a companion discussion area for blog.codinghorror.com

Touchpad vs. Trackpoint


BigJim mentioned the “sandpaper-like texture” of the trackpoint nub. The texture of the original nub makes me cringe (almost a fingernails on blackboard reaction) but for at least five years now thinkpads have shipped with a section of easily replaceable nubs. The two softer, rubber styles are much kinder to the fingertips, but do wear out and need to be replaced after about six months of heavy use. Fortunately, you can buy new ones for less than $1 US apiece.


I vote for the Trackpoint.

I know a lot of people don’t like it because they aren’t used to it. I say “Play a bit Counter Strike with the trackpoint”, and you will see it works. And then try it with the touchpad :slight_smile:

When I’m lying on a sofa, I have may thinkpad on my lap. In this possion it would be very inconvenient to use the touchpad.


trackpads are Evil with a capital “E”. The pointer nipples popularized by Thinkpads are the only true pointing device, IMHO. I’ve used both extensively and I’ve become quite adept at both, and I HATE trackpads with a passion.

I prefer keyboard shortcuts over trackpads.


Re: Alastair - and iBooks - it’s the Apple feature that’s most ingrained itself into my muscle memory - I often two-finger-drag on my Windows laptop and wonder why nothing’s happening…

I don’t think I’ve ever used a USB mouse with my iBook…but I do find I have to disable ‘tap to click’, because I accidentally tap quite easily, causing the cursor to move (seemingly) at random while typing (doh!).


I use a Thinkpad T42, and I actually switch back and forth fairly seamlessly between the Trackpoint and the Touchpad. I use them both for various tasks. I keep the sensitivity turned up pretty high on my trackpoint, so I use it for winging around web-pages, etc. If I’m playing a game like Minesweeper or doing some precision drawing in Gimp then I use the touchpad for it’s greater accuracy, but just for scrolling in web-pages the trackpoint is excellent. Why would you use the touchpad for scrolling when you can just balance pressure on the trackpoint and scroll without having to move your hand?

They both have their advantages, and I use them both. I also hardly ever break out the USB mouse that I lug around with me in my laptop bag – that one usually only comes out for Unreal Tournament.

I don’t know what I’m going to do when I have to get another laptop – I don’t want to shell out the cash for a Lenovo, but noone else really seems to offer a trackpoint + touchpad. :-\


Well… I stopped using Mac after 6 years of horribly trackpad use souly because I wanted a trackpoint ones more. I love Mac design, I love MacOS X, and if it wherent for the trackpoint issue I would still use Mac.

Now I have Fujitsu-Siemens P1510… and unless Apple release something equal, I wont switch back.


I prefer trackpoint! (I hated it immediately after powering on my first thinkpad - but it really grew on me!)

Keyboard and mouse can be a better solution for certain mouse-sensitive applications like working in 3D/Graphics/Visualization apps, where very little typing is required, but nothing beats trackpoint when touch-typing!

The touchpad seems more like a torture device than an input device to me - I agree with just about every complaint written above about trying to use them for pointing, scrolling, clicking, dragging and dropping - and about accidental inputs from the wrists.

Swipe/gestures and multi-touch are very neat - but not neat enough to compensate for how terrible the touchpad is at pointing, and they still require your fingers to come off the home keys.

I would love to buy a macbook, if only I could have it with a TrackPoint! But I don’t expect that to happen anytime soon :-/

P.S. I don’t use trackpoint single-finger clicking, I do use trackpoint scrolling (via middle-mouse), and my pointer sensitivity is at maximum, with pointer acceleration enabled. I also use the “Soft Dome” cap.


It may sound as blasphemy to some of you here that would only use Trackpoints like myself, but if there is any lesson to be gained from this, I will be happy.

As I previously stated, at the time that this site did not require registration, when I posted under the name “Chris”, back in November 2008, I came from a long time of Trackpoint use and hated the Touchpad literally for years before finally getting used to them (at least on my now three year old laptop).

Back near the end of 2009, I was looking for a replacement for my laptop. It was getting long in the tooth so to speak, after all, typing away for hours on end every day doesn’t help keeping it in great condition. Every thing was starting to rub away, the case developed some small cracks and I was getting ominous disk errors.

So, for a replacement, I refused to consider any other laptops than those that had Trackpoint like devices and eventually settled on the HP 8730W, a top of the line at the time Workstation laptop.

Guess what happened: in the time that it took me to investigate getting a new laptop and the time I actually got it (4 months later), without noticing it, I finally got used to that darn Touchpad!!!

What happened? After extensive tweaking so it would respond in an acceptable manner to my natural gestural behaviour, use and habit finally got the best of my reservation and, after having forgotten my portable mouse once too many times, I finally got used to the Touchpad and can now pretty much use it for everything without having to concentrate on it at all! Talk about a complete reversal!

And guess what happened when I got the HP: I found out it was easier to use the Touchpad than the Trackpoint, even after extensive tweaking!

I do admit the Touchpad on the HP was a bear to adjust, because with a WUXGA screen, it is impossible to zoom from one side of the screen to another even with settings maxed out. It had to go into obscure windows acceleration algorithms to make it work in a decent manner (for more info, see this excellent Japanese site, translated here from Kanji to English, http://tinyurl.com/252eyjd )… Another thing on the HP, you cannot set the Touchpad and Trackpoint speed and acceleration parameters independently…

It may well be that the whole issue is due to the quality of software drivers, hardware and hardware revisions, especially when comparing vendors and revisions such as an old IBM and a newer HP, In any case I tried the Trackpoints on both my old Toshiba and my old Thinkpad and wouldn’t you know… They felt just as clumsy…

Bottom line? It boils down to how close you can get your device to work in the most natural way possible, and use and force of habit, just like one can become proficient in a foreign language simply by using it everyday!

