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Apple MacBook Pros - Aesthetics over Ergonomics

Posted in Sun, 17 Sep 2006 07:04:00 GMT

The other day I went to a store to check out the 13", 15.4" and 17" MacBook/Pros and especially their keyboards and touchpad placement. One of my pet peeves regarding laptops is manufacturers that position the touchpad in the center of the area below the keyboard vs. centering it under the G and H keys where hands are normally positioned. While centering the touchpad against the laptop is an aesthetic (appearances) win, it loses out on ergonomics (actual human usage) because it requires hand/palm movement to effectively use the touchpad. Laptops that center the touchpad typically have your thumbs end up in the upper left corner of the touchpad rather than centered unless you move your hands. This is compared to centering the touchpad under the G and H keys the palms typically don't have to move to use the touchpad.

Apple MacBook and MacBook Pro keyboards go one step further than just left/right centering but also do up/down centering. As screen size increases, the touchpad stays the same size and moves further away from the keyboard. On the 13" MacBook the distance between the space bar and touchpad is about 1/4" while the distance is about a full inch of distance on the 17" MacBook Pro. The sales representative said the 17" MacBook Pro was designed this way because people's thumbs would accidentally hit the touchpad however this seems unlikely because the distance is much smaller on the newer 13" MacBooks. I can only assume that either Apple is designing for aesthetics over ergonomics or they assume that screen size is correlated to hand size for MacBook users.

When I spoke to people MacBook users about this, the response was that they used a wireless mouse (also because the touchpad only has a single button) but then what's the point of having a touchpad. Just one of my pet peeves regarding the Apple MacBooks.

If anyone has good photos of the keyboards, please post links here. MacBook Pros - Aesthetics over Ergonomics digg:Apple MacBook Pros - Aesthetics over Ergonomics reddit:Apple MacBook Pros - Aesthetics over Ergonomics spurl:Apple MacBook Pros - Aesthetics over Ergonomics wists:Apple MacBook Pros - Aesthetics over Ergonomics simpy:Apple MacBook Pros - Aesthetics over Ergonomics newsvine:Apple MacBook Pros - Aesthetics over Ergonomics blinklist:Apple MacBook Pros - Aesthetics over Ergonomics furl:Apple MacBook Pros - Aesthetics over Ergonomics fark:Apple MacBook Pros - Aesthetics over Ergonomics blogmarks:Apple MacBook Pros - Aesthetics over Ergonomics Y!:Apple MacBook Pros - Aesthetics over Ergonomics smarking:Apple MacBook Pros - Aesthetics over Ergonomics magnolia:Apple MacBook Pros - Aesthetics over Ergonomics segnalo:Apple MacBook Pros - Aesthetics over Ergonomics



  1. Will said 16 days later:

    The sense of centering the touchpad is to give left-handed users like me the chance to access the touchpad as well as right-handers can.

  2. John Wang said 16 days later:

    I’m not sure what you are saying. Do you use your left or right thumb for the touchpad? Apple’s positioning makes it harder to use your left thumb when your hands are on the keyboard so I imagine it would be more detrimental to left-handers than right-handers.

    Regardless of whether one is left or right handed, one typically places one’s index fingers on the F and J keys so it would be nice if the touchpad was also centered under the F and J keys so your palms wouldn’t have to move to access the touchpad. For a laptop that’s designed with human factors in mind, see the Thinkpad where the trackpoint is in the center of where one’s hands are placed (between teh G and H keys) and the touchpad is centered under where one’s hands are placed on the keyboard. By centering the touchpad against the width of the laptop, Apple moves the touchpad farther away from one’s left hand so the end effect is that it’s worse for left-handers imo.

    IMO, Apple’s design is bad for both left and right-handers but worse for left-handers. It designed to be pleasing to the eye, not the hands. Of course, that’s their intention since their design values form over function. It wouldn’t be as big of deal for me if they let me run OS-X on laptops designed the other way, e.g. Thinkpads.

  3. jo-sam said about 1 month later:

    I’ve now had my macbook now for a few months. I could not be happier with the use im getting from it. Like any other new computer you buy – it requires a period of time to get used to it. Some time is required for you to become fully comfortable with the design/layout of the keyboard, which explains why many feel uncomfort while using anothers laptop. After two weeks or so of using this computer, I have become quick as a rabbit. I therefore feel that your criticism is truly unjustifiable. Your argument is purely theoretical – based on what ‘should be’ – in terms of mathematical functionality. You have have not factored in a learning curve. Once again, after becomming comfortable with this computer keyboard/trackpad it yields the quickest and smoothest word processing and navigation i have ever experienced in a laptop.

  4. stigi said 2 months later:

    in my case i rather use the middle finger of my right hand to move on the trackpad and my right thumb to press the button. so i’ll move my hand off the keyboard in any way. i personaly feel very confortable with my old powerbook and got to say, that the keyboard feels much better than the ones on (lets say “normal) notebooks.

  5. darock said 7 months later:

    Generally, the way apple’s trackpad placement is perhaps the most efficient way there is. I’ve used HP laptops where the trackpad is possitioned and centered according to the keyboard, and it is a nightmare to use. You cannot control the screen efficiently and I just ended up plugging in a mouse into it.

  6. glenn said 8 months later:

    I’ve had a Macbook Pro for a couple of months now and I haven’t noticed the position of the trackpad to be a problem. I am right-handed though.

    I used to always use a mouse with my Mac, but it’s getting to the point where I’d prefer the trackpad because of its usability.

    After turning on the two-finger right-click function ( and learning how to drag two fingers to scroll, it’s super quick to use the trackpad now and you don’t have to move your hand as far off the keyboard.

  7. Stuart said over 3 years later:

    This discussion brings up an frustrating problem for me as a left-handed user of a MacBook Pro.

    I can get used to the placement of the trackpad and the positioning of most of the keys. However, what I can’t seem to figure out is the placement of the option and control keys only on the left. On my extended keyboard, I hardly ever use those keys, but instead, I use the right side option-control keys because my left hand is operating the mouse. On my MacBook Pro, I tend to use my left hand to navigate the trackpad, which makes it very awkward when I need to hold down the option and/or control keys.

    I can’t imagine that I’m the only left-hander with these frustration, but in my Google search, I find no other articles or discussion, not to mention fixes, addressing this problem. I know there are left-handed EXTENDED keyboards. Why not left-handed MacBook keyboards. Is it that we lefties haven’t complained enough, or just adapted like we need to do with practically everything else in this right-handed world. (I know, I know. Boo hoo. Life is tough!)

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