I've had "wireless multi-touch trackpad" at the top of my person Apple wishes for several years now, so I was thrilled at Apple's announcement announcement of the Magic Trackpad yesterday. The announcement itself was somewhat hidden amongst announcements of updates to the iMac series, which now have faster processors and better graphics capabilities, but the Magic Touchpad is of special interest to users with disabilities.
From Apple's website:
Desktop users, your time has come. The new Magic Trackpad is the first Multi-Touch trackpad designed to work with your Mac desktop computer. It uses the same Multi-Touch technology you love on the MacBook Pro. And it supports a full set of gestures, giving you a whole new way to control and interact with what's on your screen.
And by "full set of gestures" they really mean all of them - this device uses the same preference pane as the MacBook touchpads use. This is fantastic news especially for iMac and Mac Pro users who use the VoiceOver screen reader, as the revolutionary "touchpad as screen" where you can control the screen reader using gestures like an iPhone or iPad.
Daniel Rowe, from the MacVisionaries group - a mailing list for blind Mac users, took the plunge yesterday and bought himself a Magic Trackpad. He said:
I've only used VO [VoiceOver] with multi-touch trackpads briefly before as I have an iMac. But because I use the iPhone I could see the benefits such an interface would bring to Mac OS.
Having spent nearly two days with the trackpad, I personally thing that it is the best thing to happen in assistive technology recently. To be able to visualise how things are laid out on the screen is just amazing. It's larger size is also an advantage. It has really changed the way how I use my Mac and I won't be going back to using the numpad commander unless I have to.Daniel Rowe
He mentions the larger size - I can't find any specific dimensions on Apple's website but from looking at their photos of the Magic Trackpad beside a bluetooth keyboard and judicious use of a ruler on my own Apple bluetooth keyboard I think the active area on the Magic Trackpad must be close to 11cm by 11cm, or just under 4 1/2 inches in either direction. That's a lot larger than the MacBook trackpads, which should also help those who have trouble with fine motor control, or find making small gestures difficult for any reason. Reviewers on the Apple website also mention it makes it possible to use two hands to make gestures needing more that one finger.
The Magic Trackpad also has a physical click (the entire trackpad depresses if you click it) as well as a tap-to-click, either of which can be enabled or disabled as desired. Many other features can be customised to fit the users needs and preferences too. I'm sure I'll be writing more about the options and set-up when mine arrives, but until then here's a peek at the preference pane:
The Magic Trackpads seem to be available from all Apple stores around the world immediately (including online stores), but those countries served by non-Apple-branded stores will have to wait a few weeks. The Australian online Apple store is shipping these currently and estimating 24hr delivery time, for example, but my local Mac-licensed stores are estimating the end of July as the earliest they'll have stocks available.
-- Ricky Buchanan