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With the rise of laptops and netbooks, the touchpad has become a key input device. Yet, in the Windows environment, working with the touchpad has been a drag more than a delight. While the hardware often is able to perform the same tricks as Apple’s touchpads, sometimes drivers don’t support its full capabilities or users are simply not aware of the available features. This article shows you how you can discover the true skills of your touchpad.
Disclaimer: I wrote this article on a Sony Vaio laptop running Windows 7 Professional 64-bit. This laptop comes with a Synaptics TouchPad. The features you have access to depend on the computer or operating system you are using. The intention of this article is to help you discover what your hardware is capable of doing, which may well be different from what I am demonstrating.
Update Touchpad Driver
Be sure that you are using the latest touchpad driver. Go to the homepage of your laptop manufacturer, under Support and/or Software, locate your laptop model and operating system, then download and install the most recent touchpad driver. This will ensure that you have access to all the latest features.
How To Access Your Touchpad Settings
Unfortunately, Windows often isn’t very intuitive. To access the touchpad settings for example, you actually need to open mouse properties.
- Go to Start, type mouse settings in the search bar, and select Change mouse settings.
- A window called Mouse Properties will open.
- Navigate to the Device Settings tab and click on Settings…
Below is a screenshot of what the generic Device Settings tab looks like for Synaptics touchpads.
How To Turn Off Your Touchpad
Before we dive deeper into the capabilities of your touchpad, let me briefly explain how you can turn it off. Again, Windows doesn’t make this very intuitive or comfortable. The easiest way to do it without installing third party software, is to go to Device Settings (see screenshot about) and click the Disable button. This procedure was also described in the article How To Disable The Touchpad While You Are Typing.
Many manufacturers provide shortcuts to do this, such as a a separate key above the touchpad (HP), a sensitive area you double-click on the touchpad itself (HP) or an on/off function key (Fn+F1 for Sony). If your laptop has none of these features, you can try TouchFreeze, an app that will turn off the touchpad while you are using the keyboard.
I also introduced this tool as one of 6 Must Have Programs For Your Laptop Or Netbook.
Exploring The Capabilities Of Your Touchpad
If your laptop came with a Synaptics TouchPad, you will see something like this when opening the touchpad settings.
The Synaptics TouchPad comes with a host of features and options, that many users are completely unaware of. For example you can enable vertical and horizontal scrolling by setting sensitive areas on the right-hand side and bottom of your touchpad. Or you can apply ChiralMotion scrolling, i.e. endless scrolling. Synaptics TouchPad also supports Pinch Zoom, meaning you use two fingers to zoom in and out of a webpage or document or picture. All features are thoroughly explained and many come with seamless demonstration videos.
You can find more information about the Synaptics Gesture Suite for TouchPads here.
Enhance Your TouchPad with Third Party Apps
In addition to TouchFreeze mentioned above, there are two more apps I would like to recommend: Two-Finger-Scroll and . The former does what it says, while the latter offers a whole selection of features, including two finger scrolling, three-finger tap, and touchpad gestures.
Both applications were covered previously on MakeUseOf. Please check out the respective articles for a thorough review:
- How To Easily Activate Two Finger Scroll In Windows Laptops
- How To Optimize Your Windows Trackpad With Scrybe
Finally, if you are just about to buy a new laptop, maybe now is the time to pay attention to the kind of touchpad you will be getting with it. This technology explained article will be helpful: What You Need To Know About Touchpads Before Buying Your Next Laptop.
So what did you discover about your touchpad today? Did you learn some new tricks or is all of this old news to you?