We were first introduced to the term “Force Touch” in 2015 with first iteration of the Apple Watch. It boils down to device being able to recognise the difference between a gentle tap and a harder press. In 2015, the 12-inch MacBook became the first computer to have a similarly-functioning trackpad.
Today, many products in Apple’s portfolio support Force Touch and its refined version dubbed 3D Touch that appears on iPhones. Force Touch is currently available on MacBook and MacBook Pro computers and the Magic Trackpad 2.
So, how does this technology improve usability? Shortcuts! Here are 10 of our favorites.
1. Look Up (Dictionary, Wikipedia, Movies, Maps, etc)
This is a very nifty tool built into macOS. Highlight any word or multiple words, right-click and select Look Up. Depending on what you’ve highlighted, Look Up will show contextual information like the meaning of the word highlighted via the Dictionary app. It also uses other sources like Wikipedia, Twitter and Apple Maps when relevant.
If you happen to own a Mac with a Force Touch trackpad, you can simply press hard on a word to activate this feature. The only caveat: Force Touch works only on a single word, so you want to look up more than word, you’ll have to highlight them manually and right-click for the same.
2. App Exposé for Docked Apps
App Exposé shows fullscreen previews of multiple windows of a single app. It’s a popular feature in macOS, typically summoned by swiping down three or four fingers on the trackpad.
You can trigger App Exposé for apps that are part of the Dock (the row of app shortcuts at the bottom or side of the screen) by clicking hard on them.
3. Adding Events to Calendar, Details to Contacts
Data Detectors in macOS read through strings of text and generate contextual shortcuts. For example, the built-in Mail app recognises words like “let’s meet for dinner at 6pm tomorrow” and helps create a calendar entry with the time, date and purpose automatically filled in.
Pressing hard such text using a Force Touch trackpad opens up a similar calendar widget. In my experience, the feature often wouldn’t grab much more than the date. Doing the same on a phone number or email address worked more reliably. You can quickly add the number to Contacts, or even call directly from the Mac if you have an iPhone and Continuity enabled.
4. Hyperlink Preview in Safari
Like 3D Touch on an iPhone, pressing hard on a hyperlink within Safari on a Force Touch trackpad opens a popup preview of that link. One way it’s better than iOS’s implementation is that popup window stays open, while on iOS you have to keep your finger held. You can even scroll within this preview — something you cannot do on an iPhone.
5. Dynamic Fast Forward and Rewind Speed in QuickTime
Force Touch trackpads can recognise varying degrees of pressure and this is a shining example of the technology. Pressing down on the rewind and fast-forward buttons in QuickTime changes the rate of that action, depending on how hard you press.
For instance, press lightly and it starts scrubbing the video at 2x speed, and it progresses to 5x, 10x, 30x and finally 60x sequentially. The Taptic Engine also simulates a matching feedback, fooling you into thinking the trackpad actually has five unique click responses.
6. Pressure-Sensitive Drawing With Inklet 2
Thanks to a large pressure-sensitive trackpad, apps like Inklet 2 for Mac make it possible to sketch on Force Touch-ready Macs. Designed to be used along with the company’s Pogo pen (but it also works with your finger), the app responds appropriately to pressure while drawing.
The app works with popular image editing suites like Adobe Photoshop, Pixelmator, Acron, Corel Painter 2015, and Sketch among others. Although it worked, I found it tricky to sketch something using the tool with Pixelmator. Maybe that’s because I don’t have the pen accessory (nor am I even close to being an artist). You can download the demo version from the company’s official website and try it out yourself.
7. More Details of Calendar and Reminder Entries
In the Calendar and Reminder apps, Force Touch is used to summon popup bubbles that show more details about entries made in the respective apps. In Calendar, pressing down on an event shows details like the time and date, frequency, and which calendar is the event listed in. The same can be accessed by selecting the item and hitting the Enter key.
Pressing down on an entry in the Reminders app shows the frequency, time/date, priority and notes. Non-Force Touch trackpad users can access the same by clicking on the “i” button next to the entry.
8. Annotate Images or PDF Attachments in Mail
This is a feature mentioned on Apple’s help page, which allows for quick annotation of PDF or image attachments in the Mail app compose window. Basically, after attaching either of those files, pressing hard on it opens them up in Markup mode. This mode allows you sketch, add shapes like rectangles or arrows, overlay text, or even append a digital signature.
But in my personal use, I just couldn’t get this to work. Pressing hard on the file just showed me the preview of the file. Whereas clicking the arrow button on the top-right corner and selecting Markup took me to the mode that the Force Touch gesture was supposed to. I’m assuming this is a bug which will be corrected with time. Let us know in the comments if any of these gestures aren’t working for you.
9. Drop a Pin in Maps
In Apple Maps, you can swiftly drop a pin by hard-pressing the desired position with the Force Touch trackpad. Typically, dropping a pin requires you to hover the mouse pointer to the point on the map, then right-click and select Drop Pin. A pin drop is helpful when you want to share a specific location with someone.
10. Track Shipments and Get Flight Details
This feature, as mentioned on Apple’s support page, suggests that pressing hard on a tracking number of a shipped item or a flight number in any text to bring up details about those things. In my personal experience, I couldn’t get these to work, probably because the feature isn’t optimized for India, where I live.
Flight numbers wouldn’t highlight properly and hard-pressing on tracking numbers of shipments yielded no results. Nonetheless, there are others I know for whom the feature did work, so you can try it out for yourself.
And there you have it. As you might have guessed, many of these Force Touch gestures aren’t groundbreaking, but I’ve grown used to force-touching a word to see its definition, or pressing on a hyperlink to see the preview.
Keep in mind that Apple’s external trackpad also supports Force Touch gestures, which is one of the reasons that make the Magic Trackpad better than the Magic Mouse.