Whether you’re new to Mac or have had one for a while but haven’t gotten in the habit of using Apple’s powerful trackpad to the fullest, follow along for all the things you can do with the Force Touch trackpad and how to customize its settings.

Apple first debuted its more capable Force Touch trackpad with the 2015 MacBook Pro and MacBook notebooks. Since then, it landed in the Magic Trackpad 2 and the Retina MacBook Air.

Instead of using a physical button for clicking, Force Touch trackpads use pressure and haptic feedback to simulate clicks (that’s why it doesn’t click when your MacBook is powered off). Along with the tech comes some neat customization and valuable functionality.

Another benefit of Force Touch trackpads is they include much more surface area than Apple’s previous multi-touch trackpads. Let’s dive into how to customize and take advantage of these great trackpads.

How to set up and customize Force Touch/Force Click

Force Touch trackpads include all of the multi-touch gesture support that previous versions did, plus pressure-sensitive press, which Apple calls a Force Click (we’ll dive into more general Force Touch use in a bit).

  • Before you test out the different ways to make use of a Force Click, you can adjust your settings (or make sure it’s turned on) by heading to System Preferences > Trackpad > Force Click and haptic feedback
  • When the box is checked for Force Click, you can change whether you need to apply light, medium, or firm pressure to activate a Force Click just above (same slider applies to regular clicks)
  • To test it out, do a normal click but instead of lifting up, keep pressing more firmly until you feel a second click to do a Force Click

Here’s how the customization options look:

Force Touch trackpad Mac what can you do walkthrough

The default setting is for Force Clicks to be done with one finger, but you can click the drop-down to change it to a three-finger tap (not a three-finger Force Click)

What you can do with Force Touch on your Mac

A few popular ways to use Force Click are to get a link preview (see a linked webpage without having to fully open it), use Look Up to check definitions, Siri Knowledge, Movies, etc. or quickly pull up an address in Maps or add an event to your calendar by Force clicking it.

However, there’s a lot more Force Click can do system-wide as well as specific functions within apps. Apple notes many of the options in a support document:

  • Look up: Force click text in a webpage or Mail message to see more information about the text from sources like Dictionary, Wikipedia, and more.
  • Addresses: Force click an address to see a Maps preview of that location.
  • Events: Force click dates and events to add them to Calendar.
  • Flight numbers: Force click an airline flight number to get details about the flight.
  • Link previews: Force click a link in Safari or Mail to see an inline preview of the webpage.
  • Tracking numbers: Force click a tracking number in Safari or Mail to see shipping details in a popover.
  • File icons: Force click a file icon to see a Quick Look preview of the file’s content.
  • File names: Force click a file name in the Finder or on your desktop to edit the file name.
  • Dock: Force click an app in the Dock to access App Exposé. This shows you all open windows for that app.
  • Mail: When composing a message with an image or PDF attachment, Force click the attachment to activate Markup. This lets you annotate the attachment.
  • Messages: Force click a conversation in the sidebar to see details and attachments, and Force click a buddy’s token in the chat header to see their contact card in a popover.
  • Reminders: Force click a reminder to see more details.
  • Calendar: Force click an event to see more details. Force click a meeting attendee to see their contact card in a popover.
  • Map locations: Force click a location in a map to drop a pin there.
  • iMovie: If your iMovie Timeline has an animated map or globe, Force click the map or globe to access a Style menu.
  • GarageBand: You can use Force click in the following ways.
    • Force click a region to rename it
    • Force click a note in the Piano Roll Editor or Score Editor to delete the note
    • Force click an empty area of a software instrument track area to create an empty MIDI region
    • Force click an empty area of a Drummer track area to create a Drummer region
    • Force click an empty area of an Audio track area to add an audio file
    • Force click an empty part of the Piano Roll Editor or Score Editor to add a note
    • Force click the automation area of a region to add automation points at region borders
    • Force click a region while dragging to zoom in on the timeline
    • Force click the area below the last track header to open a New Track dialog

Force Touch control beyond Force Click

Here are a variety of ways that the Force Touch trackpad is useful in Photos, iMovie, GarageBand, Maps, Spotlight, Preview, and QuickTime. Force Touch control is always available, and you don’t have to turn it on in settings to use it.

  • QuickTime and iMovie: You can vary the pressure you use on fast-forward and rewind buttons. This will accelerate the speed at which you fast forward or rewind.
  • iMovie: When dragging a video clip to its maximum length, you’ll get feedback letting you know you’ve hit the end of the clip. Add a title and you’ll get feedback as the title snaps into position at the beginning or end of a clip. Subtle feedback is also provided with the alignment guides that appear in the Viewer when cropping clips.
  • Map zooming: Press harder on a zoom button to accelerate as you zoom in and out of a map.
  • Map rotation: You’ll feel a notch when you rotate the compass to north in Maps.
  • Spotlight: You’ll feel a notch when moving the Spotlight search bar back to its standard horizontal or vertical position.
  • Preview: You’ll feel a notch when you align shapes, text, and other markup elements with each other.
  • Photo arrowing: When you arrow through Photos in an Album or a Moment, you can apply additional pressure to go faster.
  • Rotate photos: In Photos, when you choose Crop and then rotate a photo, you’ll feel a notch when the rotation of the photo is at zero degrees.
  • GarageBand: You’ll feel feedback from your Force Touch trackpad when you do the following.
    • Move the Track Volume slider to the 0 dB position
    • Move the Track Pan knob to the center position
    • Reorder tracks to a new drop position
    • Move window borders to the point when windows appear/disappear
    • Move Track Header borders to the point when header elements appear/disappear
    • Move main application window to the point when Control Buttons appear/disappear

Force Click on a mouse?

If you like to use a mouse, one neat option is to assign Look Up to a customizable button to take some of the Force Touch trackpad features beyond the trackpad. Check out our guide on getting that set up with a mouse, like the Logitech MX Master here.

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About the Author

Michael Potuck

Michael is an editor for 9to5Mac. Since joining in 2016 he has written more than 3,000 articles including breaking news, reviews, and detailed comparisons and tutorials.