Pointing Devices - Mice and Their Relatives

Linux Compatibility Check

You may check your mouse with the mev command from the GPM package.

Related HOWTOs

  1. 3-Button-Mouse-mini-HOWTO for serial mice

  2. Bus-Mouse-HOWTO

  3. Kernel-HOWTO

Mice Species

  1. Trackpad, Touchpad, used with the majority of current laptops

  2. Trackball, e.g. COMPAQ LTE

  3. Pop-up-Mouse, e.g. HP OmniBook 800

  4. Trackpoint, Mouse-Pin, e.g. IBM™ ThinkPad and Toshiba

  5. 3 Button Mice, e.g. IBM™ Thinkpads at least the 600s. I have heard rumor about a 3 button mouse for Texas Instruments Travelmates, but couldn't verify this yet.

PS/2 Mice

Most of the mice used in laptops are PS/2 mice (actually I don't know one with another mouse protocol). You may communicate with the PS/2 mouse through /dev/psaux or /dev/psmouse. If you use X Windows this device and the protocol has to be set in /etc/XF86Config, too. In earlier releases, sometimes the GPM mouse manager and X Windows had trouble sharing a mouse when enabled at the same time. But as far as I know this is no problem anymore for the latest versions.

Speaking of Emulate3Buttons, 100ms is usually better than the 50ms allowed in most default setups of /etc/X11/XF86Config.
Section "Pointer"
Protocol    "PS/2"
Device      "/dev/psaux"
Emulate3Timeout    100


Usually a touchpad works with the PS/2 mouse driver.


I've heard that tipping with one , two or three fingers on the touchpad simultaneously results in pressing the left, middle and respectively the right mouse-button (by Martin Hoffmann <mh@rrz.uni-hamburg.de> for an IPC-Radiance 900).

There is also a dedicated touchpad driver available. The Synaptics Touchpad Linux Driver - tpconfig supports pointing devices used in notebooks by Acer, Compaq, Dell, Gateway, Olivetti, Texas Instruments, Winbook, and others.

Dell and Sony have started incorporated a touchpad,touchstick from ALPS. There are in at least the Dell Latitude CPx and the Sony VAIO laptop lines. tpconfig does NOT support them at this time, but I am in the process of getting the API from ALPS and will be incorporating this in the next version of tpconfig. The Dell's also incorporate the ALPS GlideStick in the middle of the keyboard (like the stick pointer in some of the IBM Thinkpads). I also intend to support the disabling of "tapping" the GlideStick as well. Tapping of the touchpad/touchsticks drives me crazy, I'm not sure about you (causes the "selection" of things on the screen when you don't want to)!

tpconfig is a command-line utility to set options on Synaptics Touchpad and (now) ALPS Glidepad/ Stickpointers. Most people primarily use it to turn off the "tap mode" on laptop touchpads.

How to use tpconfig: tpconfig is currently supported as a command-line configuration tool. The PS/2 port does not currently support sharing. Therefore the tpconfig utility will not work while any other mouse driver is loaded (gpm). This also means that you cannot use tpconfig while X Windows is running. The suggested use of tpconfig is to run it from a startup script before gpm is started.

Not all touchpads are being from Synaptics, e.g some Gateways incorporate an EZ-Pad (Registered TM) and there might be other brands. The TPREV.EXE utility will verify you have a Synaptics touchpad.

The recent gpm package (version >=1.8, maybe earlier versions contain touchpad support, too) includes the above mentioned Synaptics touchpad device driver. This device driver has been developed by H. Davies <hdavies@ameritech.net>. Instead of using the PS/2 compatibility mode of touchpad devices, you can now use native touchpad mode with some pretty impressive features.

In addition to translating finger motion into mouse motion and supporting the buttons, this support currently has several features (from the README):

These features can be enabled/disabled and many of them have time and speed parameters which can be adjusted to the taste of the user.

It seems gpm is best known as a console biased tool. This is true, but you may use it as an X11 input device. gpm is used as a repeater device. In this way you can use both the built-in synaptics touchpad with all the features and at the same time a serial mouse (with three buttons). This all works smoothly together. X11 reads the mouse events from a named pipe /dev/gpmdata in a protocol it understands, which in my case is Mouse-Systems-Compatible (5bytes). Most 3-button mice use the default protocol. So a simple reconfiguration in XF86Config is all that is required, after starting gpm in an appropriate way, of course.

gpm could be started on your laptop with the following arguments : /usr/bin/gpm -t synps2 -M -t ms -m /dev/ttyS0 . Both touchpad and serial mouse work in console and X11 mode. You do have to create the named pipe /dev/gpmdata yourself.

Tapping with two fingers simultaneously to simulate a middle mouse button works on Logitech touchpads used in a few machines.

Thanks to Geert Van der Plas for most of the touchpad chapter.


