How to operate a touchscreen?

I have been playing around with my Librem 5 Evergreen for several months now, slowly figuring out how to do some things on it, but a lot isn’t working the way I’d expect. Maybe that’s because, having long used keyboard and mouse to get things done, I’ve never figured out how to control things with a touchscreen. Pretty clearly things like cntl-c, double-click and right-click can’t work the same way, but it’s slow going. So I thought I could find a video, or even a text, somewhere, about “how to use a touchscreen” that would explain the basics regarding this phone (or android, which I surmise works similarly). Haven’t been able to find one. Any recommendations?

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This video from Purism might help you get started:

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The L5’s keyboard (called “Squeekboard”) has additional screens besides the one you see by default. If you will click on the small globe icon next to the space bar, you can choose “Terminal” layout, which reveals some additional keys, including Ctrl and Alt, and arrow up/down/left/right. Clicking Ctrl once will “stick” it until you un-stick by clicking it again.
If you click the “>_” key, you will see some of the other usual options, such as PgUp, PgDn, Home, End. Clicking on the “Menu” button from this screen will pop up a context menu, such as you would see on a desktop computer, with Undo, Redo, Cut, Copy, Paste, Delete, Select All, Insert Emoji, and Change Case. (This is how you can accomplish the equivalent of a right-click when you need it.)

Double-tap with a finger to execute double-click anywhere in the apps.

Click the 123 key to get numbers, ABC to get letters, etc.

You might also find some useful videos about using specific applications by perusing these L5 topics:


Ctrl-C and double click can work the same way. Right click can’t. Sometimes long press is used instead of right click.

Another thing that can’t work the same way is hover - and that is a pain because I use hover a lot in order to find out what the hell the various buttons on the screen do.

My recommendation is: persevere and ask and learn.


I use this extensively. Is it possible to make it the default?


I haven’t seen a way to do so; I would like to, also.
I’m sure @dcz would know.

Edit: Here’s some prior discussion on that: Squeekboard set default layout to terminal


Touchscreens are intuitive in that users can press what want (to happen / use).

Unfortunately this is not the whole truth. At least on small screens it is common not to label buttons with text but showing symbols instead. So when there is a button you never used before and on that button there is a symbol on it that you never saw before and you don’t understand it’s meaning, what will happen when you touch it? What if the triggered action is irreversible?

Another thing is that our fingers hide parts the screen which may be a problem when i.e. precision is important. Also we have to assume the displayed contents do not change. What if the displayed contents change in the short moment its hidden by the fingers and now there is a button or a link triggering malware installation? Could become click hijack 2.0 . Okay okay. Not very probable, but creative. :smile:

That were some general thoughts. Now to the practical part.

What about a virtual touch pad, trackpoint or joystick for mouse cursor movement as companion to sqeekboard. Sqeekmouse :smile:

With that we can move the pointer over some element for hovering.


Or “mousesqueek.” :mouse2:


Aint that the truth.

That is certainly a concern. However any half-decent application would put a confirmation dialog box on an irreversible action.

Even without an irreversible dire action (like deletion), there are questions about settings and modes if someone is going to be clicking randomly because it is not clear what something does i.e. user can get application in some weird state but not know how to get it out again.

My Bluetooth keyboard has a mini trackpad and when it is activated, a cursor appears on the screen. That maybe isn’t embracing the spirit of touchscreen though. :wink:

I have to admit I’ve never seen a confirmation for sending a message yet.


Ha ha. That’s why I clarified my intent for “irreversible” as being “irreversible dire”.

There are circumstances where flailing around pressing ‘buttons’, as in the scenario being raised, would be quite awkward if a message were sent that was not intended to be sent e.g. wrong recipient or e.g. premature (incomplete content) - because noone has ever done that with email. :wink: So there are shades of grey.

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FWIW several email clients will ask if you’re sure for various reasons (like the email content saying attachment but the message has no attachment, the meeting invite has no location selected, etc). I’ve even seen a few with the option to have a delay before sending then prompt for confirmation before final send so they do exist; the latter are mostly focussed on the idea of waiting before replying to something inappropriately and re-reading what you wrote 15 minutes after you wrote it to make sure it reads the way you want. Not perfect for the intended goal, but it’s out there.

This sounds more like an affordance to those who already know what to expect from touch screen devices. For someone who’s still learning, this is yet another inconsistency. I can’t tell my grandparent something to the effect “you can click anything you want, anything irreversible will be confirmed”, and so, learning by exploration suffers tragically.


Another thing are swipe gestures. AFAICS scrolling is the only swipe action so far on phosh.

On Android I can unfold the upper status panel down to see quick settings and notifications. I don’t miss it that much on phosh.

What I could like to see is swiping the bottom up or the right edge left to open the app launcher/switcher. Than the bottom button with the arrow can be removed. This would be not intuitive but the button occupies some area of the screen that could otherwise bee used by apps. Also I sometimes accidentally touched the button when typing with sqeekboard. The bottom row with the space key (I guess maybe the most frequent used key) lies so near to the arrow button that triggers the app launcher. This was annoying. Did this happen to someone else, too?

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It’s not. Swiping is used to close applications.

This is planned, although the active area is not going to be removed if I recall correctly (thank goodness, how would anyone know how to access the launcher without any hints? We don’t live in times of exhaustive manuals any more).


Assuming that applications are typically being created with “tool tips”, what about a hamburger Help option that displays all the tool tips when pressed and clears them when released?

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Ah. Yeah. Of course. Sry.

Interesting idea. Not sure if this is possible though.

To which program should such a show tooltips button belong and where to place it? Maybe in the quick settings of the unfolded status bar?

And how would that work? I doubt there is an API to tell an app to show all tooltips. Also not all apps use the same GUI toolkits (e.g. GTK).
As of my understanding the OS tells an app: "the mouse pointer is over your window at position (x, y). Now its up to an app (usually utilizing a GUI toolbox) to decide if a tooltip has to be shown. Even if the tell an app that the mouse pointer is at every pixel one after another we would have to wait a moment at every position to trigger the tooltip. And multiple tooltips may overlap, when I think of toolbars.

Also there are more hovering actions like popup menus or showing the URLs of hyperlinks.

Good question. Maybe it has to belong to the program itself - but maybe it can be implemented once using standard API calls e.g. enumerate GUI elements and for all those that are visible and have a tool tip, display the tool tip. I think this implementation would be a trade-off - cost in disruption and effort to add the function v. might actually work and has well-defined function. You are right though that it would be restricted to applications that use e.g. GTK / libhandy.

The overall goal is to leverage tool tips that are already there, but which cannot be displayed at all right now, in order to address one of the challenges in using a new, unfamiliar GUI application on a touchscreen.

There was a feature in old Office applications where you would click the “?” button, and clicking another UI element would bring up some help text.

Otherwise I would prefer a training mode where text is used instead of icons, at least when I’m just starting with the program and don’t know its functionality. I’m probably not going to bother to bring up tooltips as a separate action most of the time.