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LIBINPUT-GESTURES

AUR

Libinput-gestures is a utility which reads libinput gestures from your touchpad and maps them to gestures you configure in a configuration file. Each gesture can be configured to activate a shell command which is typically an xdotool command to action desktop/window/application keyboard combinations and commands. See the examples in the provided libinput-gestures.conf file. My motivation for creating this is to use triple swipe up/down to switch workspaces, and triple swipe right/left to go backwards/forwards in my browser, as per the default configuration.

This small and simple utility is only intended to be used temporarily until GNOME and other DE's action libinput gestures natively. It parses the output of the libinput list-devices and libinput debug-events utilities so is a little fragile to any version changes in their output format.

This utility is developed and tested on Arch linux using the GNOME 3 DE on Xorg and Wayland. It works somewhat incompletely on Wayland (via XWayland). See the WAYLAND section below and the comments in the default libinput-gestures.conf file. It has been reported to work with KDE. I am not sure how well this will work on all Linux systems and DE's etc.

The latest version and documentation is available at https://github.com/bulletmark/libinput-gestures.

INSTALLATION

You need python 3.6 or later, python2 is not supported. You also need libinput release 1.0 or later.

You must be a member of the input group to have permission to read the touchpad device:

sudo gpasswd -a $USER input

After executing the above command, reboot your system.

Most/many users will require to install the following although neither are actual dependencies because some custom configurations will not require them. If you are unsure initially, install both of them.

Prerequisite Required for
wmctrl Necessary for _internal command, as per default configuration
xdotool Simulates keyboard and mouse actions for Xorg or XWayland based apps
# E.g. On Arch:
sudo pacman -S wmctrl xdotool

# E.g. On Debian based systems, e.g. Ubuntu:
sudo apt-get install wmctrl xdotool

# E.g. On Fedora:
sudo dnf install wmctrl xdotool

NOTE: Arch users can now just install libinput-gestures from the AUR. Then skip to the next CONFIGURATION section.

Debian and Ubuntu users may also need to install libinput-tools if that package exists in your release:

sudo apt-get install libinput-tools

Install this software:

git clone https://github.com/bulletmark/libinput-gestures.git
cd libinput-gestures
sudo make install (or sudo ./libinput-gestures-setup install)

CONFIGURATION

It is helpful to start by reading the documentation about what libinput calls gestures. Many users will be happy with the default configuration in which case you can just type the following and you are ready to go:

libinput-gestures-setup autostart start

Otherwise, if you want to create your own custom gestures etc, keep reading ..

The default gestures are in /etc/libinput-gestures.conf. If you want to create your own custom gestures then copy that file to ~/.config/libinput-gestures.conf and edit it. There are many examples and options described in that file. The available gestures are:

Gesture Example Mapping
swipe up GNOME/KDE/etc move to next workspace
swipe down GNOME/KDE/etc move to prev workspace
swipe left Web browser go forward
swipe right Web browser go back
swipe left_up Jump to next open web browser tab
swipe left_down Jump to previous open web browser tab
swipe right_up Close current web browser tab
swipe right_down Reopen and jump to last closed web browser tab
pinch in GNOME open/close overview
pinch out GNOME open/close overview
pinch clockwise
pinch anticlockwise
hold on (available since libinput 1.19) Open new web browser tab

NOTE: If you don't use "natural" scrolling direction for your touchpad then you may want to swap the default left/right and up/down configurations.

You can choose to specify a specific finger count, typically 3 or more fingers for swipe, and 2 or more for pinch. If a finger count is specified then the command is executed when exactly that number of fingers is used in the gesture. If not specified then the command is executed when that gesture is invoked with any number of fingers. Gestures specified with finger count have priority over the same gesture specified without any finger count.

Of course, 2 finger swipes and taps are already interpreted by your DE and apps for scrolling etc.

IMPORTANT: Test the program. Check for reported errors in your custom gestures, missing packages, etc:

# Ensure the program is stopped
libinput-gestures-setup stop

# Test to print out commands that would be executed:
libinput-gestures -d
(<ctrl-c> to stop)

Confirm that the correct commands are reported for your 3 finger swipe up/down/left/right gestures, and your 2 or 3 finger pinch in/out gestures. Some touchpads can also support 4 finger gestures. If you have problems then follow the TROUBLESHOOTING steps below.

