22 January 2015

How To Invert Apple Magic Trackpad Orientation

UPDATE 2016-12-18: as suggested by a very helpful comment, Sierra users can get this back with BetterTouchTool. I can confirm that it works: in BTT Preferences, click on the Trackpad icon in upper-right corner, then in General (Tracking Speed etc.) tab, at the bottom, select "Mirror complete Magic Trackpad orientation for "upside-down" usage. BTT is an awesome utility with plenty of other features and constantly adding new ones (I've been using it for a very long time and wasn't even aware they had introduced this option!), and it's incredibly cheap, so you should definitely check it out.

UPDATE 2016-10-01: It's all over, folks - OSX 10.12 "Sierra" officially broke this trick. The only suggestion I have left is to "flatten" the mouse with a book underneath, long enough to give you wrist support.

UPDATE 2015-10-30: Various commenters noted that the following hack doesn't work with Magic Trackpad 2. I cannot verify this; I can only say that the original version I have (model no. A1339) still works the same way with OSX 10.11 "El Capitan".

Over the years, I've grown so fond of OSX trackpad gestures that I couldn't bear the thought of going back to a mouse when I bought my Freestyle2 keyboard. The solution was to buy a Magic Trackpad, which works exactly as expected. However, Jony Ive's people clearly ignored ergonomics when designing this product: in the default configuration, it's just a wrist killer.
I wonder if somebody knew about this, because OSX has a very easy way to turn the trackpad around, in what becomes a much better stance; a negative slope is much kinder on your wrists and hands. So, without further ado, here's how you revert your trackpad:
  1. Disconnect your trackpad, by pressing the power button until the green light goes off.
  2. Type the following command in your Terminal, all on one line: sudo defaults write com.apple.MultitouchSupport ForceAutoOrientation YES
  3. invert your trackpad, turn it on, then place five fingers on it, stretched enough that the device can recognise a hand shape. Congratulations, your trackpad is now inverted.
  4. If you want to go back to the previous orientation, just switch the trackpad off, turn it around, and again place five fingers on it on reconnect.
I suggest adding a padded rest for your wrist, or something to that effect. I'm currently using a couple of CD cases but I'll probably get something softer at some point. Now my wrist feels *much* better, even more relaxed than with a mouse.
Caveat: the trackpad has a significant inactive area where the battery is stored. This means that you have to keep your hand a bit further from the edge than before. It might take a few minutes to adapt, especially if you drag&drop with your thumb as I do. One alternative is to use three-fingers dragging instead, which also works very well.

20 comments:

Martin Rabson said...

Late to the party but wanted to give you a huge thanks with both how to turn off the trackpad and how to invert its use. I'm finding it much easier, like a giant mouse with build in wrist support.
Many Thanks!

Kevin said...

Is this possible with the Magic Trackpad 2 & El Capitan?

Giacomo Lacava said...

I still have the same trackpad from January and I can say that it works fine with El Capitan.

Kevin said...

Thanks for the quick response. Having a bit of trouble with the Magic Trackpad 2 unfortunately...

Martin Rabson said...

FYI: My trackpad is the Model A1339 and works perfectly with El Capitan 10.11.1 inverted using this guide... I may get the new one to try but it is pretty expensive I think.

Kevin said...

It's mad expensive...the whole hope was such that it would be easier on my wrists given less sloping...but arg...

JustAThought said...

This doesn't work for the Magic Trackpad 2. So wish it would ...

-jav said...

Any updates for magic trackpad 2?

Anonymous said...

Thank you! Unlike other sites, these directions actually worked.
I wasn't turning off the Trackpad while typing command.

Andrew Beckman said...

Does this work with Sierra? I got it to work with El Capitan, but can't get it to work now that I've installed Sierra. Does anyone else have luck with this with Sierra?

Giacomo Lacava said...

Hey @Andrew Beckman, I've not installed Sierra yet, and your comment just scared me in holding out for a bit :) It does look "natural" that Sierra would have been developed with the Magic Trackpad 2 in mind, which does not seem to have this feature at all, so they could have ripped it out from OSX. Sad :(

Stephen said...

I too got it to work in El Capitan. Now I install Sierra and can't ge it to work anymore!

TylerJames said...

Man this almost saved things for me, but just like Andrew Beckman I can't get it to work on Sierra.

I imagine Apple feels that if they make this setting more obvious an accessible that would be tantamount to admitting that their accessory is badly designed. I just took mine out of the closet and have been using it for only a few minutes and I was already looking for a way to invert this thing so that it's not uncomfortable as hell.

Please tell me someone can find a way to invert it on Sierra. Otherwise is back to a mouse for me.

Jennifer said...

Just installed Sierra and the inversion doesn't work anymore. Boooo. Hoping that somebody finds a fix... any thoughts?

Matthew Carleton said...

ya no luck with sierra

Bradley Herman said...

NOOOOOO.... i hang the battery compartment off the edge of my desk with the keyboard right above it.. it perfectly mimics the setup of the laptop, so I don't need to make any cognitive change to how I work at my desk with monitor and how I work on my laptop alone... It's such a simple thing but insanely useful

Anonymous said...

There is a solution.

You can try (free 45 days, $6 permanent) BetterTouchTools. To invert, go to Advanced Settings -> Trackpad (upper right hand side) -> 'Mirror complete Magic Trackpad orientation for "upside-down" usage' (lowest option on screen). I also selected "Launch BetterTouchTools on startup" from the "Simple" -> "Basic Settings" in the app... works as described!

I'm pissed at Apple over this.. but bettertouchtools seems to work smoothly, and I can swing $6 if the integration is seamless. So far it seems to be!

My configuration, specifically:

- MBP (retina) 15" 2014
- 1st gen. magic trackpad (inverted, FTW!)
- MacOS Sierra (10.12.2)

I tried it first, in El Capitan, just to be sure - inversion button worked as described, so I updated. Same functionality in OS Sierra!

Giacomo Lacava said...

Ha, nice! I already use BTT (for window-snapping and custom gestures), I didn't know it had this option, will check it out and update the post.

Unknown said...

Better Touch Tools is pretty good, but I find the option to reverse the orientation of the track pad non permanent and requires resetting regularly. It may be because I'm using a bluetooth dongle to replace a faulty internal unit though.
BTT certainly is a fully comprehensive application, so many options and settings.

Giacomo Lacava said...

I have the same problem occasionally, which I put down to the OS still being busy loading stuff behind the scenes when BTT starts. I have to click on the BTT icon and select "Restart BetterTouchTool" and then it works; so it's not the option getting lost, is just that somehow it does not "get in" when BTT starts.