Why use them?
Some of us have usability issues, such as limited hand motion or eyesight issues. (My left hand has issues as a result of elbow surgery 7 years ago, and I tend to just use it for SpaceNavigator control).
So, it can be hard to point and click on small things on the screen. Some keyboard combinations are difficult for those of us who sometimes can’t quite get our fingers to do exactly what we want them to. Or we’re using a mouse or other device, and only have one hand free to use the keyboard. Also, it’s hard to remember some keyboard combinations are.
For those commands I remember, I don’t always have time to click on a button to reveal a menu and then scroll down to find something. I want or need to change something quickly.
Trackpad gestures allow you to use different finger motions to control things.
The thing is, you already use them. We all know that dragging a finger will move the cursor around, and tapping acts as a click. We also know that a two-finger tap is a right click, and dragging two fingers up and down will scroll up and down.
Those are all simple, commonly-known trackpad gestures.
What you don’t use so often are a two-finger side drag. That sometimes work as back and forward navigation in web browsers.
What is a Precision Trackpad?
Older trackpads only track one or two fingers performing gestures.
A newer Precision Trackpad will track three, four, or five fingers.
Many newer laptops contain a precision trackpad. And some external ones, such as the Apple Magic Trackpads, track them too.
However, wireless units like the Logitech trackpad-keyboard combos and the Microsoft Media Keyboard often don’t. So, read the instruction manual online before you buy one to see if it supports the newer drivers and functions.
Some laptop manufacturers preconfigure three fingers up and down to control volume. Three fingers up, it gets loud. Three fingers down, and it’s quiet. That’s a lot easier than clicking the Windows volume control or reaching for your headset’s buttons.
Configure your own
But you can do so much more… I use three-finger gestures to control the daylight and midnight settings.
Here’s how I did it:
- In Windows, click the Start Menu.
- Click Settings (the gear icon).
- Click Devices.
- Click Touchpad.
- Click Advanced Gesture Configuration.
- Customize your three-finger left gesture to Control-Shift-X (the shortcut for Midnight).
- Customize your three-finger right gesture to Control-Shift-Y (the shortcut for Daylight).
Now I just swipe three fingers left, and it’s midnight. Swipe three fingers right and it’s midday. Great for setting the lighting for Debauche acts and then changing it for backstage costume checks.
You can also set trackpad gestures for tapping with three fingers, swiping left and right with three fingers, and even using four fingers. Whatever makes things easy.
A few more
Ones I use:
- Three fingers up: Volume Up
- Three figners down: Volume Down
- Three fingers tap: Synchronize Animations (Control-S)
- Four fingers up: Sunset (Control-Shift-N)
- Four fingers down: Preferences (Control-P)
If you’d like to add even more gesture control to your system, there are a lot of trackpad/touchpad gesture control apps for Windows and Mac Systems out there.
What kind of handy tools and shortcuts do you use to make things easier?