Windows Natural Scrolling and Synergy

Windows Natural Scrolling and Synergy

A lit­tle over a year ago, I wrote about set­ting up “nat­ural scolling” on Windows. I tried it for a week or so and never quite got used to it. One of the biggest set­backs was the soft­ware I use to con­nect my Windows and Linux boxes together as one large desk­top: Synergy. My mouse and key­board are hooked up to a Windows box. When the mouse scrolls off the left side of the screen, Synergy takes over and passes the mouse move­ments and key­board sequences to the Linux box’s desk­top. I get what feels like a large, sweep­ing, cross-OS desk­top. It turns out that the AutoHotkey map­pings to reverse the scroll wheel did not get trans­mit­ted across to Synergy. They only worked on one half of my desk­top. This is not just annoy­ing, but really messes with your mus­cle mem­ory of which way to scroll.

I recently heard John Siracusa men­tion in a recent episode of Hypercritical that he is right-handed, but uses the mouse with his left hand. He switched mouse-handedness long ago because he started to feel the begin­nings of ten­dini­tis and/or carpal-tunnel syn­drome in his right arm and didn’t want to see it worsen. Because I’ve been feel­ing ten­dini­tis come and go, despite breaks and exer­cises, I thought I would try some­thing sim­i­lar. I feel that the major­ity of my dis­com­fort comes from scrolling so I thought I would try using my left hand for the major­ity of scrolling and sim­ple move­ments. I hap­pen to have a spare Apple Magic Trackpad, which I brought into work and hooked up. I set it up to the left of my key­board, but am keep­ing the mouse to the right. The track­pad is okay for point­ing, scrolling, and click­ing. Dragging and right-clicking are much more dif­fi­cult (at least with the Windows dri­vers). For me, those are much more rare oper­a­tions than scrolling and select­ing — I mainly nav­i­gate spec­i­fi­ca­tion doc­u­ments and code trees — so the mouse is still avail­able on the right.

I ini­tially tried this for a day and it mostly worked, except for scrolling. I’m so used to touch-scrolling on my Mac that the reg­u­lar (non-natural? unnat­ural?) track­pad scrolling kept throw­ing me for a loop. AutoHotkey still did not work across Synergy. A lit­tle more research was required.

The key to get­ting this work­ing and usable was dis­cov­er­ing how to reverse scrolling down at the OS level, rather than up in the appli­ca­tion layer (as AutoHotkey does). There are actu­ally just some reg­istry keys to tog­gle in HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE/SYSTEM/CurrentControlSet/Enum/HID that will reverse scroll-direction at a layer deeper than AutoHotkey and deeper than Synergy. I ran across this blog post that explains how to find the “FlipFlopWheel” keys within the above-mentioned HID path and tog­gle them. This isn’t the solu­tion for every­one — regedit can be a scary and dan­ger­ous tool in the hands of the unini­ti­ated — but it worked for me.

I now have a left-handed track­pad set up with nat­ural scrolling for day-to-day nav­i­ga­tion and a right-handed mouse set up for more tricky oper­a­tions. So far, things are good.

Posted in: Code Dear Diary Software Work

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