@page touchpads Touchpads
This page provides an outline of touchpad devices. Touchpads aren't simply
categorised into a single type, instead they have a set of properties, a
combination of number of physical buttons, multitouch support abilities and
@section touchpads_buttons Number of buttons
@subsection touchapds_buttons_phys Physically separate buttons
Touchpads with physical buttons usually provide two buttons, left and right.
A few touchpads with three buttons exist, and Apple used to have touchpads
with a single physical buttons until ca 2008. Touchpads with only two
buttons require the software stack to emulate a middle button. libinput does
this when both buttons are pressed simultaneously.
Note that many Lenovo laptops provide a pointing stick above the touchpad.
This pointing stick has a set of physical buttons just above the touchpad.
While many users use those as substitute touchpad buttons, they logically
belong to the pointing stick. The *40 and *50 series are an exception here,
the former had no physical buttons on the touchpad and required the top
section of the pad to emulate pointing stick buttons, the *50 series has
physical buttons but they are wired to the touchpads. The kernel re-routes
those buttons through the trackstick device. See @ref t440_support for more
@subsection touchpads_buttons_clickpads Clickpads
Clickpads are the most common type of touchpads these days. A Clickpad has
no separate physical buttons, instead the touchpad itself is clickable as a
whole, i.e. a user presses down on the touch area and triggers a physical
click. Clickpads thus only provide a single button, everything else needs to
be software-emulated. See @ref clickpad_softbuttons for more information.
Clickpads are labelled by the kernel with the @c INPUT_PROP_BUTTONPAD input
@subsection touchpads_buttons_forcepads Forcepads
Forcepads are Clickpads without a physical button underneath the hardware.
They provide pressure and may have a vibration element that is
software-controlled. This element can simulate the feel of a physical
click or be co-opted for other tasks.
@section touchpads_touch Touch capabilities
Virtually all touchpads available now can <b>detect</b> multiple fingers on
the touchpad, i.e. provide information on how many fingers are on the
touchpad. The touch capabilities described here specify how many fingers a
device can <b>track</b>, i.e. provide reliable positional information for.
In the kernel each finger is tracked in a so-called "slot", the number of
slots thus equals the number of simultaneous touches a device can track.
@subsection touchapds_touch_st Single-touch touchpads
Single-finger touchpads can track a single touchpoint. Most single-touch
touchpads can also detect three fingers on the touchpad, but no positional
information is provided for those. In libinput, these touches are termed
"fake touches". The kernel sends @c BTN_TOOL_DOUBLETAP, @c
BTN_TOOL_TRIPLETAP, @c BTN_TOOL_QUADTAP and @c BTN_TOOL_QUINTTAP events when
multiple fingers are detected.
@subsection touchpads_touch_mt Pure multi-touch touchpads
Pure multi-touch touchpads are those that can track, i.e. identify the
location of all fingers on the touchpad. Apple's touchpads support 16
touches, others support 5 touches like the Synaptics touchpads when using
These touchpads usually also provide extra information. Apple touchpads
provide an ellipse and the orientation of the ellipse for each touch point.
Other touchpads provide a pressure value for each touch point (see @ref
Note that the kernel sends @c BTN_TOOL_DOUBLETAP, @c
BTN_TOOL_TRIPLETAP, @c BTN_TOOL_QUADTAP and @c BTN_TOOL_QUINTTAP events for
all touches for backwards compatibility. libinput ignores these events if
the touchpad can track touches correctly.
@subsection touchpads_touch_partial_mt Partial multi-touch touchpads
The vast majority of touchpads fall into this category, the half-way
point between single-touch and pure multi-touch. These devices can track N
fingers, but detect more than N. For example, when using the serial
protocol, Synaptics touchpads can track two fingers but may detect up to
The number of slots may limit which features are available in libinput.
Any device with two slots can support two-finger scrolling, but @ref
thumb-detection or @ref palm_detection may be limited if only two slots are
@subsection touchpads_touch_semi_mt Semi-mt touchpads
A sub-class of partial multi-touch touchpads. These touchpads can
technically detect two fingers but the location of both is limited to the
bounding box, i.e. the first touch is always the top-left one and the second
touch is the bottom-right one. Coordinates jump around as fingers move past
Many semi-mt touchpads also have a lower resolution for the second touch, or
both touches. This may limit some features such as @ref gestures or
Semi-mt are labelled by the kernel with the @c INPUT_PROP_SEMI_MT input
@section touchpads_mis Other touchpad properties
@subsection touchpads_external External touchpads
External touchpads are USB or Bluetooth touchpads not in a laptop chassis,
e.g. Apple Magic Trackpad or the Logitech T650. These are usually @ref
touchpads_buttons_clickpads the biggest difference is that they can be
removed or added at runtime.
One interaction method that is only possible on external touchpads is a
thumb resting on the very edge/immediately next to the touchpad. On the far
edge, touchpads don't always detect the finger location so clicking with a
thumb barely touching the edge makes it hard or impossible to figure out
which software button area the finger is on.
These touchpads also don't need @ref palm_detection - since they're not
located underneath the keyboard, accidental palm touches are a non-issue.
@subsection touchpads_pressure_handling Touchpads pressure handling
Pressure is usually directly related to contact area. Human fingers flatten
out as the pressure on the pad increases, resulting in a bigger contact area
and the firmware then calculates that back into a ressure reading.
libinput uses pressure to detect accidental palm contact and thumbs, though
pressure data is often device-specific and unreliable.
@subsection touchpads_circular Circular touchpads
Only listed for completeness, circular touchpads have not been used in
laptops for a number of years. These touchpad shaped in an ellipse or
@subsection touchpads_tablets Graphics tablets
Touch-capable graphics tablets are effectively external touchpads, with two
differentiators: they are larger than normal touchpads and they have no
regular touchpad buttons. They either work like a @ref
touchpads_buttons_forcepads Forcepad, or rely on interaction methods that
don't require buttons (like @ref tapping). Since the physical device is
shared with the pen input, some touch arbitration is required to avoid touch
input interfering when the pen is in use.
@subsection touchpads_edge_zone Dedicated edge scroll area
Before @ref twofinger_scrolling became the default scroll method, some
touchpads provided a marking on the touch area that designates the
edge to be used for scrolling. A finger movement in that edge zone should
trigger vertical motions. Some touchpads had markers for a horizontal
scroll area too at the bottom of the touchpad.