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It's Time For Laptop Companies To Switch To Precision Touchpad (arstechnica.com) 183

A new Windows 10 insider build (version 14946) comes with a new interface for configuring touchpad gestures. In the recent months, Microsoft has also improved the detection of two-finger gestures and clicking on Windows 10, and also added new four-finger gestures. These are welcome changes, and something that many would find useful. Except they won't because their computers likely don't comply with Precision Touchpad spec. ArsTechnica has an opinion piece today in which journalist Peter Bright is calling on all the OEMs to do the needful changes moving forward. From the article: Precision Touchpad made its debut with Windows 8. Co-developed between Microsoft and touchpad company Synaptics, the spec changed how Windows works with touchpads. Traditionally, touchpads masqueraded to Windows as essentially USB- or PS/2-connected mice -- simple two-dimension, single-input devices. Features such as multitouch and gestures were handled by a combination of the touchpad firmware and proprietary drivers. This meant that Windows itself had no ability to add new gestures or refine the finger-detection algorithms; it was all an opaque feature of the third-party drivers. With Precision Touchpad, the raw touchpad input is exposed to Windows itself, allowing the operating system to choose how it handles the complex multi-finger inputs. The gestures, the disambiguation of taps and swipes -- these are all now performed by Windows, not a third-party driver. Unfortunately, many PC OEMs haven't been equipping their laptops with Precision Touchpads. As such, they can't take advantage of the new Windows capabilities. As far as we can tell, it would normally be straightforward for an OEM to make the switch; touchpads from Synaptics, for example, can work as both Precision Touchpads and "legacy" mouse-emulating touchpads that use the Synaptics driver. It's just up to the OEM to pick one option or the other.
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It's Time For Laptop Companies To Switch To Precision Touchpad

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  • Good (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Macs have had this distinct advantage over Windows-intended laptops for a long time. Dell, Lenovo, I'm looking at you...y'all trackpads SUCK.

    • Re: Good (Score:4, Insightful)

      by dunkelfalke ( 91624 ) on Friday October 14, 2016 @11:48AM (#53076401)

      The lenovo clit is better than a touchpad anyway.

      • Re: Good (Score:4, Funny)

        by freeze128 ( 544774 ) on Friday October 14, 2016 @11:53AM (#53076437)
        ...and it's RED because it heard you call it that, and it's blushing!

        It's actually called a TRACKPOINT. Conversely, the "touchpad" is referred to as a GLIDEPOINT.
        • HP calls theirs a touchstyk. Not only are they more precise than Touchpads and mice they take up zero excess real estate and you don't take your hands off the keyboard to use them. Why do mice and TouchPads still exist?
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        The lenovo clit is better than a touchpad anyway.

        Yep. IBM Thinkpads started that years ago. A lot of people hate it but those track pads are just where the base of my thumbs are and I hit the damn thing and the focus goes somewhere else and it's so fast I don't where it went. I've blown away a lot of work because as I was typing away, the base of thumb grazed the damn pad.

        At least with the 'clit' (I like that), if you nudge it, the cursor isn't too far away and the focus doesn't go somewhere else.

        • Re: Good (Score:5, Informative)

          by Nunya666 ( 4446709 ) on Friday October 14, 2016 @12:24PM (#53076709)

          Yep. IBM Thinkpads started that years ago. A lot of people hate it but those track pads are just where the base of my thumbs are and I hit the damn thing and the focus goes somewhere else and it's so fast I don't where it went. I've blown away a lot of work because as I was typing away, the base of thumb grazed the damn pad.

          At least with the 'clit' (I like that), if you nudge it, the cursor isn't too far away and the focus doesn't go somewhere else.

          So just disable that feature.

          Personally, I disable all trackpad features other than 2-finger scrolling. I don't want different behavior because of which side (or corner) of the trackpad I just touched, nor do I want a double-touch to become a double-click, nor do I want a single tap to move the focus.

