created_at2020-11-23 21:58:09.63448
updated_at2024-06-18 00:59:58.290035
descriptionConfigurable multi-touch gesture daemon for Linux, originally targeting `xf86-input-synaptics`.
Mahmoud Al-Qudsi (mqudsi)



Syngestures: Linux Multi-Touch Protocol Userland Daemon

syngestures is a utility providing multi-gesture support for various Linux touchpad/trackpad drivers implementing the Linux Multi-Touch Protocol, such as xf86-input-synaptics. Read more about syngesture, the impetus for its development, and how it fits into the X11/Wayland evdev/libinput ecosystem in the release announcement

Purpose and Design

syngestures is a daemon (background application) that listens for input events generated by your touchpad or trackpad and detects when multi-touch gestures are performed. It can be configured (globally or on a per-user level) to carry out user-defined actions when specific gestures are recognized (with support for unique configurations per-device if you have multiple touchpads installed).

It may be used alone or, more commonly, in conjunction with desktop environment/display server integration/driver - we recommend using it with xf86-input-synaptics under X11 for the most responsive and "natural" cursor movement and acceleration.


Pre-built syngesture binaries are statically compiled and have no runtime dependencies. Building syngestures from source normally creates a dependency on libevdev, which should already be installed if you're on any modern Linux distribution.

Security Considerations

Depending on your system configuration, you may need to either add a udev rule or make sure your user account is a member of a particular group in order to use syngestures without root privileges - see the "Troubleshooting" section below for details. It is not recommended to run syngestures as root or under sudo since syngestures allows running arbitrary commands in response to touch gestures.

Refer to the troubleshooting section below for more information.


Packages containing pre-built binaries for various systems are available for tagged syngestures releases and can be obtained from GitHub (see the sidebar on the right).

syngestures is written in rust and requires a working copy of the rust toolchain and a functional C compiler in order to build from source. It can be compiled and installed by checking out a copy of the source code and building with cargo, the rust package manager:

git clone
cd syngesture
cargo install --path .

alternatively, it may be downloaded, built, and installed directly via cargo:

cargo install syngestures

To build a version that logs events to the terminal for debugging (required for filing any issues on GitHub), you will need to use cargo install syngestures --features logging (or if you've cloned the git repo, cd into the directory and use cargo install --path . --features logging instead).


syngesture is configured via one or more TOML configuration files, a sample file is included in this repository. Configuration files may be installed at a machine level to /usr/local/etc/syngestures.toml or with multiple per-device configuration files installed to /usr/local/etc/syngestures.d/*.toml, or at a user level with a configuration file at $HOME/.config/syngestures.toml or multiple per-device configuration files installed to $HOME/.config/syngestures.d/*.toml. Multiple files are supported and concatenated, with user configuration files for the same input device overriding system configuration files w/ the same path.

Note that if you are running syngestures as a system service or as root, you can only use the global configuration paths (not the ones starting with $HOME).

The basic format of the configuration file is as follows, with a [[device]] node per input device implementing the MT protocol:

device = "/dev/input/by-path/pci-0000:00:15.0-platform-i2c_designware.0-event-mouse"
gestures = [
	# Navigate next
	{ type = "swipe", direction = "right", fingers = 3, execute = "xdotool key alt+Right" },
	# Navigate previous
	{ type = "swipe", direction = "left", fingers = 3, execute = "xdotool key alt+Left" },
	# Next desktop/workspace
	{ type = "swipe", direction = "right", fingers = 4, execute = "xdotool key Super_L+Right" },
	# Previous desktop/workspace
	{ type = "swipe", direction = "left", fingers = 4, execute = "xdotool key Super_L+Left" },

The value of device should be a stable path to your touchpad, it can often be found by looking at the output of dmesg. Wayland users may substitute the usage of xdotool for whatever alternative supports their display server/compositor/window manager.

The value of each gesture's type may be either swipe or tap; a numeric fingers parameter from 1 to 5 is required in both cases, but an additional direction (being one of right, left, up, or down) is required in case of swipe.


If you get an error like the following when using syngestures (the path to the device depends on the path you've set up in syngestures.toml):

/dev/input/by-path/pci-0000:00:15.0-platform-i2c_designware.0-event-mouse: Permission denied (os error 13)

then your account does not have sufficient privileges to open the input device and listen for events. Running syngestures as root (sudo syngestures) avoids this error but is not a recommended solution as syngestures can run arbitrary commands in response to gestures, and you certainly don't want those to run with root privileges.

Typically working around this correctly is as easy as adding your account to the input group and rebooting, but we can find out for sure by figuring out which group owns the input device (the touchpad).

Start by using realpath against the path of the device in your syngestures.toml or from the error message, e.g. from the error message above:

$ realpath /dev/input/by-path/pci-0000:00:15.0-platform-i2c_designware.0-event-mouse

As you can see from the output, in this case our /dev/input/by-path/... device is actually a symlink to another device, so /dev/input/event4 is the actual path we need to check ownership for. We'll use ls -al to find out who actually owns it:

$ ls -al /dev/input/event4
crw-rw---- 1 root input 13, 68 Feb 11 16:16 /dev/input/event4

(You can do this in one go with ls -al $(realpath <original path>) instead, if you prefer.)

Here the third column is the owning user (root) and the fourth column is the owning group (input) - what we were looking for. We need to add our account to this group to give us permission to open the input device and listen for gestures, replacing input in the code below with the owning group from your ls -al output if it's something different:

$ sudo usermod -aG input $(whoami)

You must reboot before this change will take effect. You can then try running syngestures again and see what happens.


syngestures is developed and maintained by Mahmoud Al-Qudsi and released as open source under the MIT license, Copyright Mahmoud Al-Qudsi (c) 2020-2023.

Commit count: 107

cargo fmt