Two Must Know Usability Tips for Mac Laptop Users

Feb 20, 2007 - 18 Comments

Retina MacBook Pro models

If there are only two general usability tips that every Mac laptop owner must know about, these very well could be it. First, how to simulate a right click with your trackpad, and second, scrolling through documents much like is done with a scrollwheel.

I have long assumed these were common knowledge, but I’ve heard enough complaints and wishes and had to demonstrate them to enough people to prove otherwise. So if you don’t know about these two trackpad features, then you do now, and once you start using them, it’s impossible to go without. These work on just about every semi-modern Mac laptop made, whether it’s a G4 PowerBook, an Core i7 MacBook Pro Retina, or a MacBook Air. As long as the Mac laptop has a trackpad, you’re good.

1: Right Click with a Mac Trackpad Using a Two Finger Click

Hold two fingers on the trackpad while you use the click button, this mimics the right-click function of a mouse, or the Control+Click option otherwise used on a Mac.

If you’d rather not use the two-finger click trick, you can also enable a literal right-click on the Mac trackpad with this guide.

2: Scroll Pages like a Scroll Wheel with Two Finger Trackpad Swipes

Place two fingers on the trackpad and move them up to scroll up, and down to scroll down. This works to scroll horizontally as well.

If these features aren’t working for you, they are probably disabled. Here is how to activate these options (assuming they are turned off), go to  Apple menu -> System Preferences. Navigate to the ‘Keyboard & Mouse’ preference pane under Hardware. Click the Trackpad tab. Under Trackpad gestures, be sure that “Use two fingers to scroll” and ‘Place two fingers on trackpad and click button for secondary click’ are checked, as shown in the screenshot below. Enjoy!

Note: Several of our readers have pointed out that these tips are not compatible with some older PowerBook and iBook models. However, a program called iScroll2 enables the scrolling ability on these models. Get iScroll2 here. Thanks to all who pointed this out!

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in Mac OS X, Tips & Tricks

18 Comments

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  1. bob says:

    it should probably be known that this is not an option in a g4 powerbook, even the last models.

  2. Stranger says:

    Older powerbook users can try iScroll2 to add similar functionality. http://iscroll2.sourceforge.net/

  3. Jay says:

    It sounds minor but this is one of the most natural feeling interface tricks I’ve used in years. I find myself trying to use it by mistake on Windows and Linux devices all the time.

  4. TrafReffins says:

    You can also control click to mimic a right click and function key UP or DOWN arrows to scroll up or down. Both of these tips work on PowerBook’s as well as new Mac’s

  5. deck2 says:

    stranger, thanks for link for older models, im gonnaown one very soon so its very usefuul for me!

  6. Salawi says:

    I have PPC G4 labtop OSX 10.4.8 however I don’t have the “Place two fingers on trackpad and click button for secondary click” option to check it.
    Is this normal?

  7. Harold says:

    I also have a PPC G4 ibook with 10.4.8 and I don’t have the “place two fingers to click” option so I’m guessing it’s only available for newer models and those using iScroll2 (thanks Stranger!)

  8. Harold says:

    I take that back – iScroll2 says:

    “Note: Models that have two-finger scrolling already built-in are not supported! These use a completely different, USB-based trackpad, the driver or which is not available as open source.”

    I guess we get the stinky end of the stick.

  9. regis says:

    I tryed iScroll2, It works perfectly on my iBook G4 (2004), after some tunning on the controls of the driver. Great program (also it´s great that it´s free…..)

  10. jason says:

    the Two Fingers on Trackpad for Right-Click is one of my favorite features.

    NOTE, if you have your laptop set to hibernate, using either the Deep Sleep widget or setting it from the command line, it doesn’t recall that setting. Thus, you have to go into Sys Pref and deselect it and then select it again in order for it wo work.

  11. Ed says:

    The two finger scroll is a must have.

  12. Vladimir says:

    I can’t live without either of these features

  13. Someone says:

    I have a iBook G4 also, and I don’t have the right-clicking option by using two fingers! :( Is there another trackpad driver that includes this?

  14. Leigh says:

    I have a G4 also, which has the same problems noted on previous comments. Can you address this issue please? It’s driven me crazy for the past two years.

  15. FudgePirate says:

    Unfortuantely the older G4’s have to use the iScroll plugin to make these tip work

    but it’s a great tip for Intel Macs and even with iScroll for G4’s

  16. zac says:

    if you enable the trackpad for clicking you can secondary-click by tapping two fingers. also, aren’t newer macs coming from the factory with two finger scroll on? i’m pretty sure mine did…

  17. Jaka says:

    Because of this, I luv my Mac :)

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