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BillHahn Level 1 Level 1 (15 points)

Using Thinkpad Trackpoint USB Keyboard with MacBook Pro, Air, Retina (with pictures)


The purpose of this discussion thread is to:

(1) Get community thoughts around using alternative and complimentary mousing approaches with MacBooks 

(2) To share a current and searchable set of resources for those interested in leveraging a best-of-both-worlds approach for using a non-Apple Trackpoint Keyboard with an Apple MacBook.

(3) To level-set the fact that a Thinkpad Trackpoint USB Keyboard works with MacBooks automatically and instantly out-of-the-box.


Note: I created this discussion because I found that all the other discussion threads related to using a Thinkpad Trackpoint Keyboard with MacBooks were archived and therefore I could not post my thoughts there.


I have been using MacBooks for 3+ years now.  Airs, Pros, Retinas etc.  I LOVE the built-in MacBook Apple Trackpad.  It is wonderful.  Apple has no equal as far as Trackpads go.


In addition, I have been using the Thinkpad Trackpoint USB Keyboard with my MacBooks for ~2 years, and below is why I have found BOTH the Apple Trackpad and Thinkpad Trackpoint to be great.


The Trackpoint and Trackpad both have their sweet spots.  Personally I use the built-in Apple Trackpad on my MacBooks when I'm using my MacBook for less than 1 hour, loosely speaking.  If I am going to be heads-down for more than 1 hr writing, reading, surfing, graphic designing, programming, workshop facilitating, teaching, mindmapping, presenting, demoing, etc. then I pull out my "Lenovo Thinkpad USB Keyboard with Trackpoint (55Y9003) >


I know many will laugh at me for using a Thinkpad Trackpoint Keyboard with a MacBook...  Keeping an open mind, let's just agree that there is historical precedence for alternative mousing devices.  If I could only choose one, I would use the Apple MacBook built-in Trackpad exclusively, however with alternatives come potential benefits.  Keep in mind that Apple, Microsoft, Logitech and many other companies make millions of dollars each year providing alternative peripheral devices for computers, and mousing is no exception.  Regardless, I just want to share my positive experiences using both. :-)


Why should you care?  For *some* people the following is true and meaningful.  The Trackpoint (the little red eraser head stick thingy) in the midle of the keyboard enables useful and unique dynamics/use-cases, including:

  • You don't have to take your hand(s) off the keyboard to mouse
  • You can independantly click without accidentally moving the mouse (Yes I know some people don't have issues with this)
  • You don't run out of finger-gesture runway when you're moving your mouse across the screen (I know this is a gray area for some people)
  • For mouse-movement-heavy applications (e.g. Graphics, drawing, etc.) the Trackpoint *is at times* more exacting


Below I share some pictures (which I know *look* ridiculous to some people, but none-the-less help demystify what this looks like.  And, while ridiculous looking, it is actually quite thin and elegant once you get over the initial shock of seeing these two diverse technologies combined in this way.


Rest assured, the keyboard shown below (google "55Y9003") is VERY light, thin and fits in almost any laptop case/backpack easily so it is not a big deal to carry it, if you work on-the-go.  In addition:

  • It is UNCANNY how well it fits on top of the keyboard space of all MacBooks. 
  • It fits perfectly around the corners of the MacBook Pro/Air/Retina keyboard
  • Note: I took one of the 5 rubber feet/pads off the bottom of my keyboard, the one in the middle
  • Lastly, you can actually use the built-in Apple Trackpad at the SAME TIME as the Trackpoint Keyboard. 


It is quite a nice best-of-both-worlds approach for people that like the benefits of the "Why should you care?" use cases above.


Please reply and comment with your thoughts and please let's keep it positive, constructive and friendly :-)


Pictures Below:

  1. My two Retina MBPs, one with and one without the keyboard, so you can easily see the difference.  (As if you wouldn't)
  2. A slightly closer-up shot of just the RMBP with the Trackpoint Keyboard on top




Please reply and comment with your thoughts and please let's keep it positive, constructive and friendly :-)

MacBook Pro with Retina display, Mac OS X (10.7.4)
  • chrismcnally Level 1 Level 1 (5 points)

    I am attempting to use the Thinkpad usb keyboard with red nubby and my Macbook Pro.


