Actions gestures on your touchpad using libinput
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README.md

LIBINPUT-GESTURES

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 distros and DE's etc.

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

INSTALLATION

IMPORTANT: 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, log out of your session completely, and then log back in to assign this group (or just reboot).

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

You need python 3.4 or later, python2 is not supported. You also need libinput release 1.0 or later. Install prerequisites:

# E.g. On Arch:
sudo pacman -S xdotool wmctrl

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

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

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

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
libinput-gestures-setup 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. The available gestures are:

  • swipe up (e.g. map to GNOME/KDE/etc move to next workspace)
  • swipe down (e.g map to GNOME/KDE/etc move to prev workspace)
  • swipe left (e.g. map to Web browser go forward)
  • swipe right (e.g. map to Web browser go back)
  • pinch in (e.g. map to GNOME open/close overview)
  • pinch out (e.g. map to GNOME open/close overview)

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 4 fingers. If 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 executed 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.

For efficiency and because most don't need it, libinput-gestures does not run the configured command under a shell so command substitutions and expansions etc will not be parsed. However, if you need this, just add your commands in an executable personal script, e.g. ~/bin/libinput-gestures.sh. Run that by hand until you get it working then configure that script name 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

Search for, and then start, the libinput-gestures app in your DE or you can start it immediately in the background using the command line utility:

libinput-gestures-setup start

You can stop the background app with:

libinput-gestures-setup stop

You can enable the app to start automatically in the background when you log in (on an XDG compliant DE such as GNOME and KDE) with:

libinput-gestures-setup autostart

You can disable the app from starting automatically with:

libinput-gestures-setup autostop

You can restart the app or reload the configuration file with:

libinput-gestures-setup restart

You can check the status of the app with:

libinput-gestures-setup status

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

WAYLAND AND OTHER NOTES

This utility exploits xdotool which unfortunately only works with X11/Xorg based applications. So xdotool shortcuts for the desktop do not work under GNOME on Wayland which is now 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 now 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 currently 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 that GNOME on Wayland natively implements the following gestures:

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

So if you choose to run libinput-gestures on Wayland, be sure to change or disable the your libinput-gestures.conf pinch and swipe up/down gestures to not clash with these. E.g, configure your libinput-gestures.conf pinch gestures for only 2 fingers, and the swipe up/down for only 3 fingers so they work independently of the native gestures.

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.

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 re-logged in as described above.

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

  4. 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)
    
  5. 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. If you see POINTER_* events but no GESTURE_* events then unfortunately your touchpad and/or libinput combination can report simple finger movements but does not report multi-finger gestures so libinput-gestures will not work. Also note that discrimination of SWIPE and PINCH gestures is done completely within libinput, before they get to libinput-gestures.

  6. 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.

  7. 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!

  8. 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.