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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Brian Enigma

Brian Enigma is a Portlander, manipulator of atoms & bits, minor-league blogger, and all-around great guy. He typically writes about the interesting “maker” projects he's working on, but sometimes veers off into puzzles, software, games, local news, and current events.

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