Digging deeper into Force Touch and the Magic Trackpad 2

Yesterday’s article about the Magic Trackpad 2 introduced its features and explained how to get started. I have now found some additional tools intended to get better use from its Force Touch feature, which I describe here.

As OS X currently stands, for an app to make specific use of the additional features of the new trackpad, its developers have to add that support to their products. There are, though, a few tools which you can use to customise your trackpad’s settings, and to configure them to better effect in apps which do not have specific support.

Signing and doodling with Autograph

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The simplest of these, which works with all trackpads and many other input devices, is Ten 1 Design’s Autograph ($6.95 or less). It installs itself in the menu bar, and when you want to use it, provides a floating drawing pane over your current window, into which you can draw your signature or anything else. Once complete, and provided that the underlying window supports pasted graphics, your signature or other drawing will then be placed.

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This is quite different from adding a secured digital signature, but a good way of placing the image of a real signature (or doodle, sketch, or logo) very quickly.

Pressure control and absolute position with Inklet

Ten 1 Design also offers the more sophisticated Inklet 2 ($24.95 or less), which adds support for pressure control to most paint and draw apps, including Adobe Photoshop, Pixelmator, and Mischief. It also converts the trackpad surface from relative positioning to absolute, to make drawing easier. It too installs itself into your menu bar. When you want to engage its features, you drag from left to right along the bottom edge of the trackpad.

ten1paneTo allow Inklet to function you also have to consent to it taking control of your apps, in the Security & Privacy pane. Once that is done, and you have watched its brief explanatory video, you can set its preferences up.

Although designed to support Ten 1 Design’s Pogo stylus, Inklet 2 will work well with most other suitable stylus, and fingers. I tried it with a clutch of pens which are compatible with the Magic Trackpads, which excludes products for Wacom and other graphics tablets.

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Inklet’s preferences allow you to configure tablet controls on a generic and per-app basis. It central controls are in the Drawing tab, where you set its trigger for drawing, and pressure sensitivity. You will almost certainly need to tweak those as you become accustomed to using it. If you find it hard to draw, or there is insufficient pressure sensitivity, then adjust those settings rather than giving up.

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Inklet uses the four edges of the tablet as special controls, or ‘virtual sliders’. These can be customised on a generic and per-app basis in the Virtual Sliders tab. All three default sliders are excellent: Undo allows you to quickly step back through the undo chain, Zoom changes the magnification when supported by the app, and Brush Size provides a very quick way of adjusting your brush.

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I set these up to provide basic support for Mischief (App Store), and had a quick test to see how well Inklet works with an app which does not yet have its own support for Force Touch pressure control. Particularly when tuned for use with a suitable stylus, Inklet is hugely beneficial. In the sketch below, the marks on the left, of uniform thickness, were made using the trackpad alone, and those on the right were made using a stylus with Inklet, showing the pressure control in action.

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Inklet works with a wide range of apps, including Adobe Photoshop and Pixelmator, and can be configured to work with many others. If you draw and have a Magic Trackpad 2, it is an obvious choice.

Fine tuning and learning with BetterTouchTool

The final app which I have found to provide special support for Magic Trackpad 2 features is Andreas Hegenberg’s free BetterTouchTool. This runs as an app from your menubar, and requires you to enable its controls in the Security & Privacy pane.

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It provides two levels of configuration for your trackpad: a basic group of settings including sensitivity, and more advanced controls over pressures needed to generate normal clicks and Force Clicks. Although I am loathe to fiddle with these, you may find them helpful.

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For me, the most valuable component in BetterTouchTool is tucked away at the lower left of its Gestures tab. This opens a window which provides a live view of the pressure and click state of your trackpad: an excellent training aid which gives the feedback necessary to improve your control and success with the device.

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If you have a Magic Trackpad 2 and want to get the most out of it, I suspect that you will want all three of these utilities. They are hardly costly, and could save you from having to use a larger graphics tablet, with its attendant driver issues.