        • I've lost hours of code because of the accidental swipe-select surprise. Touchpads suck unless your surfing the Web. They are too far away from the keyboard.
          • You don't use programs that have Undo?

            • I didn't notice right away. I had saved it after making some changes and then realized there was code missing. I could have restored from backup and merged but it was going to be a PITA either way.
            • You don't use programs that have Undo?

              Ed doesn't have undo.
              Ed is for those who can remember what they are working on. If you are an idiot, you should use Emacs. If you are an Emacs, you should not be vi. If you use ED, you are on THE PATH TO REDEMPTION. THE SO-CALLED “VISUAL” EDITORS HAVE BEEN PLACED HERE BY ED TO TEMPT THE FAITHLESS. DO NOT GIVE IN!!! THE MIGHTY ED HAS SPOKEN!!!
              ED IS THE TRUE PATH TO NIRVANA! ED HAS BEEN THE CHOICE OF EDUCATED AND IGNORANT ALIKE FOR CENTURIES! ED WILL NOT CORRUPT YOUR PRECIOUS BODILY FLUIDS!! ED IS

              • Hey, any editor where you can program it to do everything you want in the command line and then include it in a batch file is a good tool.
          • I've lost hours of code because of the accidental swipe-select surprise. Touchpads suck unless your surfing the Web. They are too far away from the keyboard.

            Even for web browsing they are sub-par. With a Lenovo trackpoint you can just hold down the middle button and use the nub to scroll horizontal or vertical. You barely even need to move your fingers. It's strange that touchpads ever became popular because they aren't particularly good pointing devices for any situation. Terrible precision, irritating surprise movements, inconsistent feature set, etc. The only thing I can think is that when they were released they seemed "cool" and now we are stuck with

            • Yeah you don't have to tell me about Trackpoint. All thinkpads over here for the last 20 years.
            • No one knows about that feature with the middle button, and the trackpoint requires you to go mess with mouse speed settings if it's too jumpy.

              Also, no one has experience with these old $3000 or $4000 Thinkpads, because they used to cost $3000 or $4000. So, Thinkpads may be strong with IT professionals who use a decommissioned business laptops, or order them on ebay, and businessmen in suits may have used them in the late 90s and early aughts. But to the general public they're rare. On the other hand, every

        • CTRL + Z to undo
    • I would give anything for my Dell to have my 2008 apple track pad.

    • As someone who actually likes Dell business laptops, their touchpads have always sucked.
      • Their latitude line has seen a horrible decline in the last few years, removing the mouse clit, disk drives, and even lowering the screen resolution to 1366x768 from 1080p on the larger models for no discernible reason.
  • LONG past due (Score:3, Interesting)

    by kaiser423 ( 828989 ) on Friday October 14, 2016 @11:50AM (#53076413)
    Honestly, I have a $150 chromebook that has a trackpad that is 100x better than all 3 of my $1k+ Windows laptops. Not having proper support in Windows has driven a lot of that, so it's Microsoft's fault. But also, the drivers that implemented these gestures made by the touchpad companies sucked.

    This is just another example that if you leave it to OEMs, they basically suck at everything. Microsoft, Google, etc are all learning that they need to drive the bus here, because otherwise the OEMs find ways to cut costs, even on their highest end laptops, and as a result we are getting a lot better hardware here.
    • The PC industry has always been about the cheapest crap they can get away with in order to preserve their tiny margins. No one does any independent R&D, so they rely on a fumbling company like microsoft to do it for them.

    • by amiga3D ( 567632 )

      I've never used the trackpad on any PC laptop I've owned for anything other than desperation. They range from bad to fucking useless. On the other hand every Apple laptop I've ever owned had a trackpad that worked wonderfully. I always wondered why but I guess it's because Apple designed both the trackpad and the drivers and the OS. I'm guessing that's what Microsoft wants to do. The only way for them to fix some of the shitty features in the PC world is to get more involved in the hardware.

