Disabling natural scrolling on your Mac’s multi-touch trackpad

By , Feb 22, 2016

multitouch trackpad macbook

All of Apple’s MacBooks come equipped with a multi-touch trackpad that recognizes a two-finger scroll up/down gesture. Apple’s iMac, Mac Pro, and Mac Mini can also be paired with any generation of Apple’s Bluetooth Magic Trackpad or Magic Mouse to provide a similar multi-touch experience.

You probably use this gesture a lot throughout OS X while you’re browsing websites or writing up long documents since clicking and dragging is so 1990’s and tap/multi-touch gestures are more commonly used on modern multi-touch trackpads.

If you’re an ex-Windows user, or still use Windows, then you’re probably used to the content on the page scrolling in the same direction as your fingers move on the trackpad, but on the Mac it’s quite the opposite by default. Fortunately, it’s easy to change the scroll direction of your trackpad, and in this tutorial, we’re going to show you how it’s done.

What is natural scrolling on a Mac?

So by now you’re probably wondering what the difference is between natural and unnatural scrolling. If so, bear with us while we try to explain.

By default, your Mac is configured to have “natural” scrolling, which means that the webpage or document you’re viewing will track your finger movement on the trackpad and the page will scroll in the opposite direction as your fingers are moving on the trackpad. For example, if you drag down on the trackpad, the page will scroll up, and vice-versa.

The example below shows what natural scrolling looks like:

natural scrolling direction

The scrolling movement is different on Windows in that the content on a page moves in the same direction as your fingers as you scroll. If you’re new to OS X, or you just prefer the unnatural scrolling method over all, you can turn natural scrolling off. With unnatural scrolling, as you drag down with your fingers, the page content will move down, and vice-versa.

Below is an example of what unnatural scrolling looks like:

unnatural screen scrolling

How to change your Mac’s scroll direction

Whether you’re using a Magic Trackpad, Magic Mouse, or the multi-touch trackpad built into your MacBook, you can easily change the scroll direction so when you tap and drag on the input device with two fingers, the page moves in the direction you want it to go.

To change the scroll direction, you’ll have to disable natural scrolling from your Mac’s settings. To do that, just follow the steps below:

1) Launch the System Preferences app on your Mac.

2) If you’re using a Magic Trackpad or the multi-touch trackpad on a MacBook, you’ll open the “Trackpad” preferences pane. Alternatively, if you’re using a Magic Mouse, you’ll open the “Mouse” preferences pane.

mac system preferences change scroll direction

3) If you’re using a Magic Trackpad or the multi-touch trackpad on your Macbook, open the “Scroll & Zoom” tab. Alternatively, if you’re using a Magic Mouse, open the “Point & Click” tab.

4) Toggle “Scroll direction: natural” on or off to suit your needs by either checking or un-checking the check box.

mac system preferences change scroll direction natural

That’s all there is to it!

From here, you can also configure a wide range of other multi-touch gestures, such as pinch, zoom, and rotate, which are all useful in various native OS X apps, such as Preview; some of them even work in Safari.

Wrapping up

If you’re not sure whether or not to use natural scrolling on your Mac, I’d suggest experimenting with the two choices to see which scrolling option works best for you.

I personally enjoy natural scrolling because I’ve gotten used to it while using my Mac over the years, but Windows users who have recently converted to OS X will find this tutorial helpful while making their Mac feel more familiar to what they’ve been using.

Also check out: Apple Magic Trackpad 2 review

Do you use natural scrolling on your Mac or no? Share in the comments.

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  • Mr.Coolfreak

    Anyway to use natural scrolling for trackpad, but not for mouse?

    • Mr_Coldharbour

      Isn’t it what this article points out? Not under the same set of settings? Are you using a MacBook or a Mac desktop? Or maybe there’s a separate pane for mice & trackpads. Have you checked under Accessibility settings in mouse & trackpads?

      • Mr.Coolfreak

        No, the setting for trackpads and mice are universal regarding natural scrolling. I wanted to only change the mouse

      • Mr_Coldharbour

        Have you considered a Mac app called BetterTouchTool? It does allow you to change many behavioural facets of trackpads, mice, keyboards and maybe other peripherals. In it, you SHOULD be able to have it do one thing for one peripheral and something else in another. Try it out.

      • Mr.Coolfreak

        Thanks, I’ll give it a go

    • :D

      I use Scroll Reverser – it’s free too

  • Mr_Coldharbour

    I despise natural scrolling. It’s the first thing I disable whenever I use a Mac running anything post-Snow Leopard.

  • I’ve been using natural scrolling since it first came out in OS X Lion. I can never go back to a normal trackpad now.

    • jzack

      agreed

  • iByron

    “By default, your Mac is configured to have “natural” scrolling, which means that the webpage or document you’re viewing will track your finger movement on the trackpad and move in the opposite direction as your fingers are moving. For example, if you drag down on the trackpad, the page will move up, and vice-versa.”

    This is backward. The accompanying image shows the document moving in the same direction as the fingers (which is “natural” scrolling). The image doesn’t match this description.

    Please fix.

    • Anthony Bouchard

      It’s actually not backwards. Look carefully. Very confusing subject, I know!

      Basically what you’re seeing is the page “tracking” the finger, so it’s moving with the finger, but by swiping up, you scroll down, and by swiping down, you scroll up.

      • Morgan Freeman

        The confusion is because back before trackpads and scroll wheels we used to have to grab the scroll bar on the right side of the screen or window. The scroll bar goes in the opposite direction of the page. Scrolling down…bar goes down, page goes up. I hate scroll bars and wish I could permanently turn them off in Safari, not just have them disappear after I stop scrolling.

  • What I would like to know is how to change Windows scrolling behavior to natural?

  • Morgan Freeman

    Unnatural scrolling feels very unnatural.

    • Anthony Bouchard

      Agreed!