Software

How to take advantage of Windows 10's Precision Touchpad gestures

If you have a laptop equipped with a Precision Touchpad that is running the Creators Update, you have access to a set of enhanced gestures you can use to take control of your Windows environment.

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Image: iStock/fotografiche

One of the advantages of having a touch screen on a Windows laptop is that you can perform a host of actions in the Windows UI using your fingers and gestures. To bring these same types of advantages to laptops that don't have touch screens, Microsoft has been pushing computer manufacturers to adopt the Precision Touchpad technology in their laptops.

On a laptop that is running the Creators Update version of Windows 10 and that has a Precision Touchpad, you'll find Microsoft has rearranged and improved Touchpad configuration settings, making them easier understand, as well as improving the accuracy of the Touchpad gestures. Let's take a look.

What is a Precision Touchpad?

Chances are, the first question that popped into your head was, "What is a Precision Touchpad?" followed by, "Does my laptop have a Precision Touchpad?" Let's begin with an answer to the first question.

Of course, the easy answer is that a touchpad supports gestures. However, it's a bit more complex than that.

To begin with, it's important to understand that standard touchpads are designed to mimic a mouse and to simply allow you to move around the screen and click buttons. So most touchpads are basically a mouse.

Now, some of the more advanced standard touchpads provide enhanced drivers and software that allow more control and gesture-like features. However, these types of touchpads all rely on the driver and proprietary software to do the heavy work. As such, they can't take advantage of the new Windows capabilities.

On the other hand, the Precision Touchpad, developed by Microsoft and Synaptics, works directly with Windows 10. In other words, these touchpads use native drivers and software and are configured from within Windows itself. This has several advantages—for instance, when Microsoft adds gesture features to the operating system, a Precision Touchpad will automatically be able to take advantage of them.

If you had a Precision Touchpad when Microsoft introduced the in the Anniversary Update, for example, you would have been able to take advantage of several new four-finger gestures. And in the Creators Update, you'd find that Microsoft has improved the accuracy of identifying touch-base left and right clicks and enhanced several other types of gestures. It has also improved the user interface on the Touchpad settings page.

SEE: 20 pro tips to make Windows 10 work the way you want (TechRepublic PDF)

Do you have a Precision Touchpad?

Now that you know what a Precision Touchpad is, you're probably wondering if your laptop has one. Again, it's important to point out that some of the relatively new laptops and those manufactured today come with a Precision Touchpad.—but not all of them do. So before you get too excited about the features I'll describe in this article, you'll want to check to see if your laptop has a Precision Touchpad.

To find out, access the Start menu and click Settings. On the Settings page, click Devices and then select the Touchpad tab. If the Touchpad page looks like the one in Figure A, your laptop has a Precision Touchpad.

Figure A

Figure A
If your Touchpad page looks like this, your laptop has a Precision Touchpad.

If the Touchpad page looks like the one in Figure B, your laptop does NOT have a Precision Touchpad.

Figure B

Figure B
If your Touchpad page contains standard configuration details, your laptop doesn't have a Precision Touchpad.

Exploring the Touchpad settings

As you can see in Figure A, by default the Touchpad is enabled and configured to continue to function if a mouse is present. If you use a mouse on your laptop, this is a nice configuration because you can use the mouse for many of the standard operations and still have access to the gestures that the Precision Touchpad brings to the table. However, I've discovered that after getting used to the gestures and other features of the Precision Touchpad, I rarely use a mouse on my laptop anymore.

Changing the cursor speed is a pretty standard feature and the level at which you set it is really a personal preference. So I'll leave it at that.

SEE: Windows 10 tip: Customize your Precision Touchpad settings (ZDNet)

Taps

Moving down to the Taps section, shown in Figure C, the first thing you can adjust is the Touchpad sensitivity. By default it is set to Medium Sensitivity, which is a good starting point. However, you'll want to experiment with the various levels to find out your preference based on the intensity with which you touch the pad and the particular Precision Touchpad hardware on your laptop. Again, this will be a personal preference and you'll want to experiment with the various levels: Low sensitivity, Medium Sensitivity, High Sensitivity, or Most Sensitive. Essentially, the sensitivity settings equate to the length of time between the taps and when the touchpad reacts. The Low Sensitivity has a long delay, Medium and High have a medium and short delay, while the Most Sensitive has no delay at all.

Figure C

Figure C
The sensitivity settings are equal to the length of time between the taps and when the touchpad reacts.

Next, you'll see the four tap settings, which are all enabled by default. At first read, it may seem that using them is awkward, but once you begin using these tap controls on a regular basis you'll really get the hang of them and they'll become second nature.

  • Tap with a single finger to single-click.
  • Tap with two fingers to right-click.
  • Tap twice and drag to multi-select.
  • Press the lower-right corner of the touchpad to right click.

For the most part, these tap settings are pretty self explanatory. However, the Tap twice and drag to multi-select can seem a bit confusing. But all it means is that you tap twice rather quickly and then drag your finger on the touchpad to select multiple items, like files and folders, or to highlight text.

Here's a tip a friend of mine recommended to me and I've been passing it along ever since. Write these tap sequences on a paper sticky note and put it on your monitor. It really helps. Then, when you have them down pat, just get rid of the sticky note.

Scroll and zoom

In the Scroll And Zoom section, shown in Figure D, you can see that the Drag Two Fingers To Scroll and the Pinch To Zoom settings are enabled. You'll also notice that you can adjust the Scrolling Direction. Down Motion Scrolls Up is the default setting, which might seem a bit odd, but you can select the Down Motion Scrolls Down, if you prefer.

Figure D

Figure D
You can change the scrolling direction if you wish.

Pinch To Zoom is pretty standard. You pinch two fingers to zoom in or stretch two fingers to zoom out.

Three-finger and Four-finger gestures

In the Three-Finger and Four-Finger Gestures section, shown in Figure E, you'll find a set of gestures that let you manage your tasks and manipulate your audio environment.

Figure E

Figure E
The three- and four-finger gestures allow you to perform task management operations.

From the Swipes menu, you can select one of three swiping actions:

  • Nothing

This simply disables the three-finger gestures.

  • Switch Apps And Show Desktop

With this setting, swiping up launches Task View, swiping down displays the desktop, and swiping left or right switches between the active applications.

  • Switch Desktops And Show Desktop

With this setting, swiping up launches Task View, swiping down displays the desktop, and swiping left or right switches between your multiple desktops.

  • Change Audio And Volume

You'll use this setting when you are listening to music. Swipe up to raise the volume, swipe down to lower the volume, and swipe left or right to move between the next and previous songs.

The illustration and the accompanying legend will show you the gestures to use for each action in each menu selection.

The three- and four-finger gestures also have their own tap settings, which you can select from the Taps menu:

  • Nothing
  • Search With Cortana
  • Action Center
  • Play/Pause
  • Middle Mouse Button

As you can see, I currently have the three- and four-finger gestures set to switch apps and to switch desktops, respectively. On occasion, I switch one of them to manage my audio when I'm listening to music, but most often I use them to switch apps and desktops.

Reset your touchpad

After messing around with the various touchpad settings, if you want to start over, you can click the Reset button, shown in Figure F, and all the touchpad settings and gestures will revert to their default values.

Figure F

Figure F
You can reset everything to the default values

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What's your take?

Do you have a Precision Touchpad on your laptop? If so, have you experimented with the Windows 10's touchpad gestures? If you don't currently have a Precision Touchpad, will you make that a priority on your next laptop purchase? Share your thoughts with fellow TechRepublic members.

About Greg Shultz

Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

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