Touchpad vs. Trackpoint

When it comes to pointing devices on laptops, there are two schools of thought. There's the touchpad..

This is a companion discussion topic for the original blog entry at:
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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. :slight_smile:

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! :slight_smile:

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…

Thanks Jeff!

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. :frowning:

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.