Shorty after Apple’s Magic Trackpad came out, I figured I’d give it a shot to see if it would make a difference. My hope was that with the variety of ways to interact with it, the work of controlling that blasted cursor could be shared by all the phalanges and not just Mr. Pointer, whom I believe is the main culprit of my RSI.
If you’ve used any of Apple’s recent laptops, then you’ll already be familiar with the gestures and use of the trackpad, which is essentially what it is — a detached 5″x5″ notebook trackpad. The device runs on two AA batteries, and the battery life is quite impressive. I’ve been using it as my primary device for three months now and it still has 50% life on the batteries that shipped with the unit. Compare that to recharging every-other day with my mouse.
Back to the question of RSI. After three months of use, I’ve noticed a significant decrease in pain. Notice: I’m not a doctor, and make no claims beyond personal experience. It does take a little getting used to, especially when working in apps such as Photoshop and Fireworks (click-drag in particular takes practice). I believe there are a couple changes in interaction that led to the pain reduction.
With a mouse, I’ve found I rest my wrist on either the desktop or a cushioned mouse-pad, and tend to move the mouse by twisting my wrist while leaving my forearm stationary. I know this is incorrect mousing, but when I’m not paying attention, it’s what I do. With the trackpad, I’m making use of more full-hand gestures with less motion at the wrist.
With a mouse, almost all interaction is done with the dominate pointer finger. With the trackpad, and depending on your settings, primary clicks can be done by compressing the lower-left corner of the trackpad using any part of the hand. There is also the option of enabling touch-clicking, which allows a light tapping on any part of the trackpad from any finger to act as a click. This spreads the workload considerably. Likewise, right-click can be done by either compressing the lower-right of the device, or by a two-finger touch anywhere on the device. These changes in clicking habits has proven the most beneficial in my case.
I’ll admit, I do keep my trusty ol’ Logitech mouse nearby, but I’m using the trackpad 99% of the time. I still use my mouse occasionally to switch-up which motions I’m using to interact with the GUI. Also, I’m not much of a gamer, so I can’t speak to that aspect of it. For my daily use, it has definitely taken over as my primary pointer peripheral and I recommend that anyone with RSI at least give it a shot.