Smart Planet: Why Are Laptop Touchpads So Bad?


By John Dodge

Does this happen to you? You want to go from point A to B on your laptop display and your touchpad mouse pointer randomly darts across the screen leaving a trail of unwanted open windows and applications. It’s like I am in Miami today and want to head for a spring training game in Fort Myers (I am) and inexplicably end up in Jacksonville.

Or the pointer races across the screen turning the content blue as if selecting for cutting or pasting. Or the pointer just wanders like gravity is weighing it down…or up. Or it doesn’t move at all as you try to regain tactile control on the touchpad.

Erratic touchpad mouse behavior happens all the time (several times while writing this post).

Why can’t laptop pointing devices be more reliable and perhaps less smart? Or schizoid. Or lousy.

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18 thoughts on “Smart Planet: Why Are Laptop Touchpads So Bad?”

  1. I have gone through the BS of pads ie hidden comand lines as stated previously and now we have these smater pads?
    I have as usual shut off “Tapping” but I use scrol and zoom but due to the fact that they now like to sell us the damn T pad to the left… and I have lots of problems
    Who the the SH that figured that we should have this move
    Unfortunatley I can’t use another “mouse” in my inviorment
    So Iguess I have to turn off all functions ….soo what is the use of an offset TP

  2. I disable the pad on my Compaq Presario and use a wireless mouse (when it works). I used a logitech which stopped working after a year plus or minus. Changinb atteries did not help. Made the mistake of buying the second unit. I got the same problem. Tech service blamed the drivers. No help. Am now using a usb wired mouse.

  3. Personally, I have used thinkpads for years. I liked the trackpoint. I recently bought a new laptop. My choice was a thinkpad only because of that feature. I do have a touchpad on the computer but have disabled it. When typing in the proper hand positions, the trackpoint is right there. I think it is a feature every laptop manufacturer should include. It beats a touchpad completely.

  4. Bill: what “good” did you get out of the article? He didn’t say much other than “touchpads are bad, there’s no way to predict how they will be bad, and there’s no way to fix the badness”. The only prescriptions I saw came from the comments, where these “experts… wasting their time reading about this subject” were offering helpful advice to those suffering the same problem as our author.

  5. My old Del Latitude 620 I had to disable in the bios but the touchpad only played up when online with writing emails etc. Offline I noticed no problem but a mouse is ten times better and the pad could have been put to one side out of the handrest area

  6. Thanks for that subject, John. While there may be some real “experts” who are so intelligent they should be in DC straightening that mess out, instead of wasting their time reading about this subject since they already know all about it…….there are some of us who got a lot of good out of some comments about the subject you brought up. Thanks again, John.

  7. I think Bruce (post 1) said it best. You really should not be having these problems if you are of the technical skill to have a tech blog. You do realize that there are sensitivity settings that come with your mouse driver? The first thing I do when I get a new laptop is adjust these and then I never have a problem with the mouse ever again.

  8. I found a solution that actually works…Google has a free program called “Touchfreeze”. Download it and install it and your touchpad can be disabled so your busy little fingers don’t activate it.

  9. Plugging in the mouse hasn’t solved the problem on my Compaq laptop. Even the faintest touch on the keypad while I’m typing will send the cursor (and several keystrokes) a line or several lines away from whatever I was writing. I constantly have to stop and correct — and the interruption to my train of thought is a huge time-waster.

    I’m going to try Robert’s advice and see if I can disable the keypad.

  10. I prefer a “wide stance”, like that senator who got caught playing footsies at the airport bathroom, so the laptop keyboard and pad are very uncomfortable.

    90 percent of the time my laptop is docked so I avoid the touch pad, preferring to have the wireless mouse at the end of a fully extended right arm, on a very comfortable pad with a wrist support.

  11. Like most “portable” devices, there are invariably make shift solutions that enable one to almost succeed in doing something almost as well as you could do it if you had the space or resources to actually do it properly in the first place.

    The laptop or notepad ‘touchpad’ to me is such a device that enables one to mimic the actual use of a mouse conveniently when out and about. It was; I suggest never designed to take place of one. Where it is not possible to actually use a mouse, then I can understand using the touchpad as being more convenient (on your lap, on an aircraft, train or on a small coffee shop table perhaps).

    Otherwise, simply plug in a proper mouse and do the job properly without the limitations described. I think the convenience of these laptops (nowadays they are outselling desktops by more than 3 to 1) has defeated the ideology of having a lovely big screen and a nice large mouse to play within the desktop world of value computing.

  12. I have never had this problem with any of the laptops I have ever used. Some touch pads do seem to work better then others though. Many newer touch pads have the option to disable it. Also you can always get a USB mouse and use it.

  13. My HP was bad to double or skip so I opted to plug in my USB KB and voila, normal keyboard and more comfortable.

  14. I’ve always liked the “eraser” pointer embedded in the keyboards of Lenovo ThinkPads. You can customize the “feel” of it.

  15. Robert Fitzgerald

    All laptops come with the “tapping” feature enabled. The feature which most people do not even know about, let alone use, causes endless problems. You can be moving across the pad or just hovering over it, and it decides you hit enter. The causes the default action for the window your cursor happens to occur. You will likely have no idea what happened or why. The first thing I do on any laptop is go to the mouse/trackpad properties and turn it off. On new HPs it is on the first screen. Older machines may have it buried 3 levels deep.

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