Expose separate settings for trackpoint (pointing device)

Traditionally, a device only has a single “pointing device”, the mouse. Additionally, laptops have a trackpad, allowing the user to move their cursor around without an additional peripheral.

GNOME Settings currently handles this by separating the mouse’s settings and the trackpad’s settings into two different, independent tabs.

However, there’s a major exception to this. The trackpoint.

The trackpoint is a pointing device, just like the mouse and the trackpad. It uses the pressure of the finger to move the cursor around.

However, unlike the trackpad, it doesn’t have its own settings and configuration. It simply uses the same as those in the mouse tab. This is problematic because trackpoints often require completely different velocity and acceleration settings to be comfortable for the user. Without these settings, users either have to make the mouse more uncomfortable for them or mess with libinput’s configuration directly.

Although it has undeniably fallen off use, there’s still one major brand which includes trackpoints, Lenovo’s thinkpad. It also happens to be, arguably, one of the most popular machines to run Linux in, with preloads of Ubuntu and Fedora being available for purchase from Lenovo. Both of these distros (mainly fedora) use GNOME as their DE. This is why I personally believe better support for this hardware feature could be provided.

All of the technical infrastructure to support the trackpoint as a hardware feature is there. There’s drivers in the kernel and libinput provides a pretty robust and well thought out implementation of trackpoint functionality and configuration. All that’s missing is a user-facing interface for changing the settings.

Here’s my suggestion: Expose a third “Trackpoint” tab if the user’s device has a trackpoint, with similar (or equal) options to the mouse one. This should cleanly support the three main kinds of (physical) inputs libinput supports and that a device can have.
Rough example:

Here’s existing implementations of trackpoint settings:

  • Windows has its convoluted third party utility:

    Ideally, we should avoid making vendor-specific utilities like these for Linux.

  • KDE Plasma exposes different mouse options per pointing device. The trackpoint counts as one, so it’ll appear in the device selection:

    This doesn’t seem to follow GNOME’s “philosophy”, but is a perfectly valid way to go around it.

I’d be pretty interested in tackling the challenge of providing this functionality, but first I’d like to know if a contribution like this would even be accepted to begin with. It’s perfectly understandable that there’s little interest in improving an input method most users, including developers, don’t really use, so I’m more than happy to try doing so myself!

There’s a upstream issue for this at No settings for trackpoint (#1693) · Issues · GNOME / Settings · GitLab

1 Like

Awesome. I’ll see if I can chime in there.