The Magic Trackpad 2 and Better Touch Tool

Getting the new Magic Trackpad 2 led me to consider Force Touch on the Mac. I’ve had it on my MacBook for months and now I’ve got it on my iMac yet I rarely use it. I think this has a lot to do with options. On the Mac, you’ve already got a primary click, a secondary click, and a double click. Add to that the three finger tap and the existing gesture library in OS X and you begin to wonder what you’re supposed to do with a Force Touch. (Jason Snell and Myke Hurley have been talking about this on recent episodes of Upgrade.) I think Apple has the same questions because most of the force touch features are actions already accomplished with some other type of tap. 

Then I got thinking about what I could do with Force Touch if I could set the Force Touch actions. This is possible on the Mac using BetterTouchTool. BetterTouchTool is an amazing Mac utility from Andreas Hagenberg. It is donationware–and if you use it you should donate–and it is awesome. BetterTouchTool lets you set custom gestures with your trackpad to perform actions on your Mac. (BetterTouchTool also works with the Magic Mouse, normal mice, keyboard, Apple Remote, Leap Motion, and the BetterTouchTool iPhone app.) BetterTouchTool is flexible. The application recognizes just about anything you could do with up to five digits and a trackpad. If you want a gesture where tap across the trackpad like drumming your fingers, BetterTouchTool can accommodate you. You can even add custom gestures that trigger when you draw a shape on the trackpad. 

Either way, once triggered, BetterTouchTool can execute a keyboard combination or perform a system action. For example, when I four finger tap, BetterTouchTool toggles the DragonDictate microphone on and off again.

So I’ve been experimenting with Force Touch and BetterTouchTool and come up with some pretty nice custom actions:

  • When I Force Touch on the lower-left or lower-right portion of the Magic Trackpad 2, My Mac optimizes the current active app for the left or right side of the screen.
  • Force Touching the upper left corner of the trackpad toggles fullscreen mode for the currently active application on and off.
  • A four finger Force Touch sleeps my screen and a five finger Force Touch sleeps my iMac.
  • A three finger Force Touch toggles the play/pause button, which comes in handy when the phone rings.

I guess my point is that while Force Touch on the Mac is clever, it really comes into its own when you combine it with BetterTouchTool. Try it for yourself and let me know what works for you. I’m going to do a follow up post with some user submitted BetterTouchTool recipes soon.