Apart from simple environment variable and ~ substitutions within the configured command name, libinput-gestures does not run the configured command under a shell so shell argument substitutions and expansions etc will not be parsed. This is for efficiency and because most don't need it. This also means your PATH is not respected of course so you must specify the full path to any command. If you need something more complicated, you can add your commands in an executable personal script, e.g. ~/bin/libinput-gestures.sh with a #!/bin/sh shebang. Optionally that script can take arguments. Run that script by hand until you get it working then configure the script path as your command in your libinput-gestures.conf.

In most cases, libinput-gestures automatically determines your touchpad device. However, you can specify it in your configuration file if needed. If you have multiple touchpads you can also specify libinput-gestures to use all devices. See the notes in the default libinput-gestures.conf file about the device configuration command.

STARTING AND STOPPING

To [re-]start the app immediately and also to enable it to start automatically at login, just type the following:

libinput-gestures-setup stop desktop autostart start

The following commands are available:

Enable the app to start automatically in the background when you log in with:

libinput-gestures-setup autostart

Disable the app from starting automatically with:

libinput-gestures-setup autostop

Start the app immediately in the background:

libinput-gestures-setup start

Stop the background app immediately with:

libinput-gestures-setup stop

Restart the app, e.g. to reload the configuration file, with:

libinput-gestures-setup restart

Check the status of the app with:

libinput-gestures-setup status

You can specify multiple user commands to libinput-gestures-setup to action in sequence.

Note that on some uncommon systems then libinput-gestures-setup start may fail to start the application returning you a message Don't know how to invoke libinput-gestures.desktop. If you get this error message, install the dex package, preferably from your system packages repository, and try again.

SYSTEMD USER SERVICE

By default, libinput-gestures is started with your DE as a desktop application. There is also an option to start as a systemd user service. However, on some systems this can be unreliable (on system restart, the application will get started but occasionally will be unable to receive commands). If you want to try it, type:

libinput-gestures-setup stop service autostart start

You can switch back to the desktop option with the command:

libinput-gestures-setup stop desktop autostart start

UPGRADE

# cd to source dir, as above
git pull
sudo make install (or sudo ./libinput-gestures-setup install)
libinput-gestures-setup restart

REMOVAL

libinput-gestures-setup stop autostop
sudo libinput-gestures-setup uninstall

WAYLAND AND OTHER NOTES

This utility exploits xdotool for many use cases which unfortunately only works with X11/Xorg based applications. So xdotool shortcuts for the desktop do not work under GNOME on Wayland which is the default since GNOME 3.22. However, it is found that wmctrl desktop selection commands do work under GNOME on Wayland (via XWayland) so this utility adds a built-in _internal command which can be used to switch workspaces using the swipe commands. The _internal ws_up and ws_down commands use wmctrl to work out the current workspace and select the next one. Since this works on both Wayland and Xorg, and with GNOME, KDE, and other EWMH compliant desktops, it is the default configuration command for swipe up and down commands in libinput-gestures.conf. See the comments in that file about other options you can do with the _internal command. Unfortunately _internal does not work with Compiz for Ubuntu Unity desktop so also see the explicit example there for Unity.

Of course, xdotool commands do work via XWayland for Xorg based apps so, for example, page forward/back swipe gestures do work for Firefox and Chrome browsers when running on Wayland as per the default configuration.

Note if you run libinput-gestures on GNOME with Wayland, be sure to change or disable the your libinput-gestures.conf configured gestures to not clash with the native gestures.

GNOME 40.0 and later on Wayland natively implements the following gestures:

  • 3 finger swipe up/down opens the GNOME overview.
  • 3 finger swipe left/right changes workspaces

GNOME 40.0 does not use 4 finger gestures so you can freely assign them using libinput-gestures.

GNOME 3.38 on Wayland and earlier natively implements the following gestures:

  • 3 finger pinch opens/close the GNOME overview.
  • 4 finger swipe up/down changes workspaces

GNOME on Xorg does not natively implement any gestures.

EXTENDED GESTURES

They are not enabled in the default libinput-gestures.conf configuration file but you can enable extended gestures which augment the gestures listed above in CONFIGURATION. See the commented out examples in libinput-gestures.conf.

