For several years now the powerful Preferences program, SteerMouse has been one of my favorite and most used tools on my Mac. SteerMouse allows you to customize the buttons on your USB or Bluetooth to activate keystroke menu items and other mouse button actions. For me, using this program is ten times faster than memorizing and typing keyboard shortcuts.
It’s especially useful for Mac users who do lots of work in applications like iPhoto or Aperture, or who surf the web. It enables you, with the click of a button, to close tabs in Safari, delete email messages, save a document, and much, much more without lifting your hand off the mouse.
Now that same powerful technology can be used with Apple’s MagicMouse, Magic Trackpad and the trackpad on Mac laptops. The application is aptly called BetterTouchTool, and in my view it should get the title of Application Of The Year. Let me explain why.
What It Does
If you’re a Trackpad or Magic Trackpad user, you’ll know that you can configure two, three, and four-finger gestures to perform certain actions on your Mac. This includes activating ExposÃ©, swiping Left/Right to switch applications, or using two fingers to rotate an image in Preview. Well, BetterTouchTool is finger gesturing on steroids. Yes, it’s a clichÃ© but it’s the best way to describe it.
BetterTouchTool includes a list of over 100 gestures and actions that you can customize for your trackpad or Magic Mouse. I was salivating over the number of possibilities this application will provide for navigating my MacBook Air.
With BetterTouchTool you can set gestures to, for example, open a file or URL, sleep your computer, create a new file in a current folder, show the window switcher for an active app, hide or show all windows; and if you have two monitors, you can set a swipe gesture to quickly move your main screen to your secondary one. Now that’s totally sweet!
How To Set It Up
The instructions on the website are pretty clear, but in a nutshell when you first launch the application, its Preferences window will appear. You can also access the application from your computer’s menu bar. You can set actions for your Magic Mouse, Trackpad/Magic Trackpad, Keyboard and Normal Mouse.
In the Preferences window, you can select which device you want to set gestures for. In this example I have selected the Magic Trackpad. Next you click the “+Add new gesture,” and then you click on the Touchpad Gesture pop-up menu button to get the long list of gestures, which include “Single Finger Tap Top Middle“, “Three Tap Bottom“, “Triangle Swipe Top Left Corner“, “Single Finger Tap Top Right“….there are over 50 gestures, including “11 Finger Tap/Whole Hand” for the ultimate power gesture.
Next, you click the Predefined Action pop-up menu to set the action you want your gesture to perform.
So for example, I set “Three Finger Tap” to open the MakeUseOf website. I set a “Single Finger Tap Top Left” to mute the sound on my Mac.
As you can do with SteerMouse, you can set BetterTouchTool to perform a certain action only in a particular application. So for example, you may use “TipSwipe Left Finger Down” to close out individual tabs in Safari.
There are advanced features that you will need to spend some time figuring out. One feature includes Window Snapping which will maximize or re-size a window when it move to the edge or side of your computer screen.
The developer warns that there are some Preference settings you probably should not bother with, but as you learn and observe how the program works, how your gestures behave, and what you have for setting various preferences, you might want to delve deeper into BetterTouchTool. For example you might need to change the sensitivity settings for tapping your trackpad, say because you have a pretty heavy or light hand, or you may need to change the Trackpad speed for how the cursor moves.
If you need to get a more accurate sense of the various sides and parts of your Trackpad or Magic Mouse, BetterTouchTool includes a Live View to show the most previous action performed. This may help work out problems with complex gestures you’re trying to set.
No doubt after you spend time creating various actions and setups you will probably want to use them on another Mac or MacBook laptop. Well, BetterTouchTool has you covered, because you can both export and import your actions.
All this makes for a professional grade application, which on top of all that is free. The developer only asks for a well deserved donation, and he will be getting mine shortly.
I’m not sure if there’s another application like this for the Mac trackpad, but if there is let us know about it. Plus, let us know what you think of BetterTouchTool, the application of the year, in my view.