Over the past several years, trackpads have come a long way. They’ve gone from being simple pointing devices to multi-touch interface systems that mimic (and in some ways improve) on capabilities previously exclusive to the mouse. As operating systems and hardware makers begin to support increased trackpad functionality, the usefulness of this previously limited interface increases.
Today, modern trackpad hardware (and operating systems) have been designed with the mobile user in mind. Multi-touch controls are typically built in, allowing the user to utilize gestures that can handle a variety of different tasks such as resizing a Web page or switching between multiple desktops. On OS X Lion, many of these gestures have been refined with an incredible amount added, allowing the user to achieve the same action with a swipe of their hand that would normally require several clicks of the mouse.
The mouse still remains the preferred device for interacting with games. While there have been some considerable improvements in trackpad technology, the mouse allows for pinpoint precision where it’s needed most. Graphics designers and others that deal in 3D environments are also somewhat bound to the mouse until a new interface that revolutionizes interaction is created in trackpad form. For some, there is the option of a 3D mouse, such as the SpaceNavigator by 3DConnexion.
The mouse itself has evolved considerably. No longer is it limited to button clicks and simple 2D scrolling. A new breed of mouse includes a touch-sensitive surface that allows you to replicate several of the gestures found on a trackpad. Apple’s Magic Mouse is one example of this kind of technology, with more on the way from several major hardware manufacturers. This marriage between mouse and trackpad may be an excellent solution for many users out there who seek the best of both worlds.
So, if you had to choose between one and the other today, which would you pick? Would you go for the gesture-friendly trackpad or the intuitive and precise mouse?