Configuring a Touchpad

Many laptops use a Synaptics TouchPad (or an Alps GlidePoint, which can use the same driver). By default, a touchpad will emulate a PS/2 mouse, so it should work fine with the default driver, but if you use the Synaptics-specific driver, you can exquisitely fine-tune the touchpad’s extended features.

How Do I Do That?

You will need to manually edit the X server configuration file, /etc/X11/xorg.conf, to make two changes.


It’s a good idea to get into the habit of making a backup of configuration files before modifying them, just in case something goes wrong:

# cp /etc/X11/Xorg.conf /etc/X11/Xorg.conf.backup

First, add an InputDevice line to the ServerLayout section:

Section "ServerLayout"
        Identifier     "Default Layout"
        Screen      0  "Screen0" 0 0
        InputDevice    "Mouse0" "CorePointer"
        InputDevice    "TouchPad0" "AlwaysCore"
        InputDevice    "Keyboard0" "CoreKeyboard"

Next, add a new InputDevice section (you can add this to any part of the file that is not between Section and EndSection lines):

Section "InputDevice"
        Identifier  "Touchpad0"
        Driver      "synaptics"
        Option      "SHMConfig"        "on"

When you restart the X server by restarting the system or pressing Ctrl-Alt-Backspace (save any work first!), the Synaptics driver will be loaded with a default configuration that will permit you to:

  • Click the left mouse button by tapping one finger in the middle area or by tapping the upper-left corner.

  • Drag with the left mouse button by tapping and then dragging one finger (touch-release-touch, ...

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