What is a touchpad?


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What is a touchpad?

the touchpad highlighted

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In this activity, you’ll learn about the touchpad on your laptop and some of the commands you can issue your laptop using the touchpad.

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What does a touchpad do?

The touchpad on a laptop does the same job as the mouse on a desktop computer. It is sometimes also called a trackpad.

The touchpad is used to control the mouse pointer. The pointer is used to point at and choose (or open) items on the screen. A pointer can also be called a cursor.

the mouse pointer
moving a finger across the touchpad

Moving the mouse pointer on a touchpad

When you want to move the pointer, just slide a finger across the touchpad in the direction that you want the pointer to go.

Don’t worry if you come to the edge of the touchpad and the pointer still hasn’t reached its destination. You can lift your finger off the touchpad surface and move it back to the edge of the touchpad to make more travel room for your finger. When your finger is not in contact with the touchpad, the mouse pointer won’t move.

Left click on a touchpad

To perform a left mouse button click using a touchpad, lift your finger and tap gently on the pad. It should register as a mouse click. It’s similar to the way you use your finger on a smartphone touchscreen.

If tapping doesn’t work, you may have to push down a little harder until you feel a click from the touchpad surface.

tapping the touchpad
right-tapping the touchpad

Right click on a touchpad

To perform a right mouse button click, lift your finger from the touchpad and then tap (or push) the right-hand side of the touchpad. This will register as a right mouse button click.

On some touchpads, you use two fingers to press once on the touchpad to perform a right mouse button click.

Some touchpads have buttons

If you have an older laptop, it might not have a clickable touchpad surface. Instead, it has two buttons underneath the touchpad.

Click the left button to perform a left click, and the right button to perform a right click.

pressing the touchpad
double clicking a touchpad

Single-click and double-click

Just like a mouse, simply tap once to perform a single click and tap twice in quick succession to perform a double-click.

Performing a double-click can be fiddly and might take a bit of practice until you get the knack of it.

Scrolling on a touchpad

When a web page or document is too big to fit on the screen, you can use the touchpad to scroll the page up or down to see more. The main ways to do this are:

  • Place two fingers side-by-side and gently drag them up and down on the touchpad surface to scroll
  • Move the pointer to the scroll bar on the right-hand side of the screen. Click on the little box in the scroll bar and hold your finger down on the touchpad, then slide your finger up or down to scroll.
scrolling on a touchpad

Well done!

This is the end of the What is a touchpad? activity. You’ve learned how to use the touchpad on your laptop to issue commands, select items on the screen and scroll web pages.

If you’re a registered user, you can now complete a short quiz to test your learning. If you’re not registered, this is now the end of the What is a laptop? course.

a touchpad highlighted