Setting up a Touchpad on Jaunty

Setting up a touchpad on a linux system can be a tricky business.

Back in the KDE3 days you could use Ksynaptics, but no interface has been produced for KDE4. There was Gsynaptics for GNOME, but it doesn’t work anymore, like Touchfreeze.

The latter don’t work due to the decision, taken by the distributions, to disable the shared memory extension of that could consituite a security hole.

The only way to configure a Touchpad to your likings is now a command line utility called xinput, that allows you a really extensive control over the properties of the device.

I will explain briefly how I configured my Synaptics device under Arch Linux on a Dell Vostro 1500 latop, but the same things apply, doing the right changes, on any modern distro, including K/X/Ubuntu Intrepid/Jaunty or later, Fedora 10 or the new Fedora 11 “Leonidas”, Opensuse 11.0 or later.

To begin you need the name of the device to configure. So, type in a terminal emulator:

  • $ xinput list

this will generate a list of the input devices recognized by the X server, with pretty self-explanatory names. My touchpad was listed as “SynPS/2 Synaptics TouchPad”. When you have spotted the right one, you need to know what can or can’t be configure in it. So you need to execute:

  • $ xinput list-props “SynPS/2 Synaptics TouchPad”

Obiously correcting with the name of your device.

Now you need to find the right option in the list. Again, the names are usually self-explanatory, or at least try to be. I wanted to set the touchpad to support mac-style two finger scrolling both horizontally and vertically and disable the annoying tapping-click. Which were respectively “Synaptics Two-Finger Scrolling” and “Synaptics Tap Time”.

so in entered:

  • $ xinput set-int-prop “SynPS/2 Synaptics TouchPad” “Synaptics Two-Finger Scrolling” 8 1, 1

set-set int-prop means that we are setting a property through an integer value, and the first parameter after the property name is the leght of the variable that contains the setting. This is usually not easy to predict, so you need to do some experimentation.

The 1, 1 parameters enable the vertical and horiziontal scrolling respectively.

  • $ xinput set-int-prop “SynPS/2 Synaptics TouchPad” “Synaptics Tap Time” 32 0

This turns the 32 bit value that contains the maximum time allowed between the two consecutive touches that constitute a tapping-click to 0, disabling the tapping feature.

All the variations you might do to the settings will be gone with your first reboot so feel free to experiment.

When you’ve found the ideal settings combination for you you might want to add the commands to your .xinitrc or to a bash script to autorun when you login.


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