Always Show Scroll Bars in Mac OS X

Aug 3, 2011 - 50 Comments

Show Scroll Bars in Mac OS X

The scrollbars in new versions of OS X are hidden until activated by use, that is, by scrolling, making them invisible by default. This is the new default behavior that works very well if you primarily use a trackpad with your Mac. I use an external mouse with my Mac quite often though, and I find the hidden scrollbars to be annoying when I do. That’s my reason for bringing them back, but other people just like to see when content is available that needs to be scrolled to access, this tip will make both of us happy by constantly displaying the scroll bars.

How to Set Scroll Bars to Display All the Time in Mac OS X

This will return scroll bar behavior to that which existed in Mac OS 10.6 and prior, that is, being always visible:

  • Launch System Preferences from the  Apple menu
  • Click on General
  • Look for ‘Show scroll bars’ and select the radiobox next to “Always”

Scrollbars are instantly visible with this change. You may want to take this tip one step further and adjust the behavior of clicking within the scroll bar too, but I find the default setting here of jumping to the next page just fine.

Hiding the scrollbars does make the user interface a bit more minimalist and more in line with iOS, but on the desktop it really just makes more sense to see them constantly.

These settings work in OS X 10.7 Lion, OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion, OS X Mavericks 10.9, and beyond. Moving forward, it’s safe to expect this to be the new standard scrollbar behavior as iOS and OS X continue to share more features, but so long as we continue to have the easy option to toggle the feature back to have our scrollbars always visible, it’s not too bad.

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

50 Comments

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  1. Greg says:

    I prefer no scrollbars until they’re in use, very clean UI

    • Michael says:

      @ Greg

      The scrollbars are there to give the user a clue.
      It can tell you if there is information not currently visible on the screen.
      Without the scrollbars, you must always try to scroll. This is silly and a waste of time.

  2. rhyde says:

    I’d prefer to have the arrows on the top and bottom of the scroll bar where I’ve had them since I got my original Mac. Any way to do that?

  3. Jeffrey Ruppert says:

    Return the arrows together at both the top and bottom of the scroll bar the change is a form of elder abuse. The older people who use the mac are extremely irritated and upset at this change they have not changed to the new stile of mouse and have a gustier that involves one finger for apple. I might not be in the age group but I agree with them and give apple the same Gustier.

    • Tom Atkinson says:

      I agree. The way they reversed the scrolling direction of wheel mice, and hid the scrollbars by default is pretty cheeky. Nice tho that it’s possible to switch back. But I still give Apple some Gustier too whatever that is! Oh yeah!

  4. […] Hidden Scroll bars: So i want to quickly scroll down or to the right.. i have to first scroll my wheel then grab the scroll bar indicator and drag it down. SLOW.After all this, I decided to format and go back to Snow Leopard. I hope someone builds a 3rd party version of spaces for Lion because eventually I will be forced to get it makes me sad. Makes me wonder if the guys at Apple are actually thinking about developers when they build this stuff. […]

  5. Naki says:

    Thank you very much for the tip. As a developer, the hidden scrollbar is VERY annoying (but I think that most of mac “everything is clean and hidden” features are awful for developers :P )

  6. Anthony says:

    Not having the arrows on the scroll bar is a pain the pages do not move up and down cleanly.

  7. rena says:

    Can we make the scroll bars wider and blue like they were on older Macs — I find the narrow grey ones horrible.
    Whatever happened to ‘don’t fix it if it ain’t broke’ ..

  8. Karina says:

    Thanks!!!! I was hating the new “dissapearing scrollbars thing” ;)

  9. Victoria says:

    Is there no way to get the up and down arrows on the scrollbar (which I finally found) in OSX Lion? Using the scrollbar without arrows is a pain.

  10. […] you can set scrollbars to always display in windows, there is no option to show the actual scrollbar arrows anymore in Mac OS X Lion. A […]

  11. […] you can set scrollbars to always display in windows, there is no option to show the actual scrollbar arrows anymore in Mac OS X Lion. A […]

  12. David says:

    Having just purchased my lovely new MacBook Pro and having been used to Microsoft Windows for years, personally I believe the scrollbars default on all new Macs should be that they are visible – it simply makes it easier for us new users. My initial thoughts when I first tried scrolling was that the Mac was crap, but thankfully this excellent resource made it all very clear. Also, as an aside, the backspace key reads ‘delete’ which is a bit silly for a Mac and there is no actual separate ‘delete’ key – again for an ex Microsoft user – I miss that function terribly – BUT as I learn’t on another blog site, you can delete by pressing ‘fn’ and then ‘delete’. In a nutshell, I believe Apple need to be more aware of new user’s needs thus making the change from Microsoft to MacBook just that little more simple. Overall, I love my Mac and won’t be going back!!

  13. […] with a two-fingered swipe left or right. The feature works the same whether scroll bars are visible or not. Horizontal scrolling works with most native and cocoa apps, although some apps are pickier […]

  14. Mike says:

    I guess I am the only one for whom this “easy fix” doesn’t work.

    New MacBook Pro, and even after selecting “Always”, I get no scroll bars on anything.

