You remember when Apple called the iPad magical? That was a marketing thing. Last week I tested the new MacBook Pro which features a little thing called Force Touch in the Trackpad – and its magic.
When Tim Cook unveiled the new Macbook early last month, it was a pretty impressive bit of kit. They’d done a lot of work to get the batteries down in size to fit in, they even had to re-design the way the keys worked on the keyboard.
One other thing they did was talk about a new design and set of features around the trackpad. Who knew that was something which could be re-designed.
Apple had to take a second look at it, because quite frankly it wouldn’t fit into the new MacBook.
The old mechanism was the one you might be familiar with, you press it and it tilts down at the front and underneath there’s a couple of buttons being pressed. Ok, that’s over-simplifying it, but you get the gist.
The way I use a trackpad is to enable the “touch” to click function. And I enable the secondary right-click with a two finger touch. I don’t normally use the press to click.
When I setup the new MacBook Pro I was playing with the settings and found a sensitivity setting for the click. You can drag the settings for the click itself from Light through Medium up to Firm.
Now this is the first bit of magic. Because that actually works. You can feel it happen in real-time. A light click means a very light press is all you need to activate a left-click. And you can immediately feel the change when you drag it over to Firm.
Then there’s the next option to enable “Force Click” and haptic feedback. Haptic feedback is something you’ll find in almost all smartphones and tablets, it’s that vibration that you feel when you tap a key on a keyboard on-screen.
Force click allows you to push down harder on the trackpad and activate a range of features (more on that soon – for now, lets talk magic). No matter if the click pressure is light or firm, the deeper press down is a much more obvious feeling as if there are two steps that the trackpad is being pushed over.
What Apple have done is bring all that together to mess with your mind – literally. This is the magic.
The trackpad doesn’t move down. Nope, it never moves down.
You can push down all you like, it never actually moves down.
I didn’t conduct any scientific tests or slow-mo videos to prove it, I’m taking Apple’s word for that, the fact is it’s all smoke and mirrors – magic.
By enabling haptic feedback, you’re enabling a tiny vibration which shifts the trackpad laterally but never are you actually pushing down.
It’s mind-blowing. I’m typing this now on my own MacBook Air, and when I press down on the trackpad I can see it move, it tilts down at the front.
So, why? After creating the hardware and software to make all this happen, what advantage did Apple create from this new bit of kit. At a glance, you can look at four ways this new Trackpad and Force Touch can be used.
Because the trackpad can detect pressure, there’s going to be a range of new Stylus’ created which will allow designers to do more accurate designs using the trackpad, and for things like signatures or handwriting in apps.
Not something we can see a lot of just now, but without question this will come.
Have you ever tried to drag a frame to a new location, or perhaps align a design element with a ruler location or guide in photoshop. If the app allows it, you could use a single click and drag to the item, and then because the software knows where you want the item to fall, it can offer up a haptic feedback vibration when you’re in place – so you can actually get a feeling from the app and mouse location.
I think Photoshop is the best application for this I can think of, at the moment though the best way to see (and feel) it happening is in the finder window if you drag the sidebar across.
If you’re watching a video, you can set a few different fast-forward speeds (try it watching a video pressing J, K and L).
That gives you 2x, 4x, 8x, 16x, 32x speed – this is the next magic. With Force Touch enabled you can push down on the trackpad in any number of increments. With Video – there’s five “increments”. You can press down to fast forward, press harder to speed it up, press even harder for more and so on.
Seriously, that’s weird, and it messes with your mind.
Like all these things and as with many Apple device innovations, the real benefit will come when App developers start finding ways to put these new ideas to good use.
Of course, being your primary pointing device there’s a bit to be learned here. Firstly, the tap to click function becomes redundant when you have the option to set a light click and change the sensitivity. If you have them both on, it’s nothing short of confusing.
Aside from the ability to change the pressure which is required to enable a left-click, the Force Touch is something new.
With a deeper press down on the touchpad you can do a range of things.
Force Touch on a word in a document or website and you’ll get a Dictionary lookup.
Click on a location to show the map, lookup people’s names or even render a preview of a website when Force Touching a link.
It really does take some time to get used to, your mind has worked a certain way for some time. From the original mouse, to the first basic trackpad, not much has changed. What Apple have done here is created additional functionality to the basic trackpad.
I can’t wait to see what software developers do with the feature.
Force Touch is available on updated MacBook Pro models, as well as the new Macbook (Available April 10).