Have I come back to the Trackpoint after 6 months with the HP? Frankly, I haven’t felt the need, and I don’t even use a mouse anymore, even when making technical drawings! And the nice IBM nibs I bought to go with the HP Trackpoint? They’ve been sitting, unused, in their packaging :wink:

Moral of the story? In reality, what’s best for anyone is dependent on two factors: how you feel about a device when you first use it and how comfortable you have become with it. Just like one prefers one’s old worn shoes than the shiny new ones that looked so good in the store :wink:


I’ve used IBM Thinkpad laptops for over 15 years and as soon as I buy a new one the first thing I do is disable the touchpad - the trackpoint is vastly superior.

I have seen a lot of people attempt to use the trackpoint and to some people it’s not intuitive, and I think that’s the problem.

One poster on here, BigJim, is clearly one of those people who doesn’t understand how it works - he said that the surface of it hurts the skin on his finger - the only way that could happen is if you’re moving your finger on it - and, believe it or not, I have seen quite a lot of people attempt to use it like that - and they always say ‘this thing is rubbish’. You never move your finger on a track point - you place it on there and you keep it completely still - as though it’s glued in place - the dimples are there to prevent your fingers sliding off as you put pressure on in each direction. I’ve also seen people move the pointer to the scrollbars at the side - the way you used to do before mousewheels were invented… again, can’t they figure out that if a scrollwheel is between the two buttons on a mouse and there’s another button between the two main ‘clicking’ buttons on a Thinkpad - perhaps that might have something to do with scrolling? To me it’s all very intuitive - and I’m no rocket scientist. If you take the time to figure out (or get someone else to show you) you will find, in every case, that the trackpoint is better thank the touchpad - it’s faster, more accurate - and above all else saves you taking your fingers away from the home keys - but that’s another point - the people I see unable to figure it out are the same people who can’t touch-type and refuse to learn because they say they have their ‘own system’ - yeah, their own system that restricts them to typing about 20 words per minute with two fingers whilst most people who touchtype regularly can reach 100+ words per minute.


I’d like to agree with the people who have said that the lack of trackpoint is what prevents them switching to Mac. I will not even consider a Mac until they make one with a trackpoint - needing to use a touchpad or an external mouse is an immediate and absolute deal-breaker for me. I love my iPhone 4 and I’m led to believe they make pretty decent computers too - but I absolutely must have a trackpoint on a laptop.


Folks, it’s entirely possible to use a TrackPoint on the Mac. You just need to buy the external Lenovo keyboard (sells for about $50) and ControllerMate (http://www.orderedbytes.com). It works like a champ. Better than on the original ThinkPad, even, since you can customize it more.

FWIW, I use the TrackPoint when typing, the mouse for browsing, and the Trackpad when the other two aren’t available. It’s fun to have multiple pointing devices.


Most people who criticize the trackpoint have not used it or have not used for more than 20 minutes and most importantly before they do so they did not set it up by tuning its parameters. On the other hand most people who use the trackpoint have used the touchpad (most probably because they had to). I personally love the trackpoint, and i can only speak about the thinkpads trackpoint which i ve heard is better than the others. The difference for me in productivity is comparable to the difference of touch typing to one-finger typing. Why is touch typing so efficient? Because we have multiple fingers we need on the keys of the keyboard and we can avoid translating them each time. The same principle is true also in the case of the trackpoint. Most people cant see it because they think what s the deal of moving your hand from the keys to move the cursor? is the distance from keys to touchpad so large? Well, is the distance between keys large? No, so how come the touch typing is so much faster than one finger typing? Because you need to do these movements multiple times (hundreds or thousands) when working. And most importantly these minor delays can destroy your flow and cause multiplicatively decreases in productivity, especially when coding. So, my point is that the trackpoint is essential and very important and the fact that not so many people are used to it would be a silly reason to remove it or let it die just because people are not aware of the benefits. Again, of course, maybe not all people would actually prefer it even after they try it etc, but the current bias is mainly based on non-existent trying. I use a trackpoint cap which is concave and one puts the tip of the finger in a very natural way. This also has the benefit that one does not need to push with the finger left right up down - one needs only to press downwrds, and direction is chosen by selection of the point of pressure on the tip. This is an amazing and totally ergonomic function. The thumb is placed exaclty free on the two button clicks but also the middle one is very important because one can scroll - this is again crucial !! unfortunately this does not work so smoothly in all apps but this does not mean it should not be used but that it should be improved. I wish the same effort that was applied on the multiple gestures improvement for the touchpad was applied for the scrolling of the trackpoint. so, to sum up, try it with the proper cap, adjusting the settings properly, and try a thinkpad trackpoint. Do it for more than 20 minutes while moving around windows and writing text and we will see.


this is the main reason i cannot migrate to other laptops than thinkpads (and other things as well) - i like the surface pro but i suffer typing on this keyboard and using the (smooth and accurate) touchpad. I will be carrying a usb thinkpad keyboard with me for the case i need to do proper work with it.


same here - i hated seeing this red dot in my first z61m for six months. then i decided to give it a try and i am glad my first laptop was a thinpad.