A touchpad or trackpad is a pointing device featuring a tactile sensor, a specialized surface that can translate the motion and position of a user’s fingers to a relative position on screen. Touchpads are a common feature of laptop computers, and are also used as a substitute for a mouse where desk space is scarce. Because they vary in size, they can also be found on personal digital assistants (PDAs) and some portable media players. Wireless touchpads are also available as detached accessories. Touchpads operate in one of several ways, including capacitive sensing and resistive touchscreen. The most common technology used as of 2010 entails sensing the capacitive virtual groundeffect of a finger, or the capacitance between sensors. Capacitance-based touchpads will not sense the tip of a pencil or other similar implement. Gloved fingers may also be problematic. While touchpads, like touchscreens, are able to sense absolute position, resolution is limited by their size. For common use as a pointer device, the dragging motion of a finger is translated into a finer, relative motion of the cursor on the output to the display on the operating system, analogous to the handling of a mouse that is lifted and put back on a surface. Hardware buttons equivalent to a standard mouse’s left and right buttons are positioned below, above, or beside the touchpad.
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