MacBook Pro Touchpad Tricks

Ordinarily, I’m no fan of touchpads – trackpads, if you’d rather. On every Dell laptop I’ve bought, I’ve always ensured that they ship with a nipple – or the even lamer sounding pointer stick because I’d rather use that than the touchpad. Interestingly, though, I don’t mind the touchpad on the Mac. Sometimes I even forget that I’m even using it because the transition from a real, live mouse is so smooth.

The reason the transition is so easy, I think, is due to the additional functionality Apple has built into its touchpads. The “trick” is enabling this additional functionality to promote productivity. Admittedly, calling these “tricks” may be a little ambitious since I thought they were pretty introductory, but I’ve had enough people notice what I’m doing and ask, that I figured I’d go ahead and put them in print.

Two Finger Scrolling

I hate to think of what my life would be like if were still having to navigate my cursor all the way over to the scroll bar, place it just so on the buttons and click my way to the position in the document I was looking for. Uh uh. On the Mac, I just drag two fingers across the touchpad – anywhere on the touchpad – and the document scrolls in that direction. It doesn’t sound like much, but I swear that this alone saves me about an hour a day.

To enable two finger scrolling:

  1. Open System Preferences.
  2. Select the Keyboard & Mouse icon.
  3. Select the Trackpad tab.
  4. Check the option to Use two fingers to scroll.
  5. Optionally, check the option to Allow horizontal scrolling, if that sounds like fun.

Two Finger Right Click

This feature doesn’t have quite the direct impact on productivity as two finger scrolling, but it’s still pretty convenient. Since Apple’s laptops, like their mice, ship with only one button (seriously, it’s the 21st century; now they’re just doing it to spite us), the only way to right click is to move your left hand off of the home keys and press the Ctrl key when you click the button below the touchpad.

Unless two finger right clicking is enabled. Then just place two fingers (of either hand) on the touchpad and click the button to access the context menu or whatever other right click functionality should be triggered. To enable two finger right clicking:

  1. Open System Preferences.
  2. Select the Keyboard & Mouse icon.
  3. Select the Trackpad tab.
  4. Check the option that (rather verbosely) states, For secondary clicks, place two fingers on the trackpad then click the button.

Again, these aren’t advanced tricks and frankly may not be tricks at all, but enough folks seemed impressed and awed by my use of them, that I thought they might be worth writing about.

Subscribe6 Comments on MacBook Pro Touchpad Tricks

  1. Sammy Larbi said...

    Looks like these are enabled by default on Vista using the MBP. Or, at least I don’t remember doing anything special to enable them.

    I knew about the ctrl-click, but I always thought the trackpad way was tap-finger-one-and-hold-down followed by tap-second-finger-and-hold, then click.

    I feel rather silly now. Thanks.

  2. Amber said...

    THERES ANOTHER TRICK!.
    -you take 4 fingers, and slide it up, and then all your opened windows disappears, you take 4 fingers, slide it back down, and it re-appears.

    -you take your fingers, slide it vertically across the pad, and then a small black screen will show up, with all the programs that you are presently using.

    THERE ARE OTHERS, its just that IIII don’t know them.

  3. Rob Wilkerson said...

    Thanks, Amber. To be clear, the 4 finger gestures are specific to newer model laptops (the unibody MBPs), but they are awesome and useful. In addition to those you’ve mentioned:

    - Sliding 4 fingers down will engage Expose.

    - In some apps, sliding 3 fingers up or down will scroll to the top or bottom of the current document, respectively. This works in Firefox, but not in Safari. YMMV.

  4. james said...

    if you take your 2 pointers one all the way to the left and other to the right and at the same time scroll towards eachother it zooms out, vice versa for zoom in ( on safari)

  5. Erik said...

    i know some other ‘tricks’, not just scrolling, although i am not sure what kind of mac they will work for, I have the latest version of the macbook pro, here are some tricks i have found.

    1) place one finger on the pad around where u would click, but dont actually click, with 3 other fingers, slide them from the side to above your first finger, and if you have tabs open on a browser, it allows u to move back and fourth between them.

    2) similar to the first one put ur finger above the clicking area, but dont click, with the three other fingers, move them in more of an upwards movement, this will push any windows you have open off the screen. do the same but move down to get them back

  6. newmacbookpro said...

    On macbook pro if you open system preferences -> trackpad it will show you a video for each shortcut and what each does. For example, three fingers on the trackpad scrolling left or right navigates forward or back in the browser…