Turning On Mac Touch-To-Click Support from the Command Line

Jan 31, 2014 - 5 Comments

Enabling touch clicking from the command line of OS X Touch-based clicking is an alternate input form that uses trackpad (or Magic Mouse) taps as a click. For most Mac users, turning on tap-to-click is best done from OS X System Preferences, but advanced users who require more control, automation, or remote enabling of the feature can also enable tap-to-click through the command line by using defaults strings. Using this advanced method also offers the benefit of allowing touch-clicking at the login screens of OS X, something that isn’t available by default if enabled through the GUI controls.

This requires a multitouch compatible Mac trackpad or mouse, whether that’s a newer model MacBook Pro or Air, or a Magic Trackpad or Magic Mouse. If you’re not comfortable with the command line and Terminal, you’re better off using this approach instead.

Enabling Universal Tap-Clicking on a Mac from the Terminal

You’ll notice there are three separate and unique defaults strings listed, one of which enables the general tap click behavior, while the next enables the feature for the Magic Mouse, and the other provides support for tap-to-click at the login and boot screens of OS X. To be thorough and get full touch-click support throughout OS X, issue all three commands separately in the Terminal, then reboot the Mac. As usual, each command should be placed on a single line when executed at the terminal.

sudo defaults write com.apple.driver.AppleBluetoothMultitouch.trackpad Clicking -bool true

sudo defaults -currentHost write NSGlobalDomain com.apple.mouse.tapBehavior -int 1

sudo defaults write NSGlobalDomain com.apple.mouse.tapBehavior -int 1

These three strings were found in a MacRumors forums thread and have been tested to work in OS X.

Disabling Tap-Clicking from the Terminal

If you want to reverse the above settings, or remotely disable the feature on a Mac, you can use the following defaults strings to turn off touchpad clicking. You’ll notice this is mostly a matter of looking at the above defaults strings and switching ‘true’ to ‘false’ and 1 to 0 where appropriate. Just as above, issue all three commands to be thorough:

sudo defaults write com.apple.driver.AppleBluetoothMultitouch.trackpad Clicking -bool false

sudo defaults -currentHost write NSGlobalDomain com.apple.mouse.tapBehavior -int 0

sudo defaults write NSGlobalDomain com.