Jitouch Adds New Gestures to Multi-Touch Trackpads

I'm a big fan of the Multi-Touch trackpads on Apple's recent laptops; by letting you use various gestures to perform actions, this technology makes the trackpad much more useful than when laptop input devices allowed only pointing and clicking.

Unfortunately, Mac OS X doesn't let you customize these gestures, or add new ones, which is why I loved MultiClutch. As I showed in a Macworld video, MultiClutch let you assign particular gestures to particular actions or keyboard shortcuts. Sadly, MultiClutch doesn't currently work in Snow Leopard.

I recently discovered an alternative, Jitouch, which instead of letting you customize gestures, adds eight new sets of them. Once you launch Jitouch--it's an application, rather than a kernel extension, preference pane, or system hack--you can perform the following types of actions using trackpad gestures:

  • Switch to the next or previous tab (for Web browsers only)
  • Open a link in a new tab (for Web browsers only)
  • Minimize a window
  • Zoom a window
  • Move and resize a window
  • Close a window or tab
  • Open a recently closed tab (for Firefox only)
  • Quit an application

Rather than attempt to describe each gesture, I encourage you to check out the developers' Gestures page, which provides clear descriptions and demonstrations of each gesture. In addition, the developer has posted two videos on YouTube, one showing each gesture, the other demonstrating Jitouch's gestures in action.

What I like best about Jitouch is that it lets you perform, with a single-hand gesture, actions that would otherwise require switching to the keyboard, accessing a menu, or using two hands. In other words, it lets you keep your fingers on the trackpad.

Via Jitouch's preferences, you can choose to disable particular gestures if you don't use them or if you find yourself accidentally performing them. (You can temporarily disable all gestures via Jitouch's menu-bar menu.) You can also adjust the force and speed needed for gestures to be recognized. If you're left-handed, you'll appreciate the option to reverse Jitouch's gestures.

These gestures do take some practice; the developers claim that in order to avoid stepping on OS X's built-in gestures, and to prevent too many accidental triggers, some gestures are purposely more complex than others. But I found that after just a few days of use, I had already incorporated several of the gestures into my trackpad habits.

As noted in the list above, some gestures are limited to Web browsers; in addition, you can't currently customize Jitouch's gestures. But the Jitouch Web site promises that upcoming versions will include support for such customization, as well as gestures for switching between workspaces in OS X's Spaces feature and switching between windows. I'm looking forward to those features.

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