Magic Trackpad 2

“Drag and drop” is one of the most basic and essential gestures to use on the Macintosh. Apple’s default drag behavior for trackpads is to make you tap and hold on the trackpad, then drag to where you want to be.

That works for most of us most of the time, but it can be a bit inconvenient to use. What’s more, those of us with physical limitations and dexterity issues can find the gesture positively confounding and frustrating to to use. The good news is that there is an alternative. It’s a bit of a hidden preference, though. Read on for details.

Apple provides you with very granular control over the various gestures you use the trackpad on your Mac laptop, or your Magic Trackpad 2 if you’ve gotten one for your iMac, Mac mini, or desktop MacBook setup.

The Trackpad system preference provides you with tons of adjustments to pointing and clicking (or tapping, as the case may be), scrolling and other gestures to help you really get the most of your trackpad. The one thing it doesn’t do is let you vary click and drag (or, really, tap and drag) behavior.

While this feature used to be exposed in the Trackpad software itself, Apple hid the ability to change this behavior. They buried it in the Accessibility system preference instead. Let’s take a look at how to change that.

How to enable your Mac trackpad with three-finger drag

1) Select the Apple menu.

2) Click System Preferences.

3) Click Accessibility.

4) Click Mouse & Trackpad.

5) Click Trackpad Options…

Three Finger Drag - Accessibility

6) Click Enable dragging.

Three Finger Drag - Enable

7) Select three finger drag in the drop down box.

Three Finger Drag - drag option

8) Click OK.

9) Close the Accessibility window.

Activating three finger drag enables you to move around windows and other desktop items, as well as select text. It’s much easier and lower-impact to use that clicking and dragging. Try turning it on, give it a try, then go back to the “old” way for a bit. If you’re like me, you’ll stick with three-finger drag, because you’ll find it almost instantly easier, smoother and more intuitive than the default method.

Do you use the three finger drag gesture? Is this the first you’re hearing of it? Let me know in the comments.