Add Mouse Gestures to Linux with Easystroke

For regular tasks (such as copy, paste, open a new window etc.) on your computer, you can simply make use of keyboard shortcuts to get things done quickly. However, if you prefer to use the mouse more than the keyboard, an alternative method is to make use of mouse gestures to replicate the behavior of keyboard shortcuts. Easystroke is an easy to use mouse gesture recognition application for Linux that allows you to assign gestures to tasks.

Note: While Easystroke works for most Linux distros, we will be focusing on the Ubuntu build for this article.

Easystroke is included in the Ubuntu repository, so you can easily install by clicking here, via the Ubuntu Software Center, or type the following command in the terminal:

sudo apt-get install easystroke

If, for some reasons, that the application is not found in your repository, you can install from the PPA:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:easystroke/ppa
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install easystroke

Related: Control Your Windows Desktop With Mouse Gestures

Easystroke doesn’t come with any default gesture, so you won’t be able to use it immediately after installation. Instead, you have to launch the app and configure it.

At the main screen, in the Actions tab, this is where you can add actions. Each action is associated with a mouse gesture and can be configured to run a command, activate certain keyboard shortcut, or execute standard actions like maximize, show/hide etc.

easystroke-actions-tab

To get started, simply click the “Add Action” button and enter a name for your action. Next, under the “Type” column, select the task that this action will perform. Lastly, click the “Record Stroke” button. Now, press and hold the middle mouse button (anywhere outside the easystroke window) and move your mouse cursor around to draw the gesture. In the example below, I drew a diagonal stroke (from left bottom to right top) and assigned it to the shortcut key “Ctrl + Super + Up”. Now I can just draw the gesture to maximize the current application.

easystroke-create-first-action

The default button to activate the mouse gesture is the middle mouse button (or the scrollwheel, also known as Button 2). If your mouse comes with only 2 buttons, it will be assigned to the right mouse button. You can change the Gesture button in the Preferences tab. You can also add additional buttons and modifier keys. Other things you can configure include the gesture color, thickness and how long should it take to detect the mouse gesture.

easystroke-preferences-tab

If you have noticed on the Actions tab, there is an Application section. If you have added applications in this section, you can now restrict your gestures to be valid only for these applications, under the Advanced tab. This is useful if you only want to use gestures on a few applications. If you are using an external mouse on your laptop, you can also enable/disable the mouse gesture for each input device. Since it doesn’t work well with trackpad, I disable the trackpad device and only enable it for my external mouse.

easystroke-advanced-tab

1. Assigning “key” as the Action type is often the fastest way to create an action. You can check out the “Keyboard -> Shortcuts” in the System Settings for a list of default shortcuts for your system. You can also add custom shortcut to the list and then assign it to your Easystroke action.

2. If you are using a desktop manager that supports Compiz, you can also bind keyboard shortcuts in Compiz for the various effects (like scale window) and then assign them to your actions.

3. To launch application, you can select “Command” as the Type and enter the application name under the Details section. For example, you can just enter “gimp” as the command to launch Gimp with a gesture. Alternatively, you can also use a command like “firefox http://www.maketecheasier.com” to launch Firefox and load the URL “http://www.maketecheasier.com”. In fact, if you are familiar with the command line or bash scripting, you can get it to do almost anything with a simple gesture.

For those who prefer to use the mouse over the keyboard, Easystroke provides a good way to simplify your workflow and get things done faster with your mouse. Easystroke doesn’t limit the number of actions you can create, but you don’t have to create a bunch of gestures to make full use of it. All you need is just a few gestures for the tasks that you will use most of the time, and your workflow will be improved greatly. Try it out and let us know if it is useful to you.