What is Touchpad Sensitivity?

R. Kayne

A touchpad is a touch-sensitive surface used in place of a traditional computer mouse for controlling cursor movement. The swipe of a fingertip across a touchpad will direct the screen cursor accordingly. Touchpad sensitivity refers to how much finger pressure must be applied before the pad responds. Touchpad sensitivity can be adjusted up or down to make the pad more sensitive or less sensitive to the touch.

The sensitivity of computer touchpads can be adjusted so that they require more or less finger pressure.
The sensitivity of computer touchpads can be adjusted so that they require more or less finger pressure.

Most mobile computers have a touchpad built into the wrist wrest. The touchpad might have two or three buttons below or above the pad to act as mouse buttons. Alternately, one can tap the pad’s surface to initiate a click. Finding a personally satisfying setting for touchpad sensitivity will make using the touchpad easier and more comfortable.

Most laptops have a touchpad built into them.
Most laptops have a touchpad built into them.

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In Windows® and Mac® systems, software settings for the mouse or touchpad should be found in the Control Panel. Some touchpad software also loads a touchpad icon in the system tray for fast access.

There can be more than one setting for touchpad sensitivity. Some software allows one to set the general sensitivity of the pad, and also to adjust “palm sensitivity” or the ability for the touchpad to ignore accidental swipes that might occur while typing.

General sensitivity adjusts how lightly you can brush the pad while still getting a response. A touchpad set for a light touch is more comfortable to use, but taken to an extreme this setting can cause unpredictable cursor movement. If humidity is high and the cursor is acting erratically, it might help to adjust the sensitivity towards a heavier touch. If the touchpad is missing taps and strokes, try adjusting sensitivity towards a lighter touch.

Palm sensitivity is intended to help avert unintentional cursor movement caused by the palms. Adjusting this setting higher narrows the useable area of the touchpad inwards towards the center. Taken to an extreme, this reduces the usefulness of the touchpad causing it to miss swipes or taps that aren’t centered enough. Leaving this setting off or adjusting it too low, however, might result in erratic cursor movement.

In addition to sensitivity, one can set how close taps must occur to emulate a double-click. If the cursor misses double-taps, it could be that the taps are coming too close together or too far apart for the touchpad to register them as double-taps, per the current setting. When testing this touchpad setting an animated icon will respond to illustrate a successful double-click. Adjust the slider up or down to make sure the touchpad responds to your natural tapping style.

When tweaking touchpad sensitivity you can also enable tap zones, a feature available on many touchpads. Tap zones can be assigned special functions, so that tapping in a zone will carry out the assigned function. Up to four tap zones are available, one occupying each corner of the pad. Tapping in the upper left corner, for example, might mute/un-mute sound, maximize/minimize the screen, or act as a third mouse button. Enabling tap zones can be very handy, saving keystrokes while improving efficiency.

The sensitivity of a touchpad dictates how much finger pressure is necessary.
The sensitivity of a touchpad dictates how much finger pressure is necessary.

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