Multi-touch = ditch the Mouse?

mouse.gifI pined for a 2-button trackpad button for years. PCs have them, plus they have scroll zones. I added software to my PowerBooks to enable scrolling, but it wasn’t until I laid fingers on the MacBooks did I feel how intuitive multi-finger scrolling and clicking can be. I ditched my travel mouse.

Alas, our desktops are still plagued by these pesky rodents.


wkb-4000us-1.jpgDigging around, you can find desktop keyboards that integrate trackpads. While they aren’t all that much to look at, they do get the job done, except for one crucial factor… multi-touch. Once you’ve tried it, you really don’t want to go back.

Apple has a pretty slick tutorial showing the many capabilities multi-touch offers when integrated into a keyboard’s trackpad- as on a laptop.

Trackpad Gesturestutorialsjob.jpg

[the] multi-touch trackpad lets you navigate your applications more efficiently. Two-Finger Scroll, Three Finger Swipe, Pinch and Expand, Rotate, Screen Zoom, Swipe Tap, Click and Drag, Drag and Lock, Secondary Click A, Secondary Click B…

The tutorial is slow and deliberate and in no way demonstrates the fluidity and speed at which things get done when you don’t have to constantly pull your hand away from the keyboard to move the cursor. Moreover, adding numerous capabilities to two-finger scrolling expands the repertoire I already love. After using two-finger scroll, and using two fingers to provide the “right-click” I quickly realized that I wanted that on my desktop as well. But a search for a trackpadded keyboard with multitouch is for naught.

Adesso makes the “trackpadded” keyboard above. several others make full-size keyboards. But I rarely have need for the numeric keypad, and would more prefer to get that desktop real estate back. In essence, after having used my laptop as a desktop replacement for a couple years, I am quite certain that I don’t need the extended keyboard. I just need what I see in front of me when I use my laptop.keypadjog.jpg

If I was desperate for a numeric keypad for whatever reason, numerous USB numeric keypads can be added to the computer on an as-needed basis. Say, if I’m doing a lot of numeric entry into a spreadsheet or something (which I never do.)

bellakbdjog.jpgLaptops prove that people can get along without all the extra keys on an “extended” keyboard. That’s why it’s called extended. It’s extra, and in most cases, superfluous. Even those keyboards that are designed specifically for video production, like the Bella keyboard, make no use of the numbers in the numeric keypad. On laptops, the Home, End, Page Up, Page down keys are available on top of a reduced size set of arrow keys. A decent compromise.

airkbd.jpgSo a very usable and, in my opinion, speedy way of working (because you don’t have to keep reaching for a mouse) would be to rip the keyboard off a MacBook and make it available as a bluetooth device that can be used with any machine- even a laptop.

With today’s laptops having nearly every bit of power as desktops, I’ve seen producers use a laptop as their desktop. They close the lid, hook up all the cables, and, aside from access to the optical drive, that tiny laptop might as well be stuffed into a rack- something I’ve discussed before at length.

Another very nice feature if the laptop keyboards (I haven’t used the MacBook or Air long enough to say their chicklet keyboards have this) is that thy are very nice and quiet. scopebox.jpgThis makes editing long into the night a little less fatiguing when there isn’t the constant clatter of plastic keys on a big keyboard. There is little reason for keyboards to make so much noise. Tactile feedback is enough when editing and out ears should be focusing on the program in front of us. Or, if using some computer based tool to log and capture video footage in the same room as it is being shot– having an ultra-quiet keyboard is very advantageous.

So let us hold out hope that some manufacturer puts multi-touch and a reduced size keyboard together into one package for us. Wireless and wired versions for those who hate wires, and for those of us who prefer the security of wired connections (and avoid any RF interference.)pwrjog.jpg

Oh, and please include a Power key.
With computers tucked out of the way, or laptop screens closed over the keyboard, there is no other way to start the machine up. Top right on the laptop keyboard is the power button. Any replacement keyboard needs to include this absolutely essential functionality.

For no reason anyone can fathom, Apple has deemed this item as “inappropriate” despite the fact that they try to put it in their own monitors, and on the front panel of the computer itself. Difficult workarounds when the first solution was the best- put the bower button on the keyboard. That’s the HUI that the used needs the most. Apple might as well have taken the “e” key and put it on the monitor. Dumb.

So there you have it. The next wave of keyboards- that make separate mouse controllers unnecessary, take up less desk space, and help make you more efficient. Time to ditch the mouse.


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