  • swipe right_up (e.g. jump to next open browser tab)
  • swipe left_up (e.g. jump to previous open browser tab)
  • swipe left_down (e.g. close current browser tab)
  • swipe right_down (e.g. reopen and jump to last closed browser tab)
  • pinch clockwise
  • pinch anticlockwise

So instead of just configuring the usual swipe up/down and left/right each at 90 degrees separation, you can add the above extra 4 swipes to give a total of 8 swipe gestures each at 45 degrees separation. It works better than you may expect, at least after some practice. It means you can completely manage browser tabs from your touchpad.

HOLD GESTURES

Libinput version 1.19.0 added HOLD gestures to augment the standard SWIPE and PINCH gestures. They are actioned with 1 or more fingers and are simply set ON as a trigger. They are not as versatile as the other gestures but they are a distinct new gesture so libinput-gestures does interpret them and map them to commands you can configure in your libinput-gestures.conf, e.g:

gesture hold on 4 xdotool key control+t

The above gesture will open a new tab in your browser if you rest 4 fingers statically on the touchpad.

AUTOMATIC STOP/RESTART ON D-BUS EVENTS SUCH AS SUSPEND

There are some situations where you may want to automatically stop, start, or restart libinput-gestures. E.g. some touchpads have a problem which causes libinput-gestures (actually the underlying libinput debug-events) to hang after resuming from a system suspend so those users want to stop libinput-gestures when a system goes into suspend and then start it again with resuming. You can use a companion program dbus-action to do this. See the example configuration for libinput-gestures in the default dbus-action configuration file.

The dbus-action utility can also be used any similar situation, e.g. when you remove/insert a detachable touchpad. It can be used to stop, start, or restart libinput-gestures on any D-Bus event.

TROUBLESHOOTING

Please don't raise a github issue but provide little information about your problem, and please don't raise an issue until you have considered all the following steps. If you raise an issue ALWAYS include the output of libinput-gestures -l to show the environment and configuration you are using, regardless of what the issue is about.

  1. Ensure you are running the latest version from the libinput-gestures github repository or from the Arch AUR.

  2. Ensure you have followed the installation instructions here carefully. The most common mistake is that you have not added your user to the input group and rebooted your system as described above.

  3. Perhaps temporarily remove your custom configuration to try with the default configuration.

  4. Run libinput-gestures-setup status and confirm it reports the set up that you expect.

  5. Run libinput-gestures on the command line in debug mode while performing some 3 and 4 finger left/right/up/down swipes, and some pinch in/outs. In debug mode, configured commands are not executed, they are merely output to the screen:

     libinput-gestures-setup stop
     libinput-gestures -d
     (<ctrl-c> to stop)
    
  6. Run libinput-gestures in raw mode by repeating the same commands as above step but use the -r (--raw) switch instead of -d (--debug). Raw mode does nothing more than echo the raw gesture events received from libinput debug-events. You should see the following types of events when you move your fingers:

    • 1 and 2 finger movements should output POINTER_* type events
    • 3 (and above) finger movements should output GESTURE_* type events.

    If you do not see any GESTURE_* events then unfortunately your touchpad and/or libinput does not report multi-finger gestures so libinput-gestures can not work. The discrimination of gestures is done completely within libinput, before they get passed to libinput-gestures.

  7. Search the web for Linux kernel and/or libinput issues relating to your specific touchpad device and/or laptop/pc. Update your BIOS if possible.

  8. Be sure that a configured external command works exactly how you want when you run it directly on the command line, before you configure it for libinput-gestures. E.g. run xdotool manually and experiment with various arguments to work out exactly what arguments it requires to do what you want, and only then add that command + arguments to your custom configuration in ~/.config/libinput-gestures.conf. Clearly, if the your manual xdotool command does not work correctly then there is no point raising an libinput-gestures issue about it!

  9. If you raise an issue, always include the output of libinput-gestures -l to show the environment and configuration you are using. If appropriate, also paste the output from steps 4 and 5 above. If your device is not being recognised by libinput-gestures at all, paste the complete output of libinput list-devices (libinput-list-devices on libinput < v1.8).

LICENSE

Copyright (C) 2015 Mark Blakeney. This program is distributed under the terms of the GNU General Public License. This program is free software: you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of the GNU General Public License as published by the Free Software Foundation, either version 3 of the License, or any later version. This program is distributed in the hope that it will be useful, but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of MERCHANTABILITY or FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. See the GNU General Public License at https://www.gnu.org/licenses/ for more details.