A touchpad is a computing interface device that typically mimics the functions of a computer mouse. Instead of having an external peripheral device such as a mouse, the touchpad enables the user to interact with the device through the use of a single or multiple fingers being dragged across relative positions on a sensitive pad.
Touchpads are typically found on laptop computers but are increasingly being utilized on devices such as portable mp3 players such as Apple's iPod and PDAs such as HP's iPaq series.
Touchpads are generally resilient additions to laptop computers, most of the time malfunctioning only after severe trauma to the unit. Since carrying a separate mouse attachment when traveling with a laptop computer is not always convenient, there will always be a use for the touchpad.
Newer models of touchpads are pressure-sensitive and can carry out a variety of functions that their predecessors could not. For instance, many can mimic the scroll function of the mouse when the finger is dragged up and down on a certain spot, usually the right side of the pad.
Tapping is a function that most touchpads have that mimics the left-click button of a mouse. This setting can ease wrist and hand strain that can accompany long sessions of laptop computer use. This setting can also typically be changed to a variety of other functions to accommodate the preferences of the user.
Touchpads have the unique characteristic of being relative-placement user input peripheral devices. Whereas upon first look, it would seem as though the area of the pad would mimic the screen. However,
In addition to touchpads, some popular laptop computers have incorporated touch sticks in between lower keys that allow the user similar control options. Some Dells and Lenovo (previously IBM) laptops have historically included this addition. Even so, their presence seems to be ever declining in popularity, even though many users prefer their performance and comfort level over touchpads.
Touchpads will continue to be implemented with portable devices that require ever-increasing functionality demands. As more demands are placed on mobile computing devices, touchpads will deliver increased levels of sophistication and usability that will meet user's needs.