Multitouch on the MacBook Air and Beyond

Discussion in ' News Discussion' started by MacRumors, Jan 18, 2008.

  1. macrumors bot


    Apr 12, 2001

    With the introduction of the MacBook Air, Apple has introduced a full multi-touch trackpad into their laptop line. Now, this has actually been a more gradual introduction than has been suggested, since the MacBook trackpads have long been able to recognize two points of contact. A very popular short-cut available to MacBook owners is the two-finger scroll. By placing two fingers on the trackpad and moving up/down or left/right, users have been able to quickly scroll through Mac OS X windows. Apple also offers various trackpad tap and drag options, though these are disabled by default.

    With the introduction of the MacBook Air, Apple has added three brand new gestures to the MacBook trackpad. The gestures include:


    And reintroduced us to the more advanced trackpad tap and drag features that are available on current MacBooks:


    The new gestures work in existing Apple applications such as Finder, iPhoto and Safari, but carry slightly different functionality in each application. This Youtube video is one of the best demonstrations on how to use these new gestures in these applications, including showing how one can use the "swipe" gesture to drill down and up different folder levels in Finder. In my brief time playing with the new MacBook Air, it became clear that you would quickly become used to these useful shortcuts.

    The basis of Apple's multi-touch trackpad is the gesture language pioneered by Fingerworks for their multi-touch devices. Fingerworks was acquired by Apple in July 2005, and has been continuing their work. Apple has clearly simplified the number of available gestures to shorten the learning curve, but it opens up the possibility for Apple to add more gesture shortcuts for common tasks, such as copy, paste, expose, and spaces.

    The availability of multi-touch input on the Mac also opens up the possibilities for innovative new applications and games, such as this concept multi-touch skateboarding game. We have also heard that Apple is planning on incorporating the multi-touch trackpad in future MacBooks, such as the impending MacBook Pro revisions. It's unclear if existing MacBooks and MacBook Pros trackpads can be upgraded to incorporate this new behavior.

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  2. macrumors 6502a

    Manic Mouse

    Jul 12, 2006
    They could be, as the current trackpad can tell the difference between one, two and three fingers (try it). But knowing Apple they wont allow us to use it, and will instead force us to buy a new laptop for something our current ones can do.

  3. macrumors 6502

    Nov 30, 2005
    I seriously doubt that they could. I think the current trackpad can tell the location of a touch and the size of the object touching — enough information for the scroll and right click taps on current MacBooks and MacBook Pros but not enough for MacBook Air style gestures where you need to be able to tell two independent finger locations.
  4. macrumors 68020


    Sep 21, 2006
    Glasgow, Scotland
    Thanks Arn for teaching me about 'Screen Zoom'!
  5. macrumors 68020

    Aug 10, 2006
    I think they probably can - for example, my MBP trackpad can do the 2-finger scroll whether my fingers are together or at opposite sides of the pad (try it yourself), so it must be able to sense independent finger positions and isn't just going on contact size.
  6. arn
    macrumors god


    Staff Member

    Apr 9, 2001
    Can it distinguish 3?

  7. macrumors newbie

    Sep 10, 2007
    i hope i am wrong but have to agree with you. my basic logic is if the old mbp and mb trackpad is capable it would have been done by now and the release of leopard would have been perfect to incorporate it. but since they didnt its, 1. not possible hardware wise 2. not wanting to for marketing purposes.(apple does stuff like this for marketing and lineup reasons)3. and i hope this is the case....that they were just too busy with leopard 10.5.0 to incorporate it. and at the same time it wont steal mba's thunder now that its been presented.

    ive got my fingers crossed for 10.5.2:)
  8. macrumors regular

    Sep 7, 2007
    Really Manic Mouse? Do you really feel that way? I've never felt Apple forcing me to upgrade. I'm using Tiger on a G4 466 and it works great.
  9. macrumors 6502a

    Manic Mouse

    Jul 12, 2006
    If I put one finger on it moves the mouse. Two fingers make it scroll (even if they're far apart) and three fingers does nothing. So the trackpad can tell the difference between them, it can tell when I have three fingers on it but there's nothing coded for it to do.

    They could easily incorporate the three finger stuff on the current trackpads. Not sure about the separate finger stuff like flipping photos (but the fact that two finger scrolling can be separate means they might be able to).

