How to enable right-clicking with a buttonless touchpad in Ubuntu 12.04
The buttonless touchpad, also known as the ClickPad – designed to allow greater flexibility in touchpads by treating the entire surface as one button with programmable click regions – is possibly one of the worst touchpad designs ever conceived. Unfortunately, it would seem that it’s here to stay. The last few versions of Ubuntu haven’t played nice with ClickPads, and one of the great touted features of Ubuntu 12.04 (Precise Pangolin) is vastly improved ClickPad support. Imagine my surprise, then, when I upgraded from 11.10 only to find that right-clicking and two-finger drag no longer worked.
I unfortunately haven’t been able to find a definitive solution to this problem, but for those who don’t want to tinker at the shell prompt, here is a quick workaround to get partial functionality using only the GUI and the left mouse button:
- In the Unity Launcher (left side of the screen by default), open System Settings. Double-click Mouse and Touchpad, and in the Mouse tab (not the Touchpad tab), select Left-handed.
- Again in the launcher, open Ubuntu Software Center.
- Search for “Synaptiks” and install it.
- The Synaptiks icon will appear in the launcher. Start Synaptiks.
- Click the Touchpad Configuration icon in the left-hand pane. Click the Tapping tab.
- Set these options:
- “Bottom left corner” -> “Left mouse button”
- “Tapping with one finger” -> “Right mouse button”
- “Tapping with two fingers” -> “Left mouse button”
- “Tapping with three fingers” -> “Disabled”
- Click Apply and restart if necessary.
Counter-intuitive as this sounds, your ClickPad should now behave as follows:
- Tapping in the main touch area will left-click
- Tapping twice and dragging on the 2nd tap in the main touch area will left-drag
- Clicking in either of the button areas at the bottom of the ClickPad will right-click
- Tapping with two fingers in the main touch area will right-click
This is of course, not an ideal solution, because both buttons at the bottom of the ClickPad are treated as one, and you cannot use two-finger dragging (where one click-holds a button and uses the other finger to drag on the main touchpad area).
The fundamental issue is that Ubuntu doesn’t seem to be able to recognize that a ClickPad is not a one-button mouse. This is why the above workaround cannot make the system recognize clicking on two different parts of the surface as different types of click, and why we restrict ourselves to using tapping for left-click and clicking for right-click: this is the only way to differentiate the actions we want to perform, that I have found.
Note that tapping with two fingers for right-click works because the system can differentiate in how many fingers you are using to tap with.
For all the hassle ClickPads are causing in Ubuntu these days, you may be better off with a cheap wireless mouse, if gesture support is not important to you.
Ubuntu 10.10 (Maverick) and Ubuntu 11.04 (Natty)
paulatgm and rydberg have done excellent work in patching earlier versions of Ubuntu to work more fluidly with ClickPads, and bigbrovar has documented how to get these patches up and running on his blog. Unfortunately these tricks don’t currently work in Ubuntu 12.04, but if you are using an earlier version, you should definitely check his articles out:
Ubuntu 11.10 (Oneiric)
sergio91pt has produced a patch to improve ClickPad functionality in Oneiric.
You can install it as follows:
- Open a console (CTRL+ALT+T).
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:sergio91pt/synaptics+clickpads
sudo apt-get install xserver-xorg-input-synaptics
Let us cross our fingers that 12.10 will solve these problems once and for all.