The incredible moving cursor: why your cursor jumps around when typing on your Windows 7 laptop

Here is the problem: you are typing on your laptop and suddenly the input cursor jumps to a different place and you are typing somewhere in a previous paragraph.

It is infuriating and there are long threads on the subject on Microsoft Answers here and here, for example.

I have just been speaking to a user with exactly this problem. The clue: he had recently created a new profile, which resets your Windows user settings to the default.

The answer was simple. Laptops have touchpads or trackpads which have a feature called tapping. Just tap with the finger and it registers a mouse click. Double tap and it registers a double-click.

Nice idea, but it is a vile feature for some – possibly most – users since it is so easy to trigger accidentally. Anything might happen: emails sent by mistake, documents closed, buttons clicked, and so on. It is as if your computer is being remote controlled by a malevolent third party, especially if you have a slight tremor for any reason.

Fortunately you can disable the setting, but it is among the most buried in Windows. The instructions on my Toshiba are as follows:

Go to Control Panel, Mouse, Change Mouse Settings, Advanced tab, click Advanced Feature Settings, then click Settings under Detailed Settings for Touch Pad operations, then uncheck Enable Tapping.

The path may be different for you, particularly if you have a different brand of touchpad. The above is for a Synaptics; Alps has different dialogs, for example. Poke around in mouse settings until you find it.

The setting “Disable tapping while typing” is not sufficient for some reason.

Why does this make your cursor jump, even if you do not use your touchpad? It is the vibration from your typing that is enough to trigger a tap on some machines, registering a “click” wherever the pointer happens to be (and the pointer is usually hidden when typing, making this appear even more mysterious).

The question which puzzles me is why this annoying feature is enabled by default, when it should be disabled, and second, why it is so hard to find the setting, when it is something that many people need?

I imagine this single feature has driven some users to the Mac. Most users never discover the fix, but just have the impression that Windows is buggy.

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5 thoughts on “The incredible moving cursor: why your cursor jumps around when typing on your Windows 7 laptop

  1. Tom

    ???

    Every laptop I’ve bought since 2001 has had tap-to-click on by default. You may call it “vile” and “annoying,” but I call it vital. (Especially on a touchpad with capacitive “buttons” — those things never work right.)

    The feature originates not in the existence of the tap-to-click feature, but in the miscalibration of the sensor that causes it to trigger even when you’re not using the touchpad. It’s very sloppy of the OEM to have let a bug like this slip through testing. (And I bet it’s not a single touchpad, but all machines of that model. So what else is new in the OEM world?)

    1. Tim Post author

      Tom – I know it is always on by default, which is a mistake. If it works for you, fine, have it as an option; but I have seen so many users suffer from the feature that it must be wrong to make it the default behaviour. I do not mean jumping cursor alone, but other constant mis-clicks.

      Tim

  2. Alex Atkin UK

    The problem is the stupidity of the location of the touchpad on laptops and how they are much more flush, some completely, with the case than they used to be.

    When you are typing its natural to rest your palm underneath the keyboard, EXACTLY where the touchpad is located, and thus you activate a mouse click.

    My old P4 laptop rarely had this problem, it was huge and the touchpad was about 1mm sunk into the case which seemed to be enough to stop my palm triggering it. Modern laptops however are being made thinner and thinner which means the touchpad has to become part of the casing itself not a separate unit, which means you are absolutely GOING to wrest your palm on it, it can’t be avoided.

    When they switched to widescreen for laptops I was hugely disappointed to find they put the keypad on, rather than the logical thing of moving the touchpad to the right side of the keyboard where you cannot accidentally activate it with your palm.

    Sure, that would make it right-handed only which is a pain for left handed people, but wouldn’t that leave a market for left-handed laptops? Besides, surely the logical place is to put it in the optimal location for the majority of users, or at least gives us a choice.

    If someone comes along and makes a laptop with it on the right instead of the keypad it would be a HUGE selling point for me. Its the single most frustrating thing about using a laptop. I can’t just turn off tap either because as my old laptop never false triggered mouse clicks when typing I am far too used to tapping to click now to adjust, it would slow me down even more than false taps do.

  3. Jaime

    I have had this problem with EVERY Windows based laptop I have ever used. However, when I use my 7 year old Apple laptop, I never have a problem. Why is it that Apple has managed to eliminate the problem while everyone else — Sony, HP, Dell, Toshiba, Linovo — lets you just stew with it

  4. tom

    as luck would have it, there is no ADVANCED tap in my mouse properties to DISABLE TAPPING on my ASUS A54C peice of junk laptop, so i think I’ll do what I should of done in the first place, get rid of this crap ibm based micro-junk machine and get a real computer… Apple.

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