  • Who cares (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Generic PS/2 is the pinnacle of keyboard/mouse interfaces.

    • by skids ( 119237 )

      Yeah I pretty much turn off every one of these damn features.

      What laptop manufacturers really need to do is invest in precision keyboards that work as well as they used to 10 years ago, or better.

      • Me too. I am not a fan of gestures, whether it be touch or a mouse. In the case of touch, just give me onscreen buttons that have some sort of feedback when I press them, like changing color, and outline, etc. It's frustrating not knowing if you did a gesture wrong, if the system misinterpreted it, etc. when nothing happens. In a lot of cases they trigger accidentally as well. Anyone with a Windows phone on W10 will know the pain of edge's back / forward swipe gesture happening when you certainly did not in

        • Gestures just seem to make the touchpad less efficient to me, because instead of reaching one finger down you must use your whole hand.
      • What laptop manufacturers really need to do is invest in precision keyboards that work as well as they used to 10 years ago, or better.

        That's why when computing at home, my laptop is on a stand on my desk, hooked into a real monitor...and I use the good old IBM Style Buckling Spring [pckeyboard.com] keyboard.....

        When I used to work in cube-ville with others, and had this keyboard, used to drive them crazy it is so loud, but oh my, it is a pleasure to type upon.

        • by skids ( 119237 )

          Yeah I do that at work with mine, but at home, I actually want a -- you know -- laptop.

          Spent about 30 minutes googling to see if I could find a usb one that I could just plop over the builtin but nothing really looked like it would be workable.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    When I used windows enabled laptops I was never able to use a touchpad or clit, I just couldn't. I always carry a mouse with me. Then I changed to a MacBook and I learned to use their touchpad. I though it was of necessity that I learned, but recently I had to use a Windows laptop touchpad and figured out that the problem wasn't me but the touchpads. Will this make Windows laptop Touchpads similar to Apple's?

    • by krisbrowne42 ( 549049 ) on Friday October 14, 2016 @12:07PM (#53076601)
      Many years ago Apple acquired Fingerworks and got the best engineers of touch-pad and gesture-navigation in the business... And it shows. PC manufacturers are largely buying the cheapest, oldest tech they can for wherever they can get away with it, so they can race to the bottom on price and still hope to have some kind of margin... And pointer devices are one place where it shows.
      • Finger. Works. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by jeffb (2.718) ( 1189693 ) on Friday October 14, 2016 @02:10PM (#53077403)

        Glad to see someone's already covered Fingerworks. I'm still sore at Apple, though, for shutting them down and sitting on so much of their gestural vocabulary. My TouchStream keyboard let my wrist RSI heal, and I still miss it (it eventually failed after a number of years). If I could buy another, with support, I'd do it in a heartbeat.

        I see a lot of people here complaining that "trackpads suck" and "gestures suck" and "tapping sucks", because (apparently) their trackpads suck. I'm totally happy with my Macbook Pro's trackpad, with one push-to-click surface, which I only use for dragging; taps for everything else. But, yes, using the trackpad on an HP laptop was physically painful.

        Fingerworks did a remarkable job of getting gestural and zero-force input right. Apple didn't completely ruin it when they bought out the technology. It would take a lot to independently engineer a system that works as well, but if anybody has the resources to do it, it's probably Microsoft.

      • by amiga3D ( 567632 )

        They figure you're going to buy a real mouse to use instead.

      • This is why I'm still on a 2011 MBP. The current macs are a sick joke, I know my next machine will be windows I'm looking forward to buying one, but I can't give up the apple trackpad.
    • by gander666 ( 723553 ) * on Friday October 14, 2016 @12:23PM (#53076701) Homepage

      A million times this. I just started a new job, and got a Lenovo Thinkpad, and the touchpad is awful. I can turn off some of the worst features, but it just plain sucks.

