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How to use your smartphone as a touchpad for Linux

Are you using a Linux PC without a mouse? Do you need an emergency touchpad? Check out the Remote Touchpad app. Once installed, you can connect to it via your smartphone and the phone’s touchscreen as a touchpad for your Linux PC.

Note: Remote Touchpad does not need a mobile app and will work on Android and iOS through a mobile web browser. However, you must be able to scan QR codes to make use of the app. Download this QR reader for Android here. On iOS, Apple’s camera app has built-in QR code reading support.

Install Remote Touchpad on Linux

Before we demonstrate how to use your smartphone as a touchpad on Linux, we must go over how to install the Remote Touchpad application on Linux. To start the installation, open up a terminal window by pressing Ctrl + Alt + T or Ctrl + Shift + T on the keyboard. Then, follow along with the installation instructions below to get the app working.

Flatpak

On Linux, Remote Touchpad is available as a Flatpak, rather than as a DEB package, RPM package, or AppImage. To get going with the Flatpak version of Remote Touchpad on your Linux PC, you must first enable the Flatpak runtime.

Enabling the Flatpak runtime on a Linux PC is quite easy. To do it, install the “flatpak” package the way you typically install software. Or, if you’re having some trouble getting it working, follow along with our guide on how to set up the Flatpak runtime.

Once you’ve gotten Flatpak working on your Linux PC, use the flatpak commands below to get the Remote Touchpad application up and running.

flatpak remote-add --if-not-exists flathub https://flathub.org/repo/flathub.flatpakrepo
flatpak install flathub com.github.unrud.RemoteTouchpad

Snap

In addition to being in the Flathub software store, Remote Touchpad is also available as a Snap package. To get the app working as a Snap, you must first enable Snap package support on your Linux PC.

To enable Snap package support on your Linux PC, follow the guide here on how to enable the Snapd runtime. Alternatively, switch to Ubuntu, where Snaps are set up by default.

After setting up Snap support on your Linux PC, use the following snap install command below to get the Remote Touchpad app working.

sudo snap install remote-touchpad

Set up Remote Touchpad

Remote Touchpad for Linux is a command-line application that starts a server that can be accessed on a remote device, like a mobile phone. Currently, there are no limitations to what operating system the remote device should be running. It can run Android, iOS, or even lesser-known operating systems. So long as there is a modern web browser available to use, it will work.

Connecting the desktop Linux app Remote Touchpad with a smartphone is done with a QR code. So, before we get started, ensure you have the QR code reader application installed on your Android device mentioned earlier in the guide. Once that’s taken care of, open up the app on your phone to get your QR reader ready.

After opening up the QR code reader on Android (or the iOS camera app), open up a terminal on the Linux desktop. You can launch a terminal window by pressing Ctrl + Alt + T or Ctrl + Shift + T on the keyboard.

With the terminal window open, you must run the Remote Touchpad application. Keep in mind that depending on what version of the Remote Touchpad you install, the command will be different.

Note: remote touchpad needs access outside of the Linux firewall to communicate with other devices on the network. You must either temporarily disable your firewall, or allow Remote Touchpad through for the app to work.

To start a local touchpad server on your network with the Snap version of Remote Touchpad, run the remote-touchpad command. Do not run the app as root! Your Linux PC will not recognize the command!

remote-touchpad

To start up a local touchpad server on your network with the Flatpak version of Remote Touchpad, you will not be able to run remote-touchpad. Instead, you must use the flatpak run command, followed by com.github.unrud.RemoteTouchpad.

flatpak run com.github.unrud.RemoteTouchpad

With the server running, you will see a terminal-based QR code in the prompt. This code is scannable and will give you a direct link to a web server hosted on your computer, with on-screen media playback controls, and a touch space which you can use to control your computer from the device.

Use smartphone as a touchpad

Using Remote Touchpad to control your Linux PC is quite simple. To use the phone as a mouse, simply drag on the touchpad with your finger, and tap to click. Open up the keyboard to remotely enter text by tapping on the keyboard icon.

Media controls

Remote Touchpad has built-in media controls that you can use to remotely pause playing media, skip songs, and adjust the volume.

To skip songs, tap on the back or forward buttons. To pause, tap the play/pause buttons. Lastly, to adjust volume remotely, tap any of the volume buttons.

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