Surface Book Tip: Master the Touchpad

Posted on October 25, 2015 by Paul Thurrott in Microsoft Surface with 0

Surface Book Tip: Master the Touchpad

Like the previous few Surface devices, Surface Book ships with a precision touchpad. However, unlike all previous Surface devices, the touchpad on Surface Book is a near-perfect pointing device, so you can finally leave that mouse at home. Before doing so, you should master how it works.

Obviously, the basics work as expected: You can tap (“soft-press”) or click the surface of the touchpad to initiate a mouse click, and can double-tap, or double-click, to perform a right-mouse click. (Clicking in the lower-right of the touchpad also performs a right-click.) And you can perform a two-finger vertical gesture on the touchpad to scroll through a web page, document or other scrollable area.

But as a precision touchpad, the unit in Surface Book is far more powerful than other pointing devices, and it supports a range of touch gestures as well as granular control over how it works. To see what’s possible, head into Settings (WINKEY + I), Devices, Mouse & Touchpad. Under “Touchpad,” you will see a wide range of options, some of which can be a bit intimidating.


Here’s what’s available.

Touchpad. This determines whether the touchpad is enabled, as it is by default.

Leave touchpad on when a mouse is connected. This one is fairly obvious, but if you do use an external mouse, you may want to make sure this is set to On, as doing so can prevent inadvertent touchpad clicks or gestures.

Reverse mouse scrolling. Reverse mouse scrolling was popularized by Apple’s portable Macs, but this option is set to Off by default. Experiment with enabling it by keeping a long web page or document open so you can see what reverse scrolling is like: Some people really prefer it (and I happen to as well).

Tap delay. This option helps you prevent the mouse cursor from accidentally moving while you type. By default it is set to “Long delay,” which is the most aggressive setting. I recommend leaving it there, but you can choose from No delay (always on), Short delay, and Medium delay as well.

Change the cursor speed. By default, the mouse cursor speed is set to 50 percent of maximum, but you can use a slider to change it to any percentage, according to your preferences.

Allow taps on the touchpad. As previously noted, the Surface Book touchpad supports both taps (“soft presses”) and clicks. But you can disable taps if you’d prefer. When you do, you will need to fully click on the touchpad to initiate a click action. Note that this setting onlyapplies to right-click-style taps.

Allow right-clicks on the touchpad. By default, the Surface Book touchpad lets you perform a right-click by clicking its lower-right corner. You can disable that functionality here, meaning that you can only a perform a right-click by double-tapping or double-clicking.

Allow double-tap and drag. Disabled by default, this option lets you double-tap an on-screen object like an icon or shortcut so that you can then drag it to a new location (and perhaps copy or move it within the file system). I find this behavior confusing, and never use it on purpose, and thus leave it disabled.

Use a two finger tap for right-click. This is enabled by default, but if you would prefer to prevent double-taps (a double “soft press”) from registering as right-clicks, you can disable it. If you do, double-clicks will still work as right-clicks.

Use a two finger drag to scroll. As noted above, the Surface Book trackpad will let you scroll within a web page, document, or other scrollable area by dragging two fingers vertically up or down. This is one of the more common and useful touchpad gestures, so I leave it enabled.

Use a two-finger pinch to zoom. Like the screen on Surface Book, you can use pinch (and reverse pinch) gestures on the touchpad to zoom in and out of content. I rarely use apps that support this functionality—even the built-in apps like Photos and Maps do not—but I’d rather zoom with the screen so I disable this.

Choose what to do with a three finger tap. This is set to “Search with Cortana” by default, but you can choose “Nothing” or “Action Center” instead. I choose Nothing.

Choose what to do with three finger drags and slides. This one is interesting: It’s set to “Switching apps” by default, which means that a three finger drag downward will minimize all apps, while a three finger drag upward will restore apps (if all are minimized) or launch Task View. I leave it enabled and am trying to train myself to use this. But you can set it to “Nothing” if you prefer.

What the Surface Book touchpad doesn’t support is edge gestures: You can’t swipe in from the right side of the touchpad to display Action Center, or from the right edge to display Task View, as you can with some other touchpads. I think this is for the best: I’ve never meant to trigger such an action on purpose, and find the unwanted appearance of these UIs to be unwelcome. Besides, the Surface Book touchpad supports both Action Center and Task View with its own gestures, and neither is likely to happen by mistake. That’s just smart design.


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