    • Kathy says:

      I also cannot change this. When I change it in box, then close it, it reverts back to all of the defaults. How can I change this?

  15. damian says:

    I would be fine with the scrollbars not appearing until hovered over or panning begins, but it rarely if ever works and I primarily use a stylus and wacom tablet.

  16. Sam says:

    THANK YOU! Just got a new MacBook Pro and I HATED the scrolling change. WTF? That’s an improvement? SUX.

    THANK YOU for the quick fix for us non-techies.

  17. Paul says:

    I like my Mac again! Thanks

  18. David says:

    I found it annoying when in a chat client. If I scrolled up to copy something to another window and came back not remembering if I scrolled up or not. I had to scroll to see if I was already at the bottom.

    Glad to see the scroll bar. Terrible terrible choice to hide the scroll bar in general, let alone by default.

  19. karin kelly burns says:

    Can you tell me how to get the info box in the bottom of the file folders that existed prior to Lion. It used to tell you how many items were in the folder. Now I can only get it to do that on the outside/desktop…not when I open the folder. Thanks for your help.

  20. LTL says:

    Thanks for this tip – I was in constant “trying to make the scrollbar appear” purgatory until I came across your helpful info (only just bought a new Mac). The disappearing scrollbars is the biggest, most inefficient waste of time! I’m glad you can reverse this with System preferences. Thanks again!

  21. CAP says:

    The disappearing scroll bar has been the bane of my existence for quite awhile now, thanks!

  22. mike says:

    Thanks for the Tip..

  23. Robbo says:

    Thank you so much for this. I never thought of looking having been frustrated without them for so long! So pleased to have them back!

  24. Daniel says:

    Yes! I’m so glad that I found this advice. I been on and off my Mac all day and everytime I have to scroll is adventure. How frustrating! This has made my day!!

  25. Kebard says:

    The Apple design team can occasionally be totally clueless. How the he11 these kinds of decisions are made escapes me.

  26. Eve says:

    Just got my new Mac today and was confused about the scrollbar issue too. However, once it was explained above- use two fingers instead of one to scroll- I love it already! So much more convenient than clicking and scrolling. The scroll bar comes up automatically and shows where I am in the document. I think it’s a great idea- at least for my usage.

  27. Miss says:

    Thanks for this simple but rage-quelling tip. This has been driving me absolutely mad.

  28. Kevin says:

    THANKS! This was driving me crazy until I just decided to Google the issue and your site showed me how to fix it. Awesome.

  29. Ivana says:

    Thanks! It works :)

  30. Leah says:

    Thank you! This was driving me crazy too, because it was almost impossible to get to the last file in a list without the scrollbar always up. you are a lifesaver.

  31. Kris says:

    Thank You! Thank You!! I thought I was losing my mind and doing something wrong. So nice to be able to google and get the right answer

  32. Iannis says:

    Thank you so much, simple and to the point!

  33. pk says:

    thanks a ton!

  34. Roger Martin says:

    Thanks for posting this information….not having the scroll bar in Mountain Lion was driving me crazy!

  35. sf says:

    Many thanks, I’m grateful for your advice. Like many others this was driving me crazy and you provided a quick fix.

  36. liz says:

    THANK YOU! That was really annoying me.

  37. Jake says:

    Thanks, you’re a genius!

  38. spottie says:

    I just spent 2 hours suffering in iMovie for lack of scrollbars… couldn’t seem to get the hidden ones to engage. This is a LIFESAVER right now.

  39. Walter says:

    I wasnt necessarily having issues with the scrollbars, but in Mac Mail, now I cant get the folder list to scroll or the messages to scroll/page up, ONLY the message will move…help?

  40. Sandra says:

    Thank you, thank you. I have an older MacBook Pro (2010), upgraded to X, lost my scroll bar and was quite irritated. This quick fix made me like my notebook again.

  41. Martin says:

    Come on Apple … Listen to the folks who buy your updates. Return the scroll bar arrows to OSX Lion and above. This is perhaps one of the dumbest things you’ve left out of your upgrades. We are creatures of habit. Some of us depend on a few things remaining consistent.

  42. Klas says:

    Thanks for this help!
    Hiding the scrollbars really slowed down scrolling (as hiding elements almost always does) so this was very helpful.

  43. Sara says:

    Oh my gosh. Thank you so much for this! I was going crazy trying to get those scrollbars to appear!

  44. Sanjay says:

    This hidden scroll bar is confusing. Yes. The solution provided works for me. Thanks.

  45. James says:

    I just want to add the comment for the Apple stupid design. What is the point to hide the scroll bar on the screen? It is silly to make the simple things complicated.

  46. DNA says:

    Could be a good idea, BUT they didn’t make it smart enough to know if I’m using the Magic Mouse or my Wacom. OK idea botched by poor design and execution.

  47. Marlene says:

    I am using a Mac Powerbook with OS x version 10.4.11. There is NO ‘Always’ box to check in my system preferences. I can get the scroll bars back by restarting, but have yet to find a way to get them back while using a site on which they do not appear.
    Any suggestion would be greatly appreciated.
    Thank you!

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