Windows: Synaptics' Scrybe software puts multi-finger scrolling on your Windows laptop, sure. But it also understands finger-drawn letters, launches sets of apps with a three-finger tap and pulls off some other neat multi-touch stunts. Here's how to get it installed and configured.
Why bother messing with Scrybe if your can point and click just fine? With Scrybe installed, you can do a lot of nifty things you can't generally do otherwise on a non-Mac laptop:
- Draw an L to launch Lifehacker.com in a new tab, an N to open Notepad++, and other character-action combos.
- Swipe left and right with three fingers to page through pictures, web pages (in some browsers), and other apps.
- On some trackpads, rotate pictures and other documents with two fingers.
- Launch one or more apps at the same time by pressing and holding three fingers.
- Get your standard two-finger scroll going, as we previously pulled off with some hackery.
First things first: if you've installed unofficial Synaptics drivers, or another touchpad-focused app like TwoFingerScroll, you'll have to uninstall them to use Scrybe, and you'll have to re-install your standard touchpad drivers from Synaptics or your laptop manufacturer to try out Scrybe. It actively checks for those drivers, and during installation, it updates your drivers to a modified version that supports its tricky finger magic.
So, yes, you should install or update your Synaptics drivers first, before installing, well, Synaptics drivers. And there's a chance that, depending on your hardware, some of the features may not work, or you might not get anywhere at all. There are a lot of touchpads out there connected to different hardware, and that's the way it is. On my ThinkPad, I was able to get everything except picture rotation ("Chiral Rotate") working — your mileage will certainly vary. When it works, though, Scrybe is pretty neat.
Go and grab a copy of Scrybe from the Download section of Scrybe's site. Install it, and be sure to watch for the (groan) Yahoo toolbar and search engine switch offering screen — you'll need to un-check them, unless you just decided that you'd love those changes. You'll be asked to restart before touching Scrybe, and you should, despite what you may sometimes do with other apps. You may actually have to restart twice, as part of the Synaptics drivers may install themselves on your next boot. So don't install this stuff during a busy day at work.
When your system seems in stable order, head to the Control Panel, hit the Hardware and Sound section (or something similar), and choose the Mouse option. In that panel, look on the far right for a tab with a red label, and hit it.
Down at the bottom of that tab, you might want to set the Synaptics icon to never appear in your taskbar — at least that's what I do. Up top, make sure the device with Synaptics in its name is selected, then hit the Settings button.
These settings sometimes have a hard time showing up right — text may appear missing next to buttons, or section borders may overrun. Try moving your mouse cursor around the area to reveal text that seems missing, moving the window a bit, or if all else fails, hitting the "Show Video" button to see what kind of option is being offered.
Dig around, and you'll find settings for all kinds of options. You'll also find that some settings seem duplicated across sections — I can't quite say what the significance is, other than Synaptics' software crew needs to step up their game. I've generally found it best to simply pick out what you want and make a quick run through the settings to enable them wherever it's needed. Personally, I'm most interested in two-finger scrolling, three-finger swipes and taps, and in turning off the edge scrolling and tap-to-click options. Look around, hit the gear-like icon that appears.
The one thing you'll want to hit, in particular, is the checkbox to the left of "Three-Finger Press", and then the gears icon to the right. You'll see a very basic box, pictured at left. There might be a line already filled in — for Notepad, likely — but you can go ahead and hit Remove. Now you can hit Add, once or multiple times, and point Scrybe at the apps you want it to launch when you press three fingers on the touchpad and let them rest for a second.
I'm using the three-finger press for a new Chrome window, simply by pointing it at my Chrome shortcut on the desktop. You could have Chrome or any other browser open up to a particular website, like your Gmail inbox, by adding the URL after the chrome.exe portion of the app you're adding. You could have your three-finger press open up a few different apps that you use for work. Or you could use it to activate a neat Windows feature, the kind we've previously covered.
The other neat part of Scrybe's powers is the gestures. Scrybe installed a little application in your system tray, in the bottom-right of your desktop, by the clock. Right-click on it and choose Scrybe Control Panel.
What you see on first opening is the "Popular" tab, or the pre-installed gestures that you can't, unfortunately, delete. Some of them could be helpful, like drawing a question mark for searching, or a quick "V" for your default video app. Whether you'll ever learn to draw out a cursive lower-case "D" for DVD is up to you. There are more gestures in the Tools tab, which you can click to in the lower-left corner of this window. Some of these, too, are specious — is there anything faster for cutting and pasting than the Ctrl-X/V combo? Much more helpful is assigning your own letter-type gestures to actions like web site launching. Head to the favourites tab to do so.
There won't be anything there, naturally. So hit the "+" in the bottom-left corner, and you'll see the screen at left. You can pick a website to launch in your default browser, or have an application launch too — and that application could be a standard program, or one of many AutoHotKey tactics. I'm using "L" to launch Lifehacker.com.au as an example. When you're picking out your gestures, be sure to notice there's a "123+" tab at the bottom, which has both numbers and very simple gestures that are quick to fire off.
Ready to try out your new gesture? By default, you hold Ctrl+Shift to activate the gesture recognition, then slide out the figure with one finger. You can turn off this Ctrl+Shift necessity, if you'd like, in the Preferences button in the Scrybe Control Panel we just explored. It's likely, however, you'll grow a little annoyed with the false positives over time. From my testing, Scrybe is pretty good at finding the middle ground between accuracy and wiggle room, so that an "a" doesn't fire off an "o", but an "L" can be very fast and loose.
Again, if Scrybe and the new Synaptics drivers don't sit right with your system, go ahead and remove the application and see if our previous multi-finger solution works better for you. Got tips or gesture suggestions from your own setup? We'll gratefully take them in the comments.