Using Multitouch Gestures in Mac OS X

In 2007, Apple brought multitouch gestures to the mass market with iPhone. One of most popular features on the original iPhone was “pinch-to-zoom.” Whether it was a web page or photo, you could take two fingers and expand or zoom into a photo just by pinching. Shortly after, Apple incorporated these multitouch gestures onto the Macbook. Just a few months ago, Apple released a dedicated bluetooth “Magic Trackpad” so even desktop users could have multitouch gestures.

Many Mac users know of the two-fingered scroll, but there are many more gestures that can save time and make your workflow more efficient. Before enabling gestures, make sure your software is up to date. Open System Preferences, found in the dock and click on Software Update.

System Preferences

Click on Check Now and the computer will find any updates ready to download and install. Finish the installation and Restart your computer if necessary. Go back to System Preferences and click on Trackpad.

Software Updates

This will bring up the Trackpad preferences panel which allows you to adjust over mouse activity, such as double click speed, scrolling speed and tracking speed. This window also shows you all the One, Two, Three and Four Finger gestures available to you. One finger gestures include Tap to Click, rather than physically pressing the trackpad button, and Dragging, which allows you to double tap on a window and move it with one finger.

Trackpad Gesture Preferences

The Two Fingered gestures include Scroll, Rotate, Pinch Open & Close, Screen Zoom and Secondary Tap. Scroll allows you to take two fingers and swipe up, down, left or right to scroll through a document, web page, or any windows with scroll bars on the side.

Two Finger Scroll

With Rotate enabled, you can take two fingers slightly spaced apart and move them in a clockwise or counter-clockwise motion. This will rotate a photo or image 90 degrees.

Two Finger Rotate

Pinch Open & Close can also be called Pinch-to-Zoom. This gestures can be used in web pages, images and some documents. Pinching two fingers towards each other will zoom out or make text smaller. A reverse pinch, making your fingers move away from each other will zoom in or make text larger.

Pinch to Zoom

With Screen Zoom you can assign a hotkey that when pressed, a two fingered scroll up or down will zoom in on a particular area of the desktop.

Screen Zoom

One of the things Windows users have to get used to on a Mac is the lack of a “Right-Click” on the mouse. Mac users must hold down the Control button and click with the mouse in order to access copy, paste and other options. Secondary Click makes it so when you tap with two fingers simultaneously, it will act as a “right-click” function bringing up the contextual menu.

Right Click

The only Three Finger gesture is for navigation, but can be very useful while web browsing. Taking three fingers and swiping horizontally across the Trackpad will act as a Back or Forward action in a web browser. This gestures can also be used when viewing images in iPhoto or Preview.

Three Finger Navigation

Another great feature in OS X is Expose. Expose allows you to view all the open windows on your desktop at once, zoomed out so no windows overlap. You can then click a window to bring it to the front. You can activate Expose using a keyboard shortcut, or you can swipe four fingers downward on the Trackpad.

Four Finger Expose

Swiping four fingers in an upward motion will clear all windows from the desktop and brush them to the sides. Swiping with four fingers again will bring them back.

Four Finger Expose II

The final gesture available is the Swipe Left/Right to Switch Applications. This performs the same action as pressing Command + Tab. Take four fingers and swipe horizontally across the Trackpad.This brings up the application switcher, showing you all the current open applications. Click on an application with the mouse to open it.

Four Finger App Switcher

Any gesture you want to enable, be sure to check the box next to its title. After a short learning curve, these gestures will become second nature and you’ll find yourself making good use of them regularly.

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Comments [1]

  1. Jen Hill says:

    Awesome! This page is so helpful. I've had my new mac for a few months. Somehow I could make the screen zoom in and out when I touched the mouse but I didn't know exactly how and I couldn't find any thing on my new mac that would tell me how to do it when I wanted to instead of when I randomly hit it right. Mystery solved! Thank you!

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