Apple finally got the trackpad right when they made it glass, multi-touch, and entirely clickable; but it gets even magic-er with a little customization courtesy of Better Touch Tool.
Apple natively offers some (limited) customization of trackpad gestures, but the free application BetterTouchTool deserves credit for making the hardware as useful as it is. BTT allows you to assign commands to 50+ gestures – from ‘5 finger swipe down’ to ‘3 finger tip-tap left’ – and better yet, assign unique gestures to unique applications. BTT also implements the pretty useful ‘Snap’ feature found in Windows 7, used to view two windows side by side (which I find very useful when comparing or transcribing data).
My favorite implementation of BTT is in Chrome; where four finger swipes left and right move me between tabs and three finger swipes up and down create and close tabs. I also use it to control Spaces (five finger tap to view all, ‘tip finger swipe’ to switch between) which allowed me to actually enjoy the benefits spaces without having to wait for OSX Lion. Other cool features are ‘Live View’; a window that shows you’re finger motions on a virtual trackpad and the command that is recognized (so you can practice your ‘tip-taps’ and ‘tip swipes’), and you can easily toggle BTT on and off from the taskbar in case you have to share your mac with your clumsy fingered roomate.
The trackpad has come quite a long way (and has definitely destroyed its portable-input-device competition) and while it may not yet be ideal for gaming, graphic design, and other involved processes, it adds significant value over the mouse in everyday tasks; like web, editing documents, and viewing media, and may even beat out the mouse and become the input method of choice for the everyday user. I mean IBM definitely never created a desktop version of their ThinkPad’s little red dot…