The "Jog-Dial" is an input device used in the SONY VAIO laptop series. You may find a Jog-Dial driver" by Takaya Kinjo. Probably you have to change two things in the spicdriver/Makefile:

CCFLAG has to be extended with -D_LOOSE_KERNEL_NAMES

CCFLAG has to be extended with -I/usr/src/linux-<kernel-version>/include

The README seems to be in Japanese, here is an English version.

$ tar xvzf jogutils.tar.gz
$ cd jogutils
$ make
$ su
# mknod /dev/spic c 60 0
# modprobe spicdriver/spicdriver

# exit
$ cp jogapp/rcfile ~/.jogapprc
$ jogapp/jogapp

ISHIKAWA Mutsumi wrote the jogdiald driver, which is completely in user-space (no kernel modules required). It is also available as an unofficial Debian package.


The only laptops I know which include a touchscreen are the Fujitsu Biblo 112/142 (aka MC 30) and the Palmax PD 1000/1100 (aka IPC 1000/1100).

The latest version of the Linux Compaq Concerto Pen Driver is available from Joe Pfeiffer's home page.

A current survey of drivers you may find at my page Touchscreen Laptops and Linux .

Pen Devices, Mousepoints

IBM and Toshiba laptops currently come with a pen devices instead of a mousepad or trackball.


It needs some time to get used to this kind of pointer device. It may help to rest your palm at the front rest. Also it's recommended to reduce the mouse speed.

External Mouse

For better handling, e.g. with a 3 button mouse you may use an external mouse. This usually a serial mouse or a PS/2 mouse, appropriate to the port your laptop offers. Usually this is no problem.

PS/2 Mouse

For PS/2 ports there are so called Y-Cable available, which make it possible to use external mouse and external keyboard at the same time if your laptop supports this feature.


Don't plug in the external mouse while powered up. If you have separate mouse and keyboard ports, make sure you plug the mouse in the mouse port and the keyboard in the keyboard port. If you don't, you may have to do a hard reboot of the laptop to get it to recover.

Wheel Mouse

Imwheel makes the wheel of your Intellimouse (and other wheel and stick mice) work in Linux/X11 to scroll windows up and down, or send keys to programs. It runs in the background as a daemon and requires little reconfiguration of the XWindows setup. 4 or more button mice and Alps Glidepad 'Taps' may also be used. imwheel includes a modified gpm for an alternate method of wheel input.

See also the WHEEL Mouse FAQ which describes how to get lots of X applications to recognise the scrolling action. For current instructions on XFree86 4.x see XFree86 4.x - Mouse Docs.

USB Mouse

This part is taken from The Linux USB sub-system by Brad Hards.

USB Human Interface Device (HID) Configuration

General HID Configuration

There are two options for using a USB mouse or a USB keyboard - the standalone Boot Protocol way and the full featured HID driver way. The Boot Protocol way is generally inferior, and this document describes the full featured way. The Boot Protocol way may be appropriate for embedded systems and other systems with resource constraints and no real need for the full keyboard and mouse capabilities.

It is important to remember that the HID driver handles those devices (or actually those interfaces on each device) that claim to comply with the Human Interface Device (HID) specification. However the HID specification doesn't say anything about what the HID driver should do with information received from a HID device, or where the information that is sent to a device comes from, since this is obviously dependent on what the device is supposed to be doing, and what the operating system is. Linux (at the operating system kernel level) supports four interfaces to a HID device - keyboard, mouse, joystick and a generic interface, known as the event interface.

HID Mouse Configuration

In the kernel configuration stage, you need to turn on USB Human Interface Device (HID) support and Mouse Support Do not turn on USB HIDBP Mouse support. Perform the normal kernel rebuild and installation steps. If you are installing as modules, you need to load the input.o, hid.o and mousedev.o modules.

Plug in a USB mouse and check that your mouse has been correctly sensed by the kernel. If you don't have a kernel message, look for the changes to /proc/bus/usb/devices.

Since USB supports multiple identical devices, you can have multiple mice plugged in. You can get each mouse seperately, or you can get them all mixed together. You almost always want the mixed version, and that is what will be used together. You need to set up a device node entry for the mixed mice. It is customary to create the entries for this device in the /dev/input/ directory.

Use the following commands:
mkdir /dev/input
mknod /dev/input/mice c 13 63


If you cat /dev/input/mice you should see some bizarre looking characters as you move the mouse or click any of the buttons.

If you want to use the mouse under X, you have various options. Which one you select is dependent on what version of XFree86 you are using and whether you are using only USB for your mouse (or mice), or whether you want to use a USB mouse and some other kind of pointer device.

You need to edit the XF86Config file (usually /usr/X11R6/lib/X11/XF86Config or /etc/X11/XF86Config).

If you are using XFree86 version 4.0 or later, add a InputDevice section that looks like the following:
Section "InputDevice"
     Identifier  "USB Mice"
     Driver      "mouse"
     Option      "Protocol"   "IMPS/2"
     Option      "Device"     "/dev/input/mice"
or, if you want to use a wheel mouse, something like this may be more useful:
Section "InputDevice"
     Identifier  "USB Mice"
     Driver      "mouse"
     Option      "Protocol"   "IMPS/2"
     Option      "Device"     "/dev/input/mice"
     Option      "ZAxisMapping"   "4 5"
     Option      "Buttons"        "5"

Consult the current XFree86 documentation for a detailed explaination and more examples.