    I said forcing you to upgrade to get something your current computer can do, not forcing you to upgrade full stop. Isn't there a history of Apple sometimes disabling or not enabling things via software that they could to encourage you to buy a better computer?

    Like the hacks that allowed you to get two finger scrolling on computers that Apple claimed couldn't do it. I think this may be similar situation, that the current trackpads probably have the hardware to do most of this stuff and it's a software issue.
  10. macrumors 6502a


    May 18, 2005
  11. macrumors regular

    Feb 3, 2007
    Ive been thinking the same thing too re the multi touch gestures. Could be new hardware tech but then there are drivers out there that add a lot capabilities to standard mice/pads.
    And if possible, would Apple provide the software update free??

    edit: bodeh6 beat me to it!
  12. macrumors 6502a

    Manic Mouse

    Jul 12, 2006
    It would be very nice if remote disc and multi-touch gestures were in 10.5.2 :D
  13. macrumors newbie

    Jan 18, 2008
    Hi well this is my first post after reading mac rumors for a couple of years. Any way, I bet it's going to cost money(maybe). But the trackpad's on mb's and mbp's and even pb 12,15,17(late 05). Should be able to do three fingers. I bet it will cost money or yes like other people maybe in 10.5.2?? I hope so apple charging would be kind of stupid. But I would pay for it since it would make my mbp updated with the airs features in terms of trackpad. Also we will also see if someone writes firmware/software to enable the third finger gestures. It's been done with old ibooks and powerbooks when it wasn't added to them(Two finger gestures). I forgot what's it's called again....
  14. macrumors newbie

    Jan 18, 2008
    Manic Mouse I agree with you 100% remote disc and multi touch should be added in 10.5.2 or! as a upgrade disc that would be amazing.
  15. macrumors 6502


    Oct 24, 2007
    Over the hills and far away...
    It would be cool if there was a preference pane that allowed you to link your own keystrokes to gestures to allow you to use the multitouch in non-apple applications
  16. macrumors 6502

    Nov 30, 2005
    But the hardware doesn't report two independent presses, it reports the average. That's because many implementations can't reliably sense two independent presses (e.g. if you place two fingers on the same horizontal, even if apart, then it can't locate them independently), so the average is a useful abstraction.
  17. macrumors newbie

    Jan 18, 2008
  18. macrumors 6502


    Sep 14, 2006
    Birmingham, UK
    Yes, it would be good. But it wouldn't be for a long time even if they do. Those new features are part of the macbook air at the moment and they will only keep them there to sell it. it's marketing.
    a similar thing happened with the 5g ipod and ipod classic. They are both exactly the same hardware wise, but apple have kept the newer gui on the clasic so that you have more of a reason to buy the classic and not keep your 5g.
  19. macrumors 6502a


    Aug 14, 2006
    Nice one!
  20. macrumors 6502a

    Sep 18, 2006
    Prestatyn, Wales, UK
    really, so in theory i could hack the classic software to run on my 5g?
  21. macrumors member

    Jun 11, 2007
    Sadly, I think you may right, although I was surprised to discover that even my old PowerBook G4 supports gesture based option clicking and zooming. Two-fingered scrolling is not supported though, which is odd given that the trackpad is obviously capable of it, which suggests that Apple may not retroactively enable such features on older hardware.

    I'd love to see an external multi-touch trackpad accessory that can be used with desktop Macs as well as laptops though. Something matching the design of the new iMac keyboard would be great, although probably unlikely as Apple won't want to release it and third parties may not be able to access the necessary features in Leopard. Is there even a standard USB profile for this kind of thing?
  22. macrumors newbie

    Oct 28, 2007
    so i wonder how long it will be b4 someone cracks this software and the remote disc and makes it available for the mb and the mbp's?
  23. macrumors regular

    Apr 25, 2005
    I dont think they can add RemoteDisc, its not backward compatible, not atleast in full version.
    It allows you to boot over wifi, so this is prob new hardware feats that we will see in future macbooks and mbp.
  24. macrumors 6502


    Apr 14, 2005
    São Paulo - Brasil
    And I would gladly pay for it!
  25. macrumors 65816


    Jun 15, 2007
    HAHA! Quoted for post of the day right there. ;)

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