How to Use a Game Controller as a Mouse in Windows
Gamepads (also known as joysticks) are the most popular way to play video games, but that’s not the only reason they’re good. You can use a gamepad to act as a mouse, opening up a range of interesting possibilities, as we’ll see in this article.
Why use a controller as a mouse
The most obvious reason to turn your controller into a mouse is if you want to use your computer as a console. While it’s perfectly acceptable to control your Windows PC using a wireless mouse and keyboard from the couch, it’s not the most elegant solution. If your gamepad can double as a mouse, that means you can navigate the operating system between games without putting the controller down.
Even if you’re not a gamer, you might have an HTPC and prefer the more compact nature of a controller to a wireless mouse and keyboard. There is also an accessibility use case to consider. Since the Xbox Adaptive Controller simply appears as a standard Xbox controller for your PC, it’s another way for someone with special needs to control their computer.
Gamepads are also a great alternative to the many devices used to remotely control presentations. You don’t need to buy a special remote control for your work, conference or school presentation. If you already have a game controller handy, you can use it to control a presentation, teleprompter, or other utility for free.
1. Use Steam’s Solution
Steam is the most popular digital gaming storefront on PC and if you’re a gamer, you’ve probably already installed its client on your computer. If you’re not one, however, you can always just open an account and install the client without having to purchase anything.
- Once Steam is installed on your computer, go to “Steam->Settings”.
- From the side menu, select “Controller”.
- Now click on “General Controller Settings”
- Check the box that corresponds to the type of controller you are using. In this case, we’re using an Xbox controller, so we’ll select “Xbox configuration support”. Close the window.
- Go back to Settings and under “Controller”, click on “Desktop Configuration” this time.
- Here you can customize the key press or mouse action that the controller’s buttons and thumbsticks will emulate. Click each control you want to customize and assign it a function.
- In this particular case, we right-clicked the right trigger, left-clicked the left trigger, and the right joystick was set to “Joystick mouse” under “Style of Input”. This means that the right stick now moves the mouse pointer.
Of course, you should choose the most comfortable and intuitive configuration for you.
If you have a Sony DualShock 4 controller or a PlayStation 5 DualSense controller, you can configure the controller’s touchpads to act like a mouse.
- Go back to “General Controller Settings” as we showed you above.
- This time, check the option “Support for PlayStation configuration”.
- Return to “Desktop Setup” to begin mapping the new controls.
- Now select the touchpad in the diagram of Steam.
- Just change the input style to “Mouse”.
2. Alternatives to Steam
If you don’t want to install an entire digital storefront to gain access to this feature, there are a number of alternative utilities that do the same job.
Gopher360 is a popular freeware utility that instantly turns any Xinput controller into a mouse. Xinput is the native standard used by all Xbox controllers and Gopher360 works with the Xbox 360, Xbox One and Xbox Series family of controllers. It is possible to use it with PlayStation controllers, but you must use another application that translates these inputs to Xinput format (as shown below).
Using Gopher360 is as simple as downloading the .exe file and running it. Once you do, the DOS-like Terminal window will open. Just minimize it and grab your controller. Here are the default controls:
- A: Left mouse click
- X: right mouse click
- Y: Hide Terminal
- B: Enter
- D-pad: arrow keys
- Right Analog: Scroll Up/Down
- Right analog click: F2
- Left analog: Mouse
- Left analog click: middle mouse click
- Back: Browser refresh
- Start: Left Windows key
- Start + Back: disable Gopher360 when you want to play games
- Start + DPad Up: Toggle vibration setting Gopher360
- LBumper: Previous browser
- RBumper: Next Browser
- Bumber + RBummper: Cycle Speed
- LTrigger: Space
- RTrigger: backspace
Gopher360 generates a “Config” file in the same folder where you saved the executable before running it for the first time. You can modify this file to customize the default controls. If you break the “Config” file, just delete it. A new default will be created the next time the apps run.
USB flash drives
You might also be interested in trying Keysticks, which is a more polished app than Gopher360, with an intuitive GUI. You can use Keysticks to control your entire PC or to play PC games that don’t natively support controllers.
Once you’ve installed Keysticks, you’ll see a helpful image of an Xbox controller (for a DualShock, you’ll need to install a translation app first) appear in the bottom right of the desktop. This shows which controller buttons will emulate which mouse or keyboard input. You can customize these key assignments in the software settings.
However, by default, you can move the mouse pointer using the right analog stick. Left click is assigned to left trigger and right click is assigned to start button. It’s the small button to the right of the large Xbox button in the middle of the controller, known as the “Guide” button.
To activate Keysticks, double-click its icon in the notification bar. If you see the control window and you have a Xinput (Xbox compatible) controller connected to your PC, you can do everything you normally do with your mouse, except now you’re using a gamepad!
How to emulate Xinput with DS4Windows
The DS4Windows app lets you emulate Xinput from a DualShock 4 or Dualsense controller, allowing Windows (and games) to see a Xinput controller where there is none.
This allows you to use a PlayStation 4 or 5 controller as if it were an Xbox controller. Specifically, both programs described above will work if you are also running DS4Windows at the same time. Here’s how to set it up.
- First, download the app and install it. If you don’t already have it on your Windows computer, you’ll need .NET Desktop Runtime.
- Do not use the link suggested by the DS4Windows application, instead download it from this page in the “.NET Desktop Runtime 5.0.17” section. Choose the version that matches your Windows installation, which should be x64 for most people.
- Once DS4 Windows is running, you will see the initial setup. Only “step 1” is mandatory.
- Once you have finished installing ViGEmBus, click “Done”.
- Then, on the DS4Windows main screen, click “Start” in the lower right corner.
- You should see your PlayStation controller appear in the “Controllers” tab.
You can now use your controller with Gopher360 and Keysticks!
Frequently Asked Questions
Will games still run normally when I use my controller as a mouse?
Using the Steam method, your controller should automatically switch between normal mode and mouse mode, but only for Steam games. If you want this to happen for other games, go to “Games->Add non-Steam game to my library” in the Steam client. Then find the game’s executable file and add it. If you launch it from Steam, the automatic transfer should take place.
How do I turn off the controllers?
It’s not really easy to disable these controllers without a console. To do this, simply hold the Xbox Guide button or the PS button until the lights on the controller turn off. You may need to hold them for more than 10 seconds, but don’t let go until the lights go out.
What if my computer does not have Bluetooth?
If you have a computer without Bluetooth and don’t want to use a wired connection with your controller, you can purchase an additional USB dongle (usually USB-based) or, in the case of official Xbox controllers, you can use the adapter without Xbox thread for Windows. You’ll get a virtually lag-free controller experience and access to audio through the controller’s headphone jack.
All screenshots by Sydney Butler
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