Mac Trackpad Gestures You Never Knew Existed

Lego figure standing on Apple Magic Trackpad

There was a time when the pinnacle of using a mouse on your notebook computer was the small red dot in the middle of IBM machines. We’ve definitely come a long way since those days, and the trackpad found on new Apple notebooks is easily the best of the bunch.

From zooming to rotating to controlling just about everything on your Mac, the trackpad is far more than an analog for your mouse. If you use your Mac’s trackpad all the time, or if you purchased a Magic Trackpad for your desktop machine, you definitely want to know the amazing ways to use this often-overlooked piece of technology.

Some of these Mac trackpad gestures may just blow your mind, so get ready!

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Enable Mac Trackpad Gestures

Before getting into this, make sure your trackpad has gestures turned on. Go to System Preferences > Trackpad to open the settings. Here, you’ll see three tabs. Go through each one and turn on all the checkboxes. One exception: If you want your cursor to move the way it always has, leave “Scroll direction: natural” unchecked.

Mac Trackpad Settings window showing three-finger drag

With these settings turned on, we can look at how the gestures work.

Tip: You can see the basic gestures by clicking on any of the tabs in the Trackpad settings. You can even change some of them to use different gestures if you continually make mistakes with them. Just click the down arrow next to a setting to see the available options.

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Trackpad Gestures

Apple Magic Trackpad with words Trackpad Gestures

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Scroll – Using two fingers, swipe up and down to scroll through documents and Web pages.
Go Forward and Backward in Web Pages – Swiping left or right with two fingers on a Web page, document, or book will move you between pages.

Swiping between Web pages with two-finger gesture on Mac trackpad

View Launchpad – Launchpad on the Mac is underused, mostly because of the difficulty in, well, launching it. Pinch with three fingers and your thumb and you’ll get instant access to all your apps in Launchpad. Make the same gesture in reverse (spread instead of pinch) to hide Launchpad.

Showing Launchpad with gesture on Mac trackpad

Mission Control – Need to see all your open windows to find something? Swipe up with three fingers and every open window is now visible. (You can also change this setting to use four fingers.)

Showing Notification Center on Mac with two-finger swipe on Mac trackpad

App Exposé – View all the open windows for the active application by swiping down with three fingers.

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Switch Desktops – OS X allows you to use multiple desktops to better organize apps and projects, but it’s not always easy to navigate between them. To go from one desktop to another easily, just swipe left or right with three fingers. You’ll navigate between them in numerical order.

Zoom In/Out – Pinch in or out to zoom in or out on Web pages, photos, documents, and any other app that supports zoom.

Rotate an Image – Open an image in Preview and using your thumb and one other finger, tap and turn to rotate the image just as if you were doing it with a physical picture. Hit Command + S to save the newly rotated image.

Open Notification Center – This is probably the least-known gesture in the entire list. Swipe two fingers in from the right side of the trackpad to open up Notification Center. Start with your fingers off the trackpad and drag them onto it. Swipe back right again to hide Notification Center.

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