    I will use either keyboard for most activities. But  for developing, my group has used the thnkpad keyboard and we love keeping our keys on the keyboard and still use the mouse and button and the middle scroll. It's awesome and hard for us to give up.


    I was able to get the center mouse button scroll to work by installing USB Overdrive. You select "middle button" and change it to "move to scroll"


    That's one key thing.


    For me, I use a lot of Control-key combinations and I like having control on the left and the right. On my macbook, I have "command" on the left and right. So either I want the command to change to control and all my hotkeys can be control combos, or, maybe even better, map the control key on my thinkpad keyboard to the command key. I think If I could do that then I would have most of what I need.


    I would love to map the home and end keys too, but I can live without that.


    I hope others will chime in with suggestions.

  • BillHahn Level 1 Level 1 (15 points)

    I am so very grateful that chrismcnally replied with such thoughtful feedback on this topic.


    I know that using a ThinkPad Trackpoint keyboard with a MacBook is a fringe thing to do and it is heartening to get some positive feedback on this powerful Best-of-both-worlds combination.


    To chrismcnally: Thank you VERY MUCH for sharing your tip about "USB Overdrive". I'm going to give that a try and write back about my experiences with it.


    Take care.

  • Mktjn Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    Hi, thanks for sharing this. I found this page because I just bought exactly the same keyboard to use with my mac I really like your idea of putting the keyboard on top of the mac as well, smart thinking.


    I was just wondering, I've basically just plugged my keyboard in, but I've noticed already that a lot of keys don't work out of the box - almost none of the keys above the number row for instance. Do you know how to get them working? Also I was wondering if you'd experimented with KeyRemap4Macbook and had any ideas about remapping keys Thanks!

  • nsfw Level 1 Level 1 (5 points)

    Thanks.  Smart Scroll also works and has more powerful features, but the developer makes you wait after every OSX revision for a couple of days.  It gets annoying.

    Think I'm moving to USB Overdrive.

  • Jacky Chen Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    Anyone know how to adjust trackpoint sensitivity under OS X? I've been looking this for a long long time. Thanks in advance.

  • mocmac Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    Jacky, I found I could adjust trackpoint sensitivity via the "mouse" settings on the MacBook while using the Thinkpad keyboard/trackpoint.  And btw I am quite happy to know this is an option--thanks Bill for initiating this discussion.


    I also welcome tips on remapping keys.  For example I'm so used to Ctrl-X to cut, Ctrl-V to paste etc.  I'd like to retain that consistent behavior, but default makes me use the Windows key instead of the Control key for cutting/pasting/etc.  Any advice on easiest way to remap - ideally affecting only the external thinkpad keyboard and not the built-in MacBook keyboard's mapping.


    Thanks in advance!

  • Rumplesmootheskin Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    Thanks for the thread Bill. It may be 'fringe' as you say, though you are not alone.


    Over thirty odd years of computing I have used most - PC, Mac, Linux, etc - and I still come back to my IBM keyboards.  The Mac touch pad is indeed one of the best (if not THE best) though it comes down to personal preference and I still prefer the little red button.


    I am in the process of upgrading and looking seriously at a MB Air or Pro.  Keyboard layout was something I was considering as I do a lot of typing / writing, though now it appears I need not worry, thank you.

  • BillHahn Level 1 Level 1 (15 points)

    Jacky Chen, regarding the trackpoint sensitivity: I just purchased a new Bluetooth version of the external Thinkpad Trackpoint Keyboard, and the trackpoint is much more sensitive on that version, moves much much faster, and I actually had to turn the speed down in the Mac OS X Preferences Mouse settings.  Give it a try if you want a more sensitive trackpoint experience.


    Newer Bluetooth Model with smaller footprint Lenovo Part # 0B47190

    ORIGINAL USB Model with Larger Footprint Lenovo Part number: 55Y9003

  • BillHahn Level 1 Level 1 (15 points)

    Newer Bluetooth version of the ThinkPad External Trackpoint Keyboard available...


    The new version is smaller, so you can use your MacBook Trackpad at the same time as your Trackpoint keyboard.


    Here is the Lenovo model/Part Number# 0B47190


    Here is a picture of what it looks like:


    Note: Just like the older larger USB model keyboard, there is a rubbery footpad in the middle of the bottom of the keyboard that I just peeled off.  Otherwise, it makes the "H" key press accidentally under-neath the keyboard.  Once I took that off, it fit perfectly over and around the built-in MacBook keyboard, so I can optionally put it on top of my MacBook for easy typing. :-)



  • BillHahn Level 1 Level 1 (15 points)

    The Trackpoint works EVEN BETTER for SCROLLING and/or Speed on this Bluetooth keyboard than the previous USB larger model.


