We all know Synaptics, the company that seems to produce just about every touchpad you can get your
hands fingers on. Their touchpads also do a lot of multitouch and gesture stuff, but up until now, their set of gestures, the Synaptics Gesture Suite, was only available on Windows. Luckily, they’ve ported it over to Linux, and made it available for OEMs building Linux laptops.
This means that a whole boatload of gestures you could already do on Windows can now be implemented by Linux vendors as well, such as two-finger scrolling, pinch-to-zoom, twist-to-rotate, pivot-to-rotate, three-finger flick, three-finger press, Momentum, and ChiralScrolling (which is kind of like clickwheel scrolling on iPods). Several Linux distributions are supported, including Fedora, Millos Linpus, Red Flag, SLED 11 (SuSE), Ubuntu, and Xandros.
“The Synaptics Gesture Suite for Linux enables our OEMs to leverage a broad range of gesture capabilities across Linux operating systems, and offers extensibility into new Linux flavors such as Google Chrome OS and additional support for touch-enabled remote control devices,” said Ted Theocheung, head of Synaptics PC and digital home products & ecosystem, “SGS ensures optimized interoperability of gestures, minimal gesture interpretations errors, and proven usability performance across the widest range of TouchPad sizes from small remote controls and netbooks to large powerhouse notebook PCs, as well as customization capabilities to OEMs’ exacting specifications.”
While a number of these features could already be enabled through Xorg (in the end, it’s a hardware feature the operating system needs to take advantage of) some of them were harder (if not impossible) to implement, most likely because they are patented up the wazzoo. By making the Gesture Suite available for Linux OEMs, Synaptics enables them to ship these gestures in an easier way.
Sadly, the code is not open source, so it cannot become part of the vanilla releases of many distributions. I’ve sent over some questions to Synaptics’ press person to find out about whether or not the Gesture Suite might find its way into for instance Ubuntu’s Partner Repository, and/or if the Suite will become available for non-OEMs too, since a lot of Linux users install Linux on their own. It would be nice to be able to simply install a .deb or .rpm that enables all the gesture functionality under Linux – preferably with a nice configuration panel, of course.
I’ve certainly had two finger scrolling on my eeepc since I got it in ’08.
Pinch to zoom might be nice though. Presumably apps like eye of gnome will also need to add multitouch support?
It’s a pity it’s not open source thus allowing all distributions access to their products as well as other OSs a chance to port the tools too (eg *BSD, OpenSolaris, Haiku, etc). With Synaptics business being hardware, I’d have thought (and correct me if I’m wrong here) there was no “trade secret” danger from opening up their code.
However, open source or not, it’s good to see Synaptics contribute. There’s still far too many hardware manufacturers out there that completely ignore the Linux platform – often just expecting hackers fill the void with reverse engineering and the lark. So I’d much rather see the source closed than not see the software at all.
[edited to read better.]
Edited 2010-04-19 13:48 UTC