Linux phones are basically just small, low-power Linux computers with touchscreens, and modems. While most mobile Linux distributions designed for phones feature touch-friendly user interfaces and apps, you can also run desktop applications on a Linux phone.
But you may have trouble actually using software that obviously weren’t designed for small screens, because it can be hard to navigate applications designed for keyboard and mouse input when you’re using a fingertip. So developer CalcProgrammer1 built a Touchpad Emulator that lets you use the entire surface of your phone as a trackpad, controlling an on-screen cursor.
Here’s the idea: Install the open source TouchPad Emulator app (available from GitLab or in the Arch user repository), and when you launch it, your screen will act as a virtual touchpad.
Drag your finger across the display and an on-screen cursor will move, allowing you to hit tiny icons, menus, or other targets that might be difficult to tap otherwise. The app also makes it possible to interact with drop-down menus and other items that respond to a hovering cursor, many of which can be difficult to navigate using a touch-only device.
In order to perform other actions you can use:
- Tap to click
- 2-finger tap for right-click
- Swipe with 2 fingers to scroll
- Tap-and-hold to drag a window or other items
- Double-tap to click-and-drag for selecting text or other items
You can also switch to Touchpad mode by hitting the volume up key, switch back to touchscreen mode by pressing volume down, and toggle the on-screen keyboard by pressing volume down again.
CalcProgrammer1 released an early version of Touchpad Emulator in April, 2021, but an update released in October is easier to build and install, adds support for automatic screen rotation, and allows you to use your phone’s screen as a mouse/touchpad when connected to an external display.
Initially released as a PinePhone-only utility, newer builds of TouchPad Emulator also work on additional devices including the Google Nexus 5 and Samsung Galaxy S5 running postmarketOS.
This article was first published April 30, 2021 and last updated October 22, 2021.