Friday, February 19, 2016

Getting full use out of the touchpad of my new mini-laptop

I am the only person in my house who doesn't have an iPad because I never thought I would find one useful.  Instead I recently splashed out and bought myself a HP mini laptop. It is a little bit like an iPad because it is roughly the same size and hence it fits the gap between a full size laptop and a smartphone. However, it has a full keyboard so there is no awkward touch typing and it runs a real operating system rather than Apple's restricted iOS.

The machine came with Windows 10 and since they place a few restrictions making it difficult to install another operating system (e.g. Ubuntu) I have been forced to learn how to use it. Overall the experience was not too bad - but that will be the subject of another blog post. This article will focus on the touch pad.

The laptop came with a sheet of paper which (among other things) described how to make best use of the touchpad. I read this with great interest, but I was disappointed to find that some of the gestures did not work as they suggested. I did a bit of googling and found an article giving a different set of gestures and a video with even  more suggestions for how it might work, but again many gestures they described didn't work when I tried them. Eventually I found an article on how-to-geek which explained that apparently the touchpad on my laptop is not of high enough quality for all of the gestures to work (Windows apparently disables many gestures when it detects that the touchpad hardware is not of brand that it has certified).

This list shows the gestures that I found to work - this might work on other laptops or might not, but it is definitely worth trying them.
  • Drag a finger gently across the touchpad to move the mouse.
  • Press on the left-bottom corner of the touchpad to emulate a click on the left mouse button.
  • Press with a single finger on the right-bottom corner of the touchpad or press anywhere on the touchpad with two fingers to emulate a click on the right mouse button.
  • Press hard anywhere on the touchpad apart from the bottom right corner to emulate a left click. I guess this gesture requires a considerable amount of pressure to avoid the user accidentally triggering a left mouse click while dragging the mouse
  • While clicking the mouse with one finger, you can move the mouse with another finger. This allows you to do drag-and-drop.
  • When you press on the touchpad with two fingers, you can zoom in by moving your fingers apart or zoom out by moving them closer together. This pinch/stretch gesture is the same as is commonly available on smartphones.
  • If you click on the touchpad with two fingers and maintain a constant distance between them you can scroll text up or down by moving your fingers up or down. You can even use this two-fingered gesture to scroll left or right if there is a horizontal scroll option in your application.
  • If you find two finger scrolling too awkward, you can configure your system to scroll by dragging a single finger up and down on the right hand side of the touchpad. (by default this option is disabled).
None of the three-finger gestures seemed to work for me (possibly due to limitations of my hardware).  In any case I think the above list of gestures is complicated enough to remember.

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