Linux only: Easystroke, a free mouse gesture manager for Linux systems, makes the often quirky business of summoning applications, web sites, and desktop actions with your pointer a simple affair. After installing Easystroke and adding it to your startup programs, it sits in your icon tray to register movements and add new ones. By default, it only records mouse gestures made when the middle mouse button is held down, and it’s surprisingly intuitive at knowing what you wanted. Let’s take a look at how to set up Easystroke to help you get at frequently-accessed site, desktop manipulations, and favourite programs with a flick of the wrist.
First things first: Head to the Easystroke web site and download a package for your system. There are pre-compiled .deb packages for 32- and 64-bit Ubuntu systems, and a source code package for other distributions (here’s a guide to compiling from Webmonkey). Ubuntu users can also add Easystroke’s repository lines to their sources through Synaptic Package Manager (or editing
/etc/apt/sources.list). Once you’ve installed Easystroke, you can add it to your auto-starting programs for convenience, or launch it using the command line
Once it’s launched, you’ll see the Easystroke icon sitting in your system tray. Assuming you’re using a three-button mouse (trackpad gestures can be a bit tricky), hold down your middle/scroll button and make some gestures around the screen. Easystroke’s icon will change to represent what you just did, and you’ll get a feel for how responsive the program is.
Click once on the Easystroke icon, and you’ll pull up the preferences dialog, with the “Actions” tab open. Let’s try out an easy one. Click “Add Action” in the lower left corner, and you’ll be prompted to name it. I’m trying out a gesture that pulls up Lifehacker, so I’ll just name it “Lifehacker.” Next you’ll be asked for a “Type.” “Command” is exactly what it sounds like—whatever you can type into a command line can be triggered from a mouse movement. “Key” simulates pressing a key or combination of keys, which is great for things like hiding a desktop, switching workspaces, putting windows in Expose mode, etc. “Ignore” is only used if you’re having trouble getting Easystroke to trigger the right action, so you’d enter the gesture you don’t want to trigger something and assign it there. “Scroll” and “Button” make gestures act as mouse movements or clicks, so if you were interested in a live-scrolling browser experience, you can set it up with those options.
After choosing “Command, I’ll enter
firefox http://lifehacker.com in the “argument” field, which causes Firefox to open (or just open a new tab) to this site. Once that’s done, hit “Record stroke” on the bottom of the window, and a pop-up window will ask you to record your gesture. Hold down the middle button, and try to record the action as you’d use it in real life—not careful and precise, but fast and slightly sloppy. Easystroke knows the difference between moving left to right and right to left, but doesn’t mind if you record a small gesture and make a large one to summon it. If you’re not happy with your recording, just hit “Record stroke” again, and you’ll see an option to “Delete stroke” and start over.
Once you’ve got that mastered, you’ve pretty much got control of your mouse gestures. In the “Preferences” tab, you can change the gesture button (to another button, if you’ve got a multi-button mouse, or keyboard key if you’re trying a trackpad), and change or eliminate the way Easystroke shows your mouse strokes and its reactions under the “Appearance” heading.
If you’re running Compiz Fusion on your desktop (and most modern distributions have it pre-installed), you can use Easystroke for a lot of cool desktop manipulation. Head into your advanced Compiz settings (here’s a quick guide to setting them up in Ubuntu) and enable effects like “ADD Helper,” “Expo,” and any of the “Desktop” effects (like Cube, Wall, or the like). I set up “Widget Layer” to turn on and off when I mouse toward the upper right of my screen, because I found myself accidentally triggering the layer too often when I just assigned it to the upper-right corner with Brightside or Compiz’s settings.
What gestures have you set up on your Linux system to move your work around or launch applications? Share your setup in the comments.