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I initially started off asking this question, on StackOverflow:

I want to know if a user's touchpad has multi-touch capability.

I think it's fairly trivial to detect WHEN multi touch is happening (or it is on a touchscreen anyway, is it different for touchpads), but I just want to know if it's possible, so I can prompt the user with a hint that they can scroll my data table using two fingers.

I guess that even if their machine DOES have this ability, it's not a given that they'd have "Drag two fingers to scroll" set (and I only know that's a setting on Windows - Mac/Linux may operate differently for all I know —

And then I realised I was doing the classic "ask x when you want to know y".

So here's the scenario. I have a statistical website, which features tables of data. Sometimes wider than the user's screen. I've prioritised columns and remove them via JS/CSS until the data fits their screen, and have a "show more columns" link above the table.

(I appreciate I could break the rows into multi-row, so (say) 10 columns becomes 4 rows of 2 columns, but I would prefer not to go down this route - or maybe just have it as a user-selectable option).

That link then shows the whole table, with a horizontal scrollbar.

Unfortunately these tables are often long. I don't wish to show a vertical scrollbar.

At the moment I'm using a faux scrollbar at the top of the table (so they see it when it appears), and hiding the one that would naturally appear at the bottom. It works well.

But if someone has scrolled down (say) 100 rows of a 200 row table, and then wants to scroll across... well for most of them they have to go back to the top of the table, and move that scrollbar manually. I've only just realised today that my use of two-finger-drag to scroll horizontally, is something I've taken for granted. Most users don't do that, and don't KNOW they can do that, even though most devices can.

So, is it possible to detect whether this is a possibility for them, and educate them, or am I out of luck and need to make my scrollbar fixed to the top/bottom of the viewport so it's always visible for my users? I guess I need to do that ANYWAY, but it'd be nice to make their lives easier/better, and I believe learning two-finger-drag scroll would!

Any other feedback/suggestions appreciated!

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  • /u/meagar asked on my deleted version of this question on SO, "why don't you wish to show a vertical scrollbar." - I personally find them poor UX. I guess a detail I left out is that a typical page on my site will have ~10 of these tables, one above the other, and scrolling down the page becomes troublesome when you have vertically scrolling tables as well, you tend to get stuck "in" a table by mistake.
    – Codemonkey
    Commented Aug 26, 2021 at 12:48
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    Educate users during onboarding. When they land on the page, let them know what they can do. But is not this behaviour very specific to Mac TouchPad functionality. Ideally, you should fix your table container height someway so that the scrollbar would be easily accessible.
    – Swapna
    Commented Aug 26, 2021 at 16:37
  • Certainly not, I think most modern Windows machines will do it - my XPS from 2 years ago certainly does.
    – Codemonkey
    Commented Aug 26, 2021 at 17:39
  • If your product user base is using modern windows machines, (this is an external factor) then it should be fine. Otherwise, you need to think about it!
    – Swapna
    Commented Aug 27, 2021 at 1:54

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I would suggest that you reveal this feature to the user during the initial onboarding or walkthrough, and then when they first see or interact with a table you should show them this feature again to let it really sink in.

But of course, maybe not all users will want to or be comfortable with these types of interactions, so you provide a safe alternative of making the scrollbars visible to the users.

If you really want to take a data-driven approach to the design decision, I would suggest making it a feature so you can track its usage. And if you find that people prefer one to the other, you can do some user research to understand the reasons behind it, and make one or both features even more user-friendly.

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