Laptop Touch Pad

Laptop Touch Pad Tutorial

I bought a new laptop six months ago and it has taken me that long to learn how to use the touch pad on it! Sounds like I am a read dummy, right? Well, the problems – and solutions – of using the touch pad are multiple. This laptop touch pad tutorial is a list of what I have learned:

1. Touch Typists Beware. The single most FRUSTRATING part of using the touch pad is that it is place in precisely the WRONG position for touch typists. The standard position for typing is to rest the heels of your hands on the flat space in front of the keys. It places all the keys in proper position so that you can type without looking at the keys. Also, all of the standard keys are within reach without moving your hands.

Presumably for similar reasons, manufacturers place the touch pad on the same flat surface. Conceptually, a user could access the pad with their thumbs and/or forefingers but I have never been able to master such a use. I suspect that the primary reason for placing the pad on the flat surface is to free up the area the the right of the querty keys and allow them to put a numeric keyboard there.

But there is a CONFLICT between the two. When typing, some portion of my hand will often touch the touch pad and it does what it is designed to do – moves the cursor. In this case, to some UNDESIRABLE location. And, as I continue to type, the characters are then placed in this NEW & UNDESIRED location! (while typing these first three paragraphs, it has happened at least 3 or 4 times).

touch padSemi-solutions. Some manufacturers offer a physical switch that will allow you to turn the touch pad off. To use this function, you will then be required to connect a mouse and use that. Otherwise you will be restricted to the totally inadequate keyboard shortcuts that Windows provides. My HP dv6 laptop does not have the hardware switch but it does offer a little square icon in the upper left corner of the pad. If I double-tap it, the touch pad is disabled and a tiny orange light comes on nearby. As with the physical switch, you must supply a mouse. The third – VERY LOW TECH – method is to place some suitable material over the touch pad to avoid activating it during typing. This is both ugly and, requires that you move the material in order to access the touch pad. However, if you use some material from a semi-rigid mouse pad, the resulting area makes a nice mouse surface.   The fourth solution (available only in Ubuntu Linux – which is my preferred operating system) is to tic the “disable touchpad while typing” option at System Settings – Mouse & Touchpad – Touchpad. It is not perfect but it is better than the effect without the setting.

2. No scrolling function. One of the primary reasons that I like to use a mouse is the scroll wheel. I use it without thinking about it. Even when a touch pad provides some means of scrolling, it is often NOT easy to recognize or comfortable to use.

Solutions. Some manufacturers provide an area on the right side of the pad that allows you to move your finger up and down and scroll. Newer machines depend on the drivers and operating system to provide a means of scrolling. If your hardware supports multiple touch, then you can use two fingers to perform the scrolling unction. This works in Windows 7, Windows 8, and newer versions of Ubuntu. It probably works in others as well. One issue with this is that Windows scrolls up when double touching the pad, while some external devices scroll the opposite direction. YMMV.

3. Requires two hands to operate. While it is nearly impossible to use two hands on a standard mouse, it is equally difficult to operate a touch pad with a single hand. I am confident some some of our more dexterous users have mastered the feat but I have not.

Solution: You can double-tap to select. This along with the two-finger scrolling can make using the touch pad ALMOST worthwhile. And, you can always alternate between pointing and selecting.

Summary: Although I hesitate to call them “solutions,” there are some ways to deal with the touch pad on your laptop. First, you could change your hand position while typing. However, without the “rest” you have an even high risk of carpal tunnel syndrome. Or, you could stop touch typing all together. Instead, use the “hunt and peck” method. Some people have mastered this and probably type as fast (or faster) than I can touch type (about 40 wpm). My answer: turn off the dumb touch pad and use a mouse and perhaps an external keyboard.

As always, we value your opinion. Leave a message and tell us how you tame the touch.

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