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What Does Trackpad Mean?

A trackpad is an input pointing device that has a specialized flat surface capable of detecting finger contact. The surface is capable of translating the position and motion of the user’s finger to a relative position on the screen of the device. Featured in laptops, portable media players and other personal digital assistants, the trackpad is an excellent alternative to other pointing devices, such as the mouse, when desk space is limited.


A trackpad is also known as a touch pad or glide pad.

Techopedia Explains Trackpad

A trackpad functions in different ways and makes use of conductive sensing and capacitive sensing. Advanced features like scrolling a page are possible by configuring the settings for the trackpad. The use of two fingers triggers scrolling of a page in most trackpads. Although the trackpad is capable of sensing the absolute position, the resolution is limited by the size of the trackpad.

The advantages of a trackpad include:

  • Most trackpads are highly resistant to dirt, moisture and surface scratches.
  • Easier for a user to use compared to most input devices, as no pressure is involved and slight motion is only required for activating the same.
  • The most efficient pointing device if space or portability is concerned.

The disadvantages of a trackpad include:

  • The area for motion offered by a trackpad is often small.
  • The types of devices that can make use of a trackpad are limited.
  • Calloused or moist fingers can interfere with and cause disruption in the signals picked up by the sensors.
  • The sensitivity of a trackpad can be a problem at times to certain users. The trackpad may be difficult to use in the case of things that need precision control.
  • Heavy movement is not possible through the trackpad.

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Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert
Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.