The 10 Best Computer Touchpads
How Computer Touchpads Work
Touchpads can be based on one of two different types of technologies: capacitive or conductive. Conductive touchpads contain multiple layers of material. The uppermost layer is the one the user touches, while the lower layers contain rows of vertical and horizontal electrodes. Each of these layers is separated by a super thin layer of insulation. At the very bottom of all of these layers is a circuit board that all of the electrodes are attached to.
The electrode layers are charged with an alternating current, and when the user's finger touches the upper touchpad layer, it is slightly depressed causing it to make contact with the lower electrode layers. This creates an interruption in the current and registers on the circuit board. The initial touch point of the user's finger is plotted on the touchpad and any movement afterwards is related to that initial touch point. This is how a touchpad knows how far to move the cursor on the screen.
Currently, capacitive touchpads are more common than conductive. With a capacitive touchpad, the layer the user touches holds the electrical charge which creates a vertical and horizontal array, much like a grid. When the user touches a capacitive touchpad, it plots the coordinates, very similar to the way a map user identifies a location based on the longitude and latitude grid. Once the touchpad determines the location of the user's finger, it converts it to a specific location on the computer screen.
Capacitive touchpads are known for being more accurate and won't accidentally register touches from the tip of a pencil or other inert object as conductive touchpads do. This can be problematic for those wearing gloves as the touchpad won't register a touch from a gloved finger either.
Most touchpads come with a number of additional features as well. Some common features seen in touchpads include interpreting a tap or double tap as the click of a mouse button, and the use of multiple fingers for scrolling and panning. Many often feature areas the user can depress just like clicking a standard mouse, or hotspots with pre-programmed functionality.
History Of The Computer Touchpad
The first touchpads were integrated directly into the keyboard of 1982 Apollo desktop computers. Just one year later in 1983, the Gavilan SC laptop computer also included a touchpad, which was located just above its keyboard. This also happened to be the first computer ever marketed as a laptop. It featured a unique clamshell design in which the screen folded down over the keyboard for protection.
The first capacitive touchpad was invented in 1988 by George E. Gerpheide and, in 1994, it was made commercially available and marketed as the GlidePoint. Apple was the first company to license the GlidePoint and they incorporated it into their 1994 Powerbook laptops.
As more companies began to incorporate touchpads into their laptops in the mid 1990s, there was no agreed upon term for them. This caused much confusion among consumers, as one company may call it a touchpad, while another may refer to it as a GlidePoint, and others still were calling it a touch sensitive input device, or simply, a trackpad.
Even today there is no commonly agreed upon term for touchpads, but buyer confusion has dissipated with time and understanding that the definitions of these devices are synonymous with one another. Interestingly enough even today's companies, like HP and Lenovo identify them as touchpads, while Apple labels them as trackpads. Some software manufacturers even call them clickpads.
Despite their various names, they are currently the most popular navigation device for laptop computers, and many desktop users are buying external touchpads because of the many additional features they offer over a standard computer mouse.
Understanding Standard Windows Touchpad Gestures
Understanding all of the different gestures your touchpad is capable of is key to getting the most out of it. Efficient use of a touchpad relies on having a working knowledge of its shortcuts, and they are capable of some much more than just moving a cursor and clicking on a program or file.
Zooming in and out with a touchpad can be accomplished by placing two fingers on the pad and then either pinching them together, to zoom out, or stretching them out, to zoom in. One can also scroll up and down by placing two fingers on the touchpad and swiping up or down. This also works for horizontal panning, but instead of swiping up or down, one must swipe left or right.
Hovering the cursor over a file and then placing both fingers of the touchpad for a second or two without releasing will function just like right clicking with a standard mouse and bring up additional options that can be performed on files and programs.
To switch between open windows or programs, one can place three fingers on the touchpad and swipe left or right. To see all open windows at one time, place three fingers on the touchpad and swipe up and away from you. To immediately return to the desktop, perform the opposite maneuver by placing three fingers on the touchpad and swiping towards yourself. A three finger single tap can also be used to bring up the Cortana search feature.
The above are standard features on all computers using Windows 10. One can also go into the touchpads settings and choose which features they enjoy using, and which they would prefer to be disabled.