Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the lights on at MakeUseOf. Read more.
Your Windows 10 laptop touchpad has potential beyond being a poor mouse replacement. There’s far more to it than point, drag, right-click – if configured correctly (and if the hardware allows) you can use your laptop touchpad to scroll, zoom, quickly show the desktop, and even switch apps using gestures.
These smart gestures might use two or more fingers, and can save time and effort when using your laptop.
Whether you use an external touchpad device with your computer or you have a Windows laptop, Windows 10 touchpad gestures should prove useful and give you a productivity advantage. To cover all bases, we also take a look at relevant touchpad-related settings.
Get Started: Enable Touchpad Gestures
Not all laptops or notebooks are equipped for Touchpad Gestures. To find out if your hardware is compatible, open the Action Center in Windows 10 and tap or click All Settings. You might also press WINDOWS + I. From here, open Devices > Mouse & touchpad.
If your computer is equipped with the precision touchpad hardware, you’ll see a list of options such as Use a two finger tap for right click, as pictured above. Otherwise, the Mouse & touchpad settings will look like this:
(Users familiar with Windows 8 may recall that these options were available in that OS, but they have been perfected somewhat for Windows 10.)
No built-in precision touchpad hardware? Don’t worry – if you want to take advantage of these gestures, you can buy an external trackpad, although this might set you back around $100. Devices with the precision touchpad hardware built in are usually top-of-the-range notebooks. However, some other come with precision touchpads; for instance, the Surface Pro 4 Type Cover.
By default, the touchpad gestures should be enabled, but if not, ensure things are enabled as per this image:
So, Allow taps on the touchpad and Tap on the lower right-hand corner of the touchpad to right-click should be enabled, as should Use a two finger tap for right click, along with Use a two finger drag to scroll and Use a two finger pinch to zoom.
A further three options are available. Use these to decide how a three finger tap and a four finger tap, as well as three finger drags and slides, will be interpreted.
You might choose to launch Cortana, or the Action Center, switch apps, or just do nothing with the use of such gestures.
Advanced Touchpad Enable
While not all notebook PCs come with multi-touch, some have it, but it isn’t enabled. In order to use the feature, you’ll need to ensure it is switched on. Press WINDOWS+I to open Settings, select Devices > Mouse & touchpad, and then Additional mouse options. You can also access this screen by opening WINDOWS+R and entering main.cpl.
From here, you should be presented with the settings for your laptop’s touchpad, and if available, the option to enable multi-touch.
However, you may find that multi-touch is a bit of a problem. In some cases, especially on devices where it isn’t enabled by default, you may find that things lag quite a bit – so much so that it’s quicker to move the mouse pointer to do what you want, or use keyboard shortcuts. Note also that on older devices, touchpad hardware probably won’t be suitable for multi-touch.
In this situation, you may prefer to disable the various multi-touch options. Additionally, if you’re experiencing accessibility issues, reversing the touchpad is also an option.
Understanding Windows 10 Touchpad Gestures
With the various touchpad gestures at your fingertips, you can start configuring the multi-touch touchpad to your preference, gaining power user expertise in minutes. Things start simply, however.
Let’s take a look at the gestures and their settings in turn, to see what they do and how these features can be incorporated into daily use.
What You Can Do with One Finger
While gestures requiring as many as four fingers are supported in Windows 10, you can still do a few things with the single finger that you probably use for pointing and clicking on your touchpad.
For instance, in the Settings > Devices > Mouse & touchpad screen is a trio of options that determine single finger functions. You might, for instance, want to tap on the touchpad, rather than tap on the screen or press the touchpad to click. The Allow taps on the touchpad setting covers this. Similarly, you might prefer to enable the Allow double-tap and drag feature, which should enable fast selection and dragging of a file or folder. You’ll probably want to allow the right-click option by tapping the lower-right hand corner of the touchpad, too.
Two Finger Touchpad Gestures
With two fingers, things get a little more interesting.
Tapping an item – selected or not – in Windows Explorer enables you to right-click if the Use a two finger tap for right-click option is enabled. Meanwhile, using two fingers to scroll up and down or left and right is particularly useful; enable Use a two finger drag to scroll for this, but note that you will have to have the mouse pointer over the window you want to scroll in for it to work.
Finally, for two finger gestures, we have the feature that allows you to Use a two finger pinch to zoom. However, this doesn’t seem to be widely supported; it doesn’t work in the Windows 10 Photos app, nor in Microsoft Word or Microsoft Edge.
Using Three Fingers
Wielding three fingers opens up a whole new collection of options. These gestures are essentially shortcuts; for instance, a three fingered tap will open Cortana by default. The Choose what to do with a three finger tap drop-down menu can be adjusted, however, enabling you to launch the Action Center instead, if this is preferable.
Dragging three fingers left to right, meanwhile, enables you to switch apps. This feature is listed in Settings, and can be disabled by selecting Nothing for Choose what to use with three finger drags and slides. Sliding three fingers up across the touchpad will display the Task View (the view of all open apps) and from here you can easily select the app you wish to switch to using the touchpad, the arrow keys, or where touchscreen is available, by tapping the display.
Similarly, dragging three fingers down across the touchpad will display the desktop. This is marginally quicker than pressing WINDOWS+D.
A Four Fingered Salute
Another gesture is the four-finger tap, which is listed in Settings > Devices > Mouse & touchpad as Choose what to use with a four finger tap. There’s a choice of Cortana, Action Center or Nothing. Feel free to disable this, or swap it around with the three finger tap settings. By default, it will launch the Action Center.
Microsoft, We Salute You
Gestures that work on a notebook touchpad or a separate device are naturally down to user preference, but they can save a lot of time. Best of all, even if your hardware doesn’t have this Windows 10 feature enabled by default, there’s a good chance that it can be activated and configured. Once this is done, you should find that you’re able to use Microsoft’s latest operating system release even more efficiently on your notebook, tablet or hybrid device.
Which touchpad gesture are you using all the time? Did you discover a new favorite in this article? Got any problems with your touchpad? Tell us about them in the comments.