      I have tried the touchpoint, but I just can't get it. I know a lot of people love it, but I just can't use it effectively. And my last Windows laptop, a horrid HP, was truly awful. Both this lenovo and the HP had advanced "touch gestures" but they don't work well.

      My Macbook Pro and Macbook Air are a joy to use, I don't get that "thumb" weirdness while typing, and the gestures are second nature.

      I have a logitech mouse that I carry everywhere for this Win10 laptop, just so I can get any work done at all.

    • by Megane ( 129182 )

      I normally use a MacBook Pro, and Apple's touchpads have always been superior, even before they got gestures. Whenever I would have to use a Windows laptop, the touchpads universally sucked. They sucked even more so in PS/2 emulation mode because of that fucking "tap-to-click" which was on by default in emulation mode. The result was that when dragging stuff, it would randomly report mouse clicks. Never mind that they always had two perfectly usable buttons right below the pad. I would always have to find a

  • I'd never really given a thought as to _why_ Synaptics and friends required their touchpads to have a full-blown application and a driver installed to have full gesture functionality...but I do know it's another pain in the butt step that has to be automated when a laptop is deployed in order to have a common Windows image. I didn't even know there was a standard. Now I know why - you learn something new every day.

    Microsoft does have info on how to implement their standard here [microsoft.com] but I wonder if Linux hardwar

  • by Pseudonymous Powers ( 4097097 ) on Friday October 14, 2016 @11:59AM (#53076507)

    Hear, hear! It's about time we got support for more and fancier trackpad gestures! I wholeheartedly appr--

    [Accidentally scrolls the Slashdot comment interface off the screen due to an errant flick of the trackpad.]

    [In a reflexive effort to correct that mistake, changes browser zoom level to 350%.]

    [Panics, begins to flail, accidentally submits the comment as is, and somehow manages to open four Outlook windows and MS Paint.]

    • by HBI ( 604924 )

      I turn off all the gesture and scroll support. All I want is a mouse interface and hardware buttons, anything else is too annoying.

      • I turn off all the gesture and scroll support.

        That's what i do as well. If there is a little eraserhead in the keyboard, I disable the touchpad completely and use that. Touchpads (touch interfaces in general) really suck. In order to pack more functionality into "touching the screen" the subtleties of The Touch have gotten far too fine in their pressure/location/movement resolution requirements.

      • I turn off all the gesture and scroll support. All I want is a mouse interface and hardware buttons, anything else is too annoying.

        And this is why I simply disable it all and plug in a damn mouse. Shocking what lengths we'll go through to just go back to what is necessary and works.

        Now if I could just find a way to enable minimal input device features without having to install a 2TB driver pack...

      • I disagree slightly. I always turn off "tapping" on any computer I have control of, because that causes all kinds of problems when I brush the touchpad with my hand while typing.

        However, I *do* keep 2-finger scrolling enabled. That's the *one* thing I've found that touchpads are really quite useful for. On a desktop PC, it's not necessary because modern mice have scroll wheels, but on a laptop without a mouse plugged in, the 2-finger scroll gesture substitutes for this incredibly handy mouse feature. Th

        • by HBI ( 604924 )

          I've literally never gotten it to work properly, but my fingers are like sausages. Well, not really, but I wear a size 12.5 ring and i'm frankly not that coordinated, though I type just fine. Anyway, I have trouble with all touch panels of any sort, from payment kiosks to phones. There are some buttons on my iPhone that I push with my pinkie because the other fingers don't work.

          I doubt i'm the target audience for nifty touchpad features. My killer feature is to be able to turn it all off.

          • I have long, thin fingers and I'm extremely dexterous and do just fine with touch panels on payment kiosks, phones, etc. (I also play guitar, which requires dexterity.) But even despite all this, the tapping function on touchpads always screws me up. IMO, it's a fundamentally stupid feature: the touchpad on a laptop is always just below the keyboard, where the wrists normally rest (or at least hover above), so there's no way to avoid touching it from time to time. If an inadvertent touch just moves the

      • Also, it seems absurd to remove the mouse functionality replacing it with something touch screen like when the trend is to add a f---ing touch screen anyway. I want two touch screens? No! I want a friggin' mouse for when that's the most optimal UI and a touch screen for when a touch screen is.

