When your first laptop is average at best and rage-inducing at its worst, the touchpad is usually one of the areas where frustration beams from. The truth is that Apple’s touchpads are widely considered as the best ones in the market though many companies manufacturing Windows laptops are slowly starting to catch up. Though my feelings for touchpads remain somewhat the same and are inclined towards the “only use when necessary” list of items, modern laptops have admittedly better configurations than ever before and even if the touchpad itself is not a great one, the actions and gestures you can configure may well be worth your troubles.
Windows 10 Settings
The first area you can take a look at when you are trying to configure your mouse or touchpad is “Mouse & Touchpad”, the appropriately named section of the Windows 10 Settings. As with any other item on the Settings app, the options you will get from this menu will vary depending on your computer’s hardware.
For instance, some of you may get the “Reverse scrolling direction” toggle, others will get an option to leave the touchpad on even when a mouse is connected and so forth. Some basic options will appear for everyone but, depending on your touchpad’s manufacturer, the juicy bits will be hidden elsewhere.
Those of you who found few to no options in the Windows 10 Settings menu should head to the Mouse Properties utility instead. You can access this area quickly by clicking on the “Additional mouse options” link in the aforementioned area of the Settings. Another quick way of accessing Mouse Properties is to type main.cpl in your Start Menu and press Enter.
Once you are there, ignore all tabs but the very last one as that is where touchpad manufacturers place their own settings. Again, depending on your hardware, the options and UI of those settings will be wildly different. With that said, most companies work in a similar way. Double-clicking on your touchpad will open additional options where you can configure dedicated gestures. In most modern devices, users are free to create or modify a large number of gestures, some more advanced than others. You can navigate every item on the list or try and find specific options based on what you want to do. For instance, reverse scrolling can be found in the multi-finger gestures menu, either in a dedicated “Scrolling” section or inside the options for two-finger gestures.
Companies like Synaptics have already made huge progress for touchpads in Windows yet those who actually use them every day may want additional features right away and not in the usual “near future” that manufacturers always promise. Though there are many apps that can add new gestures and actions for your touchpad, I would suggest taking a look at StrokesPlus, a free application that is consistently updated and has more options than you probably care for.
After installing and running the utility, its icon will appear on the system tray. StrokesPlus comes with plenty of pre-configured actions which can be accessed by double-clicking on the app’s icon. It is likely that the menu will seem overwhelming at first but I assure you that everything you see can be explained very easily. To test one right away, hold-down your right mouse button and draw an “e” or a “G” anywhere in your screen. These gestures open Windows Explorer and Google, respectively, and are just a couple of examples from the list of pre-defined actions. The button you use to activate the gesture drawings, in this example the right-mouse button, can be configured in the Preferences window in the “Stroke Button” field.
Using the predefined gestures is simple work but creating new ones will take a little more of your time. To start with, go to the first tab and click on the “Add Action” button. Give your action a name and you will be taken to its configuration window where you can set what kind of gesture will activate it and what it will actually do. Start by choosing a gesture from the dropdown menu or create your own by clicking on the “New” button. Remember that you have to press the Stroke Button in order to draw any gestures.
Once you are done with that you are ready to move on to the hard part. Each gesture needs a corresponding action and, depending on what you want to do, it may be quite difficult to define it as StrokesPlus works with Lua scripts which you will have to configure for yourself. Start by selecting an item from the “Available Actions” dropdown menu. After you choose something, clicking on the “Info” button will give you detailed information on what the action does and how the script should look like so pay attention and just follow the instructions. To enter an action into the script field, click on the “Insert” button after selecting something from the menu. For reference, look at the picture above. In order to run Firefox, my script needs to look like this:
acRunProgram(“C:\\Program Files (x86)\\Mozilla Firefox\\firefox.exe”,””,0, 1)
The parameters at the end take care of various things like whether the application will automatically close after a while or not so leaving everything at their default values will work just fine most of the time. You can also look at existing gestures and simply replace their values with your own so you will not have to learn how to configure actions from scratch.