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Issue #527: August 27 – September 2, 2017

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Q: I have a Dell Inspiron 15 5000 Series laptop that is less than 1 year old. There are 2 main problems I am having with it. 1. When I am typing an email (whether Gmail, Yahoo, or Outlook), many times, the entire window will close. I have to reopen the window, reopen the email site and, hopefully, the email I was working on is in the Draft folder (most of the time it is). How can I stop this from happening? Or why does it happen. Since this does happen, I make sure to keep my hands curved up high so as not to touch the touch pad.  2. When I am typing anything (email, document filling in a form), the cursor will suddenly move somewhere on the document, and the words I have been typing are not where I am expecting them to be. This has to be cut & pasted to the place where I want them. How can I remedy this?

– Wally R.
Fort Walton Beach, Florida

A:  I’ve covered issues similar to this in the column before, but things are constantly changing in the world of computers, so I think it’s worth covering it again.  You’re probably not going to want to hear this, Wally, but the only thing that will cause the kind of behavior that you described is exactly what you already mentioned in your question.  That is, the touchpad.  On your laptop, Dell has provided you with a very generously-sized touchpad that allows you to take maximum advantage of things like multi-finger gestures.  The larger touchpad makes them far easier to activate than a more conventionally-sized touchpads you find on other laptops.  Unfortunately, the touchpad is located where almost everybody normally rests the heel of their hand while typing.  I don’t think it really matters how much you try to curve your hands, eventually you’re going to inadvertently bring them near enough to the touchpad to activate it.  Touchpads work on the principle of a change in capacitance, not necessarily physical contact.  That means, believe it or not, you don’t have to actually touch it to activate it.  Coming close to it is often enough to make it think you tapped it.  And, since a single tap anywhere on the touchpad is interpreted as a left mouse button click, the system does wild and wonderful things depending on where the mouse cursor happens to be located at the time.  If the cursor happens to be over the “X” button in a window’s upper right corner, the accidental click will cause that window to close.  If it’s over text in an editable window, the typing cursor will be relocated to the mouse cursor’s position exactly as you described, and the insertion of typed characters will resume at that point.

Dell is not unaware of this problem, and believe it or not, they’ve actually provided you with software that can minimize its effect, if not eliminate it altogether.  It’s called TouchGuard™ and it’s built into the Dell Touchpad applet.  Dell says it “inhibits unwanted input on the Touchpad while typing.” which sounds right up your alley.  You can find this applet either by looking for the “Dell Touchpad” icon in the Notification Area, or by bringing up the mouse properties from the Control Panel, then going to the “Dell Touchpad” tab and clicking where it says “Click to change Dell Touchpad settings”.  In the Dell Pointing Devices applet, click on “Sensitivity” in the left-hand navigation pane.  You’ll see TouchGuard™ on the bottom of the screen.  Make sure it’s on, and adjust that slider until you’re happy with the results.

If all else fails, remember you can always simply disable the touchpad when you’re doing a lot of typing and don’t need it, or if you have an external mouse plugged-in.  I’ve found that unlike some other vendors, Dell’s machines typically don’t have a dedicated switch to disable the touchpad, but they do have a hotkey that does it.  On my Dell laptop the key combination happens to be [Fn]+F5, which you don’t really need to remember, because there is a picture of the touchpad printed on the appropriate function key in the same color as the letters “Fn” on its key.

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