
Folks, it's entirely possible to use a TrackPoint on the Mac. You just need to buy the external Lenovo keyboard (sells for about $50) and ControllerMate (http://www.orderedbytes.com). It works like a champ. Better than on the original ThinkPad, even, since you can customize it more.
FWIW, I use the TrackPoint when typing, the mouse for browsing, and the Trackpad when the other two aren't available. It's fun to have multiple pointing devices.