        What next? Replace the keyboard with a massive capacitive panel too?

        • by HBI ( 604924 )

          Yes.

          If companies that don't provide a usable trackpad and two hardware mouse buttons wonder why they aren't selling so many laptops...they're idiots.

    • Am I the only one who doesn't have this problem? It's really easy to avoid, at least on a computer you own or control: just go to your system settings, and disable "tapping". That's it. Tapping is what causes this problem; if you disable it, then an errant flick of the touchpad does nothing more than move your mouse cursor a little, which isn't a problem as long as you don't have a focus-follows-mouse DE.

      I *do* really, really, really hate using someone else's laptop, however, because of this very problem

  • Are they talking about RMI4-protocol connected touchpads?
    If so, you can learn a lot of details of their working from libinput's developer blog: http://who-t.blogspot.com/ [blogspot.com]

  • by ledow ( 319597 ) on Friday October 14, 2016 @12:20PM (#53076687) Homepage

    "Our old API was shit and didn't take account that touchpads existed, thus forcing mouse emulation and proprietary third-party drivers that don't work on anything else.

    After 20 YEARS of laptops having touchpads, we've exposed the underlying data of the devices in question and made it an API that will fuck up the second "3D touchpads" or whatever come along.

    Despite having had touchscreens for all that time too, and smartphones for much of it (with capacitative screens, hover, etc.) and entire other OS being designed to take account of those kinds of input devices as the primary input."

    And they're supposed to get congratulations for this?

    You can also guarantee that the API will be incomplete or difficult to manage, or not backward-compatible breaking all your old laptops, thus still ending up with third-party junk to do the job for us that doesn't work for any other manufacturer.

    I'm STILL waiting for the day when the whole keyboard surface is flat-but-springy (like, oh my god, a touchscreen!) so you can type on it, hold a pen on it, or use it as a giant trackpad in the keyboard layout of your choice (numpad or trackpad? Trackpad below and center or off to one side? etc.).

    Tech moves SO SLOWLY in this regard until someone spots it after many years and puts out a mass-market device like that and everyone goes "at fucking last".

    • by swb ( 14022 )

      I'd go for your idea when they can make "flat but springy" more than a membrane keyboard.

      I can think of science fiction-esque ways of doing this involving ferric gels and magnetic fields to shape a surface into a keyboard and provide tactile response while allowing to be flat, keyboard shaped, keypad shaped or some combination. But I don't know that's a real thing or if you could make it the 5 mm thickness current faddish hardware designers require.

      Typing on a typical tablet screen sucks.

    • I'm STILL waiting for the day when the whole keyboard surface is flat-but-springy (like, oh my god, a touchscreen!)

      "Springy"? I'm not even sure what you mean.

      And touch typing kind of relies on the physics of starting to press another key before the last one has fully rebounded for its speed. I imagine building the same behavior into a touchscreen would be a circle of hell software-wise. Why do you think we have Swype and stuff on phone keyboards?

  • Oh Jesus, has that become an official part of the English language now?

  • Microsoft OSes for example were able to detect three finger gestures [wikipedia.org] since 1981.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 14, 2016 @12:41PM (#53076805)

    Seriously... who EVER thought adding all the touchscreen phone gestures to a touchpad was a good idea?

    Oh, yeah, Apple. Who's trying to move everyone to just using their mobile OS entirely for years now, and succeeding.

    All I want a touchpad to do is move the cursor on-screen, and possibly support two-finger scrolling.

    And ESPECIALLY stop with the god-damn Tap To Click, and stop with turning off the god-damn thing if I hit a key in the last second by default. No. Fuck you! Put real buttons so I can actually click with PRECISION if you want to talk about precise movements, then you don't need cockamamie bullshit like disabling it when typing to avoid the wrong gesture, you dumbfucks.

