My daughter has her MacBook set up so that if she just taps on the trackpad it sees it as a click. Convenient. How can I enable this feature on my MacBook Air too?
I think most MacBook owners don’t realize just how sophisticated their interaction can be with that ubiquitous metal square just below their spacebar. For years people (myself included) have dreamed of a touchscreen MacOS X device, but so far Apple’s held out and while its phones and tablets are touch enabled, the most we Mac users can get is the Touchbar, which isn’t much compared to being able to touch the screen itself. Except that trackpad, which allows all sorts of gestures to gain advanced interaction capabilities, albeit without a corresponding image under your fingertips.
Apple also recognizes that the language of swipes and gestures is complicated to learn, so unlike any other System Preference in the entirety of MacOS X, the control panel for your Trackpad includes built in video tutorials on each gesture! Me? I’d think “if we have to teach people all of this right in the settings, maybe we need to rethink how it all works” but I don’t work at Apple and they’re not asking me for UI feedback this week either 🙂
One of the easiest changes that will make your MacBook Air easier to work with is definitely ‘tap to click’ so you don’t have to manually push down on the trackpad every time you want to click on or select something on screen. Easily done.
To start, get to the right system preference by using Spotlight. Command-[space] does the job. Then type in ‘trackpad’:
As you can see on the right side, the Trackpad system preference shows up, ready to (not tap on yet) click on!
So…. click on it.
Now the very first screen of the Trackpad settings will offer up that Tap to Click option:
You can see that the secondary click video micro-tutorial is playing on the right side of the window, but there are actually three Point & Click gestures available to enable on this screen: Look up & data detectors, Secondary click and Tap to click. You can also adjust how hard you need to push down to register a click (try ‘light’ if you find tap to click is too sensitive) and the tracking speed. A more interesting setting to experiment with is the haptic (sensory) feedback enabled with “Force Click and haptic feedback” option.
While we’re here, let’s have a quick peek at Scroll & Zoom too:
What I recommend is that you click on each then watch the tutorial video; if you don’t think you’ll ever use – or remember! – that gesture then uncheck the box and disable it. All of these scroll and zoom features seem pretty natural to me, it’s the “More Gestures” where it can get a bit weird:
Seriously, go through all these video tutorials and you’ll wonder if they’re going to end up having hand gestures inspired by the Netflix show The OA soon. Some are that confusing. You can also see that I enable just about none of them because I know I’m not going to do a pinch with thumb & three fingers gesture, for example. Your mileage will undoubtedly vary!
Pro Tip: I’ve been writing about the Mac operating system since it was OS9. Please check out my extensive (more than a 750 page book!) library of Mac help tutorials while you’re here. Thanks!