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How Apple Improved Usability With A Single Mostly Ignored Software Update

August 18, 2010

In six months with this MacBook Pro, I think I have acclimated pretty well to this other way of doing things. But there was one particular action or behavior that I hated. One reason that the package that is a MacBook wasn’t as complete as the competition, specifically a Thinkpad. That one action was the method for clicking and dragging.

On the Thinkpad, there is the Track Stick, Pointing Stick, whatever its called. Most people don’t spend the time required to get used to it, but once you do, it seems to be the most perfect pointing device. In fact, given the choice of an external mouse or the pointing stick, I will dump the mouse any day. It is so much more precise, quick, and useful that nothing else really could compare. The fact that I could have my index finger on the stick and my thumb on the mouse buttons allowed me to make intricate masks in Photoshop, drag and drop with ease, and select just the text I needed without any overlap.

Move over to the Mac, and that simple integration of man with machine was broken. Clicking and dragging became a chore. I had to either dumb myself down in Photoshop, or start carrying an external mouse. My knuckles were aching from pushing down that massive trackpad and dragging to grab a short piece of text. I was thinking I might have to get one of those external Thinkpad keyboards to get that efficiency back with the Mac.


But then a month or so ago, Apple changed the game. With a single feature that most people probably didn’t think twice about. Three Finger Dragging makes my one big complaint about this hardware just disappear. And I didn’t even pay attention to it until just a few minutes ago. I had been using it since the day the update was released and it came so natural. Its really incredible!!

Last night, I painted with a brush in Photoshop. With three fingers swirling around the Trackpad, I covered the area I needed just perfectly. Changing brush sizes with the keyboard shortcuts and back to dragging and I got exactly what I intended. Selecting text to copy into emails and documents works the first time with no sore knuckles. I was dragging files between folders in a Windows RDP session so effortlessly that I wasn’t missing that track stick at all.

Of course, now I wish the TrackPad was a little bit bigger, but the fact that I can leave the three fingers on the pad, then use the index finger of the other hand to continue the behavior means that the trackpad really has an infinite width and height. It has turned a pretty good piece of technology into what could be the most perfect pointing device ever, all with a single, mostly ignored software update.

MacBook Pro, I think I love you.

Now Apple, if you could just add the three finger tap to give me a middle click without having to use add-ons, I will be over the moon.

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