    To be usefully close to use they're by definition too close to the keyboard to avoid errant touches, which means all these added gestures? They get triggered by accident if they don't go the 'no touchpad if you touched a key' route. And that makes the device as a whole LESS useful than one with far fewer gestures that can be enabled 24/7.

    - WolfWings, too lazy to reset his password, but still here on /. from time to time!

    • by Megane ( 129182 )

      If only there were some way you could turn all of that off. Maybe they could put it into a control panel widget or something. (Yes, including the thing with the keyboard.)

      At least it ceases to suck when you do that on a Mac. On a Windows laptop it merely sucks a little less when you turn everything off.

    • "Seriously... who EVER thought adding all the touchscreen phone gestures to a touchpad was a good idea? Oh, yeah, Apple. "

      I am unimpressed by people trying to blame Apple for forcing features they don't like into other products when those other products did it first. There have been gestures on track pads since before there were any iPhones. How can Apple be responsible for forcing a feature from iOS to non-Apple products before there was an iOS?

    • So you don't want gestures except for the ones you do want? And you don't want the touch pad disabled while typing even though that's the primary complaint?

      Are you a windows 10 user who demand everything works one way and be not configurable? What are you doing on slashdot?

  • by Khyber ( 864651 ) <techkitsune@gmail.com> on Friday October 14, 2016 @01:01PM (#53076933) Homepage Journal

    I've watched most users with multi-touch devices. They almost NEVER use the features. Why? Because pointing and pressing is so goddamned easy.

    Get with the times. the most I see people use multi-touch is pinch/spread to zoom. Rarely do I even find a use for more than that.

    • I've watched most users with multi-touch devices. They almost NEVER use the features. Why? Because pointing and pressing is so goddamned easy.

      Get with the times. the most I see people use multi-touch is pinch/spread to zoom. Rarely do I even find a use for more than that.

      You've never seen a use for two-finger scrolling on a laptop trackpad? Really? You actually prefer to move the pointer over to the scroll bar and click-and-drag it?

      • Two fingers for two-dimensional scrolling, horizontally as well as vertically, without any strain from fine-motor pointing.

        Three fingers left or right for back and forward navigation.

        In the Good Old Days of the Fingerworks keyboard, a host of other gestures for cut, copy, paste, left-button-drag/right-button-drag, double-click (without the additional strain inherent in a quick repeated motion) -- all 100% programmable, not only by what key combination they generated, but by dimensions and speed of the gestu

      • You just use the scroll-wheel. The scroll bar is always a last resort. I prefer the scroll-wheel myself, but if the system doesn't have a mouse -- that is, one only has the trackpad, then either two-finger scrolling (Apple style) or one-finger-right-side-of-pad scrolling is a pretty good substitute.

        -Matt

  • The real problem is the touchpad hardware. The touchpad device itself may not be able to accurately track three or four fingers, and there isn't a thing the operating system can do to fix it. I've noticed this on chromebooks, in particular when I ported the touchpad driver for the Acer C720. The hardware gets very confused if you put more than two fingers down on the pad horizontally (or you cross them horizontally while you slide your fingers around).

    It basically makes using more than two fingers very u

  • I am a simple man. A touchpad from ten years ago can fit my needs - left button, right button, edge scrolling. I do like the "chiral scrolling" as well, but that's a bonus. These are all provided with every Synaptics touchpad ever, and Synaptics even awesomely has a driver right on their website that'll handle basically every touchpad you install it on. They have enable/disable/optimization controls for every gesture control available, as well as tutorials on how to use them. It's great. I can't speak highl

  • So Windows finally arrives at the point my Mac reached in 2008?

  • Microsoft has also improved the detection of two-finger gestures

    I can think of a particularly appropriate one that supposedly dates back to the days of knights and longbows.

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