    In other words, the Trackpoint is better in the following ways:

    - It moves the mouse FASTER than before

    - It SCROLLS better in many situations that did not recognize the trackpoint+Middle button as a scroll operation


    I am VERY HAPPY  with the way this new Bluetooth Lenovo Trackpoint Keyboard works, including:

    - Size.  it's smaller and allows me to use the Mac trackpad at the same time as the Trackpoint keyboard

    - Kick stand feet: The popup feet on the bottom of the keyboard work well even when sitting on top of my MacBook over the built-in keyboard

    - Trackpoint speed is better

    - Trackpoint scrolling is better

    - Typing is great.  I didn't expect the new more compact low-profile key design to be as good as the fullsize keys on the older model, but they actually work just as well or even better for me and they are perhaps even a bit quieter.


    Overall, I love this new bluetooth keyboard.


    Only CON: The keyboard layout is a little different so that takes some getting used to.  But it's worth it in my opinion because of all the other enhancements of size, format and trackpoint functionality.


    Winner all around as far as I'm concerned


    Part Number # 0B47190

  • gesway Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    I  have a problem that is my bluetooth wireless thinkpad keyboard 's middle key doesn't work. I cannot scroll the screen. I try to install UsbOveride. And change some settings following the topics. But, nothing changed. At the status tab, I even cannot find my bluetooth keyboard. Could you give me detailed steps on middle key of wireless bluetooth keyboard?

  • BillHahn Level 1 Level 1 (15 points)

    My Lenovo Compact Bluetooth wireless keyboard (Part Number# 0B47190) paired via bluetooth with both my MacBooks quickly, and the middle button used with the red trackpoint on the keyboard scrolls in every situation I can think of (web browsing, doc editing, evernote, MSOffice, Keynote, Pages, etc.) without any addition setup or extra programs like UsbOverdrive.  It just works.


    If yours does not work, then either you are not using the Lenovo Compact Bluetooth keyboard and instead some other bluetooth keyboard -or- you need to replace your keyboard because it is not working properly -or- there is something unique to your MacBook that is unlike mine.


    I am using a MacBook Retina, mid-2012 with Mavericks 10.9.3.


    i hope that helps.

  • akflyer Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    Thank you very much for this very helpful thread. I am a disabled user and use a mouth stick held between my teeth to control the mouse using a trackpoint on my PC. I would like to use a MacBook Pro, but without the ability to control the mouse with a trackpoint a MacBook Pro would be useless. Now I know it is potentially possible with this keyboard. The only issue left is that I need to be able to reprogram one of the keys on the Lenovo to hold the mouse down so that I can drag items on the screen. This is usually referred to as Mouse Keys, but I have this Bluetooth keyboard and have practiced with my Mac mini and the Mouse Keys don't work correctly. With Mouse Keys on you should be able to control all the functions of the mouse using a numerical keypad (which this keyboard doesn't have) or the 7,8,9,u,i,o,j,k,l,m, and . keys. For some reason I can't get the latter to work. Does anyone know if any of the programs mentioned can reprogram the keys on this Bluetooth keyboard to create an alternative? Or could one of you see if you can turn on Mouse Keys and see if you can get Mouse Keys to work properly with this keyboard?

  • maxmalynowsky Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    I have the exact same setup as your original post, the latest retina MacBook Pro and Thinkpad Trackpoint USB Keyboard (55Y9003). I've used Karabiner to configure it exactly the way it had been when I was using my X220 with Linux Mint KDE, hotkeys to preference and middle button configured for scrolling (does not work out of the box).


    Unfortunately, the mouse will freeze up after 5-10 min of use, sometimes unplugging/replugging fixes it, sometimes I need to force quit the application that triggered it, and sometimes a hard reboot is required. I tried using other software to handle middle-click scroll (this usually triggers the freeze, but dragging events sometimes do too) such as USB Overdrive, but the problem persists.


    What software did you use to configure your keyboard? If there is no way to fix these events, I'm thinking of switching to the newer bluetooth version (0B47190), since you say middle click scrolling works out of the box and it generally responds much better.

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