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How to Get MacBook-Style Finger Gestures on Ubuntu Linux

Apple users have been swiping, pinching, and rotating Mac’s user interfaces to their fingers’ content. In today’s article, we’ll show you how to do groovy things like expanding and reducing windows, and changing desktops using finger gestures.

To accomplish this, we’ll use a piece of software called TouchEgg, which enhances Ubuntu’s multi touch capability by allowing us to configure actions to the finger gestures that TouchEgg supports.

If you’re a Windows user and like the idea of finger-gestures, we also wrote a tutorial on how to enable MacBook-Style finger gestures on Windows.

Setting Up Your Ubuntu Box

We recommend installing TouchEgg on Ubuntu 10.10 Maverick that has all the package dependencies for TouchEgg. Grab the installer from its project home page.

Make sure that you have the uTouch and evdev libraries, because TouchEgg depends on them. These packages should be ready on Maverick, but if you’re missing any of them, use the synaptic package manager to install it on your Linux box.

The Finger Gestures

TouchEgg does not have any user interface at the time of writing this article, but it comes with an easy to configure text file for all the finger gestures goodness that you can use in Linux.

TouchEgg supports up three-fingers pinch, two to five-fingers tap, and two-fingers to four-fingers swipes. Each gesture is defined in a configuration file under ‘/usr/share/touchegg.conf’.

Each configuration consists of three parts, the gesture name, action, and setting.

For example, in this configuration, we are telling Ubuntu to swap our desktop to the left when we do a four-fingers drag up gesture on our trackpad.

In this one, we configure Ubuntu to minimize and maximize windows when we do a three-fingers action.

The first thing we noticed was how natural it feels to play around with the user interface using finger gestures. It feels nice not to push our mouse; instead, we let our fingers dance, and play with the user interface freely.

It does require some learning curve, but as soon as you get the hang of it, you will find how enjoyable it is to use finger gestures to work with Linux.

Further Reading

Different Trackpads require custom configuration, so be sure to read the configuration documentation in TouchEgg’s Wiki. Feel free to share your own experience with TouchEgg with the other fellow readers in the comments section.

Zainul spends his time trying to make technology more productive, whether it’s Microsoft Office applications, or learning to use web applications to save time.

  • Published 02/15/11

Comments (17)

  1. Paco

    I do not understand if it can be enabled on any touchpad or if it requires a capable one.

  2. Zainul Franciscus

    @Paco TouchEgg requires TouchPads that support finger gestures =)

  3. Hatryst

    After all, Mac has been derived from Linux. Linux rules !!

  4. Jonneh

    Very cool, I had a little hacked-together way of getting this kind of stuff with scripts that ran at startup, but it was hit-or-miss with actually running correctly. I’ll give this a try on a VM soon.

    Incidentally; I just checked out the Synaptics drivers for Windows again (I’m on a fresh install) and they’ve added support for circular scrolling! Loving it!

  5. Daniel

    No amd64 version? Can’t install from source for some reason – getting “make” issues – any ideas?

  6. Lisa

    I’ve been looking for something like this! Thank you! :)

    And, Linux really does rule.

  7. Jose

    Hi Daniel!

    Sorry, no 64 bits DEB… I need someone to package the program in 64 bits architecture… I will try release Touchégg in 64 bits for next version.

    Check the wiki page to compile it, is very easy:
    https://code.google.com/p/touchegg/wiki/CompileSourceCode

    If you have any problem, you can ask me here or in the project web page.
    Greetings!!

  8. Morpheous11

    So I installed touchegg and customized the touchegg.conf file. My settings do not work, are there any services i have to restart for these changes to be effective ?

  9. Jose

    @Daniel

    Check “man dpkg” and see the –force-architecture option, I think that the 32 bits package will run with this option in your 64 bits PC.

    @Morpheous11

    Yes, you need to edit the file and reestart Touchégg. You can copy the file to your home:
    cp /usr/share/touchegg/touchegg.conf $HOME/.touchegg/touchegg.conf

    And change the home file more easily ;)

  10. Thomas

    Seems like it doesnt work on a Fujitsu Siemens Amilo PA 3553. I’ve configured the .conf file, saved it and restarted TouchEgg, but nothing happens when I swipe the touchpad.

  11. Carlos

    Same thing for me. I copile the source, install, modify config files run touch egg but nothing happens. I am running ubuntu 10.10 64 bits on an Acer 11.6 1810tz with synaptics touchpad and multi gesture support on windows. I have managed to have two finger vertical scrolling and two tap right button click.

    In xorg log I can see a grail error

    I don’t see that when I am running my config with synaptics driver.

  12. Jose

    Hi Thomas and Carlos!

    Check this please:
    https://code.google.com/p/touchegg/wiki/ConfigureDevices

    It is necesary change your driver to evdev to run Touchégg. If you have any problem, do not hesitate to ask.

    Greetings!

  13. Thomas

    Jose:
    And still, nothing happens. Maybe my hardware doesnt support it, because I can’t make it work on Win7 either.

  14. YOGY

    how to configure it?

  15. Jose
  16. Zainul Franciscus

    Dear Readers,

    Jose Exposito, the creator of TouchEgg, will answers some of your questions in HTG. We will also report any problems, that our readers have with TouchEgg, to Jose’s issue tracker once they are confirmed as a bug.

    Thank you.

    Best Wishes.

  17. Fontes

    This works with magic mouse too?

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