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How to get the most from your Chromebook touchpad

Your Chromebook's touchpad is simple to set up and use, and a couple of handy features make it more than just a way to move the mouse pointer. With multi-touch gestures, you'll be able to navigate web pages and apps easier, as well as see everything you're working on at a glance. And yes, you can move the mouse pointer, too.

The touchpad on current Chromebooks is a one-piece unit missing the buttons you might be used to with other laptops. Instead, the touchpad itself is a button, and multi-touch — being able to register multiple actions at once — takes care of the rest. Because you might be used to having buttons for right and left clicking, we'll start with the basics.

How to adjust your touchpad settings

To begin, have a look at the settings page, and you'll find where you can adjust the pointer speed and a section for touchpad settings where you can enable tap to click, swapping your primary mouse button and using Australian scrolling.

  • Tap to click is a setting that lets you tap your finger on the touchpad to do the same thing as a click would do on a regular button. If you want to use gestures you'll want to keep this enabled.
  • Swap your primary mouse button does the same thing it would do with a mouse or a trackpad with actual buttons. It switches actions that need a left click into actions that need a right click, and vice versa.
  • Australian scrolling is having the screen scroll the opposite direction your fingers are moving on the touchpad. Traditional scrolling moves your view up the page when you scroll up, and Australian scrolling moves your view down the page when you scroll up.

When you're done adjusting your settings, click OK to save them.

How to use the touchpad to control the cursor

Next, we'll cover the basics of pointing, clicking and navigating. If you're used to using a mouse, these will take a bit of time to get used to. Alternatively, you can use a mouse with your Chromebook if you would rather. It's still worth learning how to use the touchpad for those times when your mouse batteries are dead and that drawer in the kitchen with a fresh or charged set seems miles away.

  • To move the pointer, move one finger across the trackpad in the direction you want the pointer to move.
  • To click on something, tap or press down on the lower half (the half closest to your body) of the touchpad with one finger.
  • To right click, tap or press down on any spot of the touchpad with two fingers.You can also right-click by pressing the Alt key then tapping or clicking with one finger.
  • To middle click, tap or press anywhere on the touchpad with three fingers.
  • To drag and drop, tap or press the thing you want to drag with one finger and move the pointer while holding down. Let go when your pointer is where you want to drop it. You can also press and hold with one finger then move the pointer with a second finger.

How to use gestures on your touchpad

Gestures are that little extra which can make an experience better. Some apps may have their own gestures, like a three-finger swipe left and right to skim through Chrome browser tabs, but there are three common ones that work with everything you do on your Chromebook.

  • To scroll, drag two fingers on the touchpad.
  • Scrolling right and left, acts as forwards and back buttons. The faster you swipe the faster you will navigate. This setting is universal and works anywhere you can move horizontally.
  • Scrolling up and down, moves the window content up and down. See Australian scrolling above for an option.
  • To see all open windows. swipe up or down with three fingers on the touchpad. If you have Australian scrolling enabled, swipe up. Otherwise, swipe down.

Most of these are along the lines for features you find in any laptop with a good touchpad or trackpad, with or without buttons. They're not too revolutionary. They do make working with the touchpad on your Chromebook as easy as using a mouse!

Updated January 2018: Updated with fresh tips on how to use your Chromebook touchpad to its fullest.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Jerry Hildenbrand

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

25 Comments
  • Thanks! Good tips!
  • This might sound stupid....but how the hell do you zoom in and out? Its pretty much impossible for me on my ASUS C201. Trying to navigate Google Maps is a headache.
  • try two fingers up and down
  • Might try ctrl + two finger swipe up or down
  • Control +/-
  • What Jerry said, you need to use the keyboard. There is no pinch to zoom, it is a pain in the butt.
  • Thank guys....!
  • Try getting a 2 in 1, Chromebooks were not designed to be touch friendly, a tablet is much better choice for navigating on maps app
  • I'm reading this article on my phone and i don't see anything that shows how to get into the settings for the touchpad. Is it missing or an i missing it?
  • Go to Settings, and in the Device section, you'll see a Touchpad Settings button.
  • I know,. One of the first things i did when i got my Chromebook was disable that annoying tap to click. But people who are new to Chromebooks might not know where to go and it's not like Jerry to leave that out.
  • There is no touchpad on his phone.
  • Hey Jerry - maybe I missed it, but my favorite is the three finger right-to-left swipe to scroll between tabs.
  • Also, I use the three finger tap on a link to to open it in a new tab.
  • I remote into my Windows desktop quite frequently with my Chromebook. I find it particularly hard to click and drag/select on my Dell Chomrebook 13. I'll have to try the two finger method above. That sounded dirty but was purely unintentional.
  • I have the ASUS C201 and I cannot get the tap-drag to work. If I want to drag anything I have to click and hold the with one finger and drag with another. It's near to impossible to do with one hand, so I would much prefer to tap and drag with the same finger like I can on a PC or a Mac. Any suggestions?
  • The instructions for tap to drag in the article aren't very clear. In order to do what you want you should go into your Settings then go into advanced settings and go down to accessibility and enable "tap dragging". Then when you want to drag something with a single finger, you need to double tap the touchpad but leave your finger on the touchpad after the second tap and immediately start to drag. It feels a little tricky at first but once you've done it a few times it starts to feel more natural. I use it all the time to select text prior to a copy and paste.
  • Please keep articles such as this coming, Jerry! I do not yet own a Chromebook, but I remain intrigued, and my interest is growing. I see more deals on the current crop of Chromebooks, but I am hesitant to take that step, wondering what is about to come out. I already own a desktop, a win10 laptop, a netbook running Lubuntu, a netbook running Cloudready, and I am typing this on an ASUS Android 10" tablet. The desktop and tablet gets daily use. The others are mostly platforms to experiment upon, and see only occasional use. A detachable 2-in-1 running ChromeOS might replace them all. As is my practice, I learn as much as I can about a new OS before taking the plunge. Thanks for the basic lessons!
  • Thanks for the uncanny timely article ! I was 3 days in with a new Asus C201 (those seem prominent here?) and was unaware of most of those tips. Couldn't find my owners manual and directions in the box. ~(8-D
  • I use chromebooks at work and the BEST touchpad short cut is 3 finger swiping left and right to navigate tabs. Immensely useful! Also triple tapping can close tabs, so no having to click on the little x.
  • Very informative article, thank you. I've been using an Acer Chromebook R11 for the past couple of weeks now and had already learned most of the gestures but didn't know the three finger swipe, lol. Having a Chromebook with a touch screen is really great as it makes navigation a whole lot easier.
  • Click and drag is the most painful thing on my Dell Chromebook 13. I'll have to try dragging with a second finger.
  • I disagree with the way you describe Australian scrolling, and here is how Google describes it as well.... Choose type of scrolling: Traditional (swipe up to move page down) or Australian (swipe up to move page up)
  • nevermind my previous comment, I misread yours in the article! (I owuld have edited mine above, but the site wont let me)
  • Great article, thanks!