You also need to add an entry to each applicable ServerLayout Section. These are normally at the end of the configuration file. If you only have a USB mouse (or USB mice), then replace the line with the "CorePointer" entry with the following line:
InputDevice "USB Mice" "CorePointer"

If you want to use both a USB mouse (or USB mice) and some other kind of pointer device, then add (do not replace) the following line to the applicable ServerLayout sections:
InputDevice "USB Mice" "SendCoreEvents"

If you are using only a USB mouse (or USB mice) with XFree86 3.3, edit the Pointer section so that it looks like the following:
Section "Pointer"
    Protocol    "IMPS/2"
    Device      "/dev/input/mice"

If you are trying to use a USB mouse (or USB mice) in addition to another pointer type device with XFree86 3.3, then you need to use the XInput extensions. Keep the existing Pointer (or modify it as required for the other device if you are doing an initial installation), and add the following entry (anywhere sensible, ideally in the Input devices area):
Section "Xinput"
   SubSection "Mouse"
  DeviceName   "USB Mice"
  Protocol     "IMPS/2"
  Port         "/dev/input/mice"

Restart the X server. If you don't have any mouse support at this point, remember that Ctrl-Alt-F1 will get you a virtual terminal that you can use to kill the X server and start debugging from the error messages.

If you want to use the mouse under gpm, run (or kill and restart if it is already running) gpm with the following options. gpm -m /dev/input/mice -t imps2 (as superuser remember). You can make this the default if you edit the initialisation files. These are typically named something like rc.d and are in /etc/rc.d/ on RedHat distributions.

If you have both a USB mouse (or USB mice) and some other kind of pointer device, you may wish to use gpm in repeater mode. If you have a PS/2 mouse on /dev/psaux and a USB mouse (or USB mice) on /dev/input/mice, then the following gpm command would probably be appropriate: gpm -m /dev/input/mice -t imps2 -M -m /dev/psaux -t ps2 -R imps2. Note that this will make the output appear on /dev/gpmdata, which is a FIFO and does not need to be created in advance. You can use this as the mouse "device" to non-X programs, and both mice will work together.

Table 4-1. Arguments for the -t and -R option.

msMicroSoft compatible serial mouse
ps2PS/2 or C&T 82C710
bmLogitech bus mouse
bmATI XL bus mouse
mbMicroSoft bus mouse
mscMouse Systems serial mouse
logiolder mouse
mmanMouse Man protocol, serial Logitech mouse
sunSUN mouse, three button
ms3Intellimouse with wheel, at serial port
imps2Intellimouse with wheel, at PS/2 port
pnpPnP mice, alternative to ms
mmMM series
bareoldest serial two button mouse

Keyboard Configuration

You may not need any operating system support at all to use a USB keyboard if you have a PC architecture. There are several BIOS available where the BIOS can provide USB support from a keyboard plugged into the root hub on the motherboard. This may or may not work through other hubs and does not normally work with add-in boards, so you might want to add in support anyway. You definately want to add keyboard support if you add any operating system support, as the Linux USB support will disable the BIOS support. You also need to use Linux USB keyboard support if you want to use any of the "multimedia" types keys that are provided with some USB keyboards.

In the kernel configuration stage, you need to turn on USB Human Interface Device (HID) support and Keyboard support. Do not turn on USB HIDBP Keyboard support. Perform the normal kernel rebuild and installation steps. If you are installing as modules, you need to load the hid.o, input.o and keybdev.o modules.

Check the kernel logs to ensure that your keyboard is being correctly sensed by the kernel.

At this point, you should be able to use your USB keyboard as a normal keyboard. Be aware that LILO is not USB aware, and that unless your BIOS supports a USB keyboard, you may not be able to select a non-default boot image using the USB keyboard. I have personally used only a USB keyboard (and USB mouse) and have experienced no problems.

Wrist Input Device - Twiddler

The gpm contains a driver for the Twiddler device at the serial port. For information about the Twiddler see Handykey Corp..

Macintosh PowerBooks

PowerBooks have a trackpad and only one button, although you can plug in external multi-button USB mice. The usual thing is to map a couple of keys on the keyboard to the middle and right mouse buttons; your Linux distribution should come with instructions on how to configure this (it's not specific to laptops, as all Apple mice are single-button).

If you are using the Xpmac server, the default is option-1 and option-2, and you can change this by passing -middlekey <keycode> -rightkey <keycode> arguments to Xpmac, and -nooptionmouse if you don't want the option key to be needed.

If you are using XFree86, you pass adb_buttons=<middlekey>,<rightkey> kernel arguments (no option is required). I use adb_buttons=58,55 to map the option and Apple/command keys (which are little-used in Linux); use e.g. xev to find out the keycode for a given key.