After using my new Macbook Air for the last week, it’s almost painful to switch back to my PC laptop—using two finger scrolling has become second nature. Here’s how to get the same feature on (most) Windows laptops.
This technique only works for laptops using Synaptics trackpads—if your laptop is using an Alps or something else, you’re probably out of luck, since we’ve not been able to find a solution for those.
How to Tell What Type of Trackpad You Have
Figuring out what type of hardware you’re using is extremely simple—just type mouse into the Start Menu search box, or head into the Mouse section of Control Panel. Once you’re there, head to the Hardware tab, and you’ll be able to see what type of pointing device you’re using.
You can probably also see an icon in your system tray for the pointing device you’re using—thankfully that’s easy enough to remove.
Enable Two-Finger Scrolling with Synaptics Drivers
Your laptop probably has the default drivers from Microsoft or the drivers for your laptop vendor—for instance, if you’ve got a Dell laptop like the one I’m typing on, it has Dell-branded versions of the Synaptics drivers, which may not support two-finger scrolling. It’s worth taking a trip into the Mouse settings to see if there’s an option, but otherwise you’ll need a different solution.
The actual Synaptics drivers from their site support two-finger scrolling gestures natively, so what you can do is simply install those instead of the drivers from your laptop’s manufacturer. Head to the the driver downloads page, install them, and reboot your PC.
Now when you head into the Mouse Properties window in Control Panel, you’ll see a Device Settings tab, where you can click the Settings button to get into the advanced settings page.
Head to Scrolling –> Two-Finger Scrolling on the left-hand side, where you can enable vertical or horizontal scrolling with two fingers—you’ll probably want to enable the EdgeMotion setting as well, which keeps scrolling when your fingers hit the edge of your touchpad.
You’ll probably want to also check out the Pointing –> Sensitivity settings and do some tweaking there—if you’ve got the PalmCheck feature or the Touch Sensitivity cranked up too far, the scrolling won’t work well.
It’ll require some testing, but you should have two-finger scrolling.
You’ll probably also notice that the drivers enable Pinch Zooming, and they even let you do three-finger gestures. Sadly they work better in theory than in practice, but you’re encourage to experiment to see if you like them.
Enable Two-Finger Scrolling with a Freeware Add-on
If you’d rather not mess with your drivers, there’s another add-on that works, though it only works for Synaptics touchpads. After doing a lot of testing, we’ve actually found that this is a preferable solution that works really well.
You’ll need to download TwoFingerScroll, extract the zip file somewhere safe that won’t be deleted by accident, and then just launch the utility. Once you’ve done that, you’ll see a new icon in your tray, where you can quickly enable or disable the scrolling, and more importantly, head into the Settings.
The Settings panel’s Scrolling tab has a couple of options that you’ll want to tweak—set Scroll type to Linear, and Scroll mode to Smart. This will enable significantly better scrolling than the Compatible mode.
If you click the Help link you’ll see a popup dialog that explains how each one works—the important one is Smart mode, which actually does smooth scrolling mode most of the time, until you hold down Shift+Ctrl+Alt while scrolling, and then it switches into Compatible mode for that single application.
This is a great way to get the most of both worlds—if the regular mode doesn’t work, like for older applications, you can use the hotkey sequence to enable compatible mode, which should work.
You’ll probably want to head to the General tab and make sure that it’s also set to start up with Windows.
We tested both of these techniques on a Dell Studio 1555 laptop, with great luck—the TwoFingerScroll utility worked a lot better than the Synaptics driver method, but your mileage may vary, or it might not work for you at all.
Programmer by day, geek by night, The Geek, also known as Lowell Heddings, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on Google+ if you'd like.
- Published 11/12/10