Using TouchDesigner on a laptop is a powerful way to get a lot of work done while travelling or at a gig. The problem is that without an external mouse plugged in and working off of a battery can be pretty tricky! There are many handy TouchDesigner mouse controls that work best with an external mouse. But you can still make it work with a laptop! Having recently started travelling for work again, here are my top workflow tricks for mobile TouchDesigner development.
Shift + Click & Drag
The first great trick is for selecting multiple operators. On an external mouse you can right click and drag to select multiple operators. It can even be an easy way to select a single operator while keeping the mouse moving. If you’re on a laptop (like my Razer) that has a large trackpad with no dedicated buttons for left or right click, performing a right click and drag can be frustrating to try. One great shortcut that is immediately helpful is holding Shift while you left click and drag. Inside of TouchDesigner this gives you the multiple-operator selection function:
Quick, easy, and super useful.
Middle click menu
For intermediate and pro developers, the middle click info dialogue is invaluable. You can access this dialogue by middle-clicking on any operator. This exposes a ton of information about what is happening inside the operator from cook times to resolutions and channel/sample counts:
Middle-clicking on a trackpad is impossible! When you need to access this menu without an external mouse, there’s a great way you can do this from the parameter dialogue. Right where the ? marks are for accessing help there is also a lower case i. Left clicking on this gives you the same result:
Left-click Value Ladder
We all love the value ladder. It’s one of the most useful ways to quickly dial in TouchDesigner parameter values. Normally we access this by middle clicking and holding while moving our mouse through the value ladder. On most trackpads, you won’t have access to a middle click! Luckily a new feature was sneaked into TouchDesigner a few years ago that slipped through most people’s radar: left-click and hold value ladder.
The way this works is that you have to hover your mouse over the parameter, left-click and hold without moving the mouse, then after a few seconds the value ladder appears as long as you continue to hold down the left click. If you move your mouse when you first start holding the left click, TouchDesigner will think you’re trying to select something, so it’s important that you keep the mouse still while initially holding the left click down:
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Extending battery life
One of the hardest part about working on a laptop is managing battery life. Graphically intense applications always drain your battery and turn a 4-hour battery into a 1-hour battery. This can be a big pain especially if you’re working on a plane or in an airport terminal. One great trick you can use to almost double your battery life while working in TouchDesigner is controlling the rendering engine state. Most folks never take advantage of the O|I buttons at the top of the TouchDesigner UI:
This button essentially shuts off the rendering engine of TouchDesigner. This is quite different from playing/pausing the timeline, which only pauses the movement of time but essentially keeps TouchDesigner’s full engine running in the background. What I’ve found to be an amazing trick while working on the road is manually turning this button on and off. I’ll turn it on to see what the scene or environment is doing for a minute then I’ll turn it off while I’m programming or working. I don’t need the full rendering engine running (and draining my battery) while I’m writing Python scripts, creating node networks, trying to think through problem solving, etc. Once I’m actually ready to see the scene/environment, I can turn the engine back on for a minute or two.
This small trick can literally double your battery life if you’re able to keep the engine off while you’re working and only turning it on when you need it. I recently used it to program in TouchDesigner on my Razer laptop for almost 3.5 hours on battery life, which is pretty amazing.
Whether you’re working on a flight or trying to make some quick tweaks to your TouchDesigner project at a job site, having these tricks in your back pocket will make working on your laptop much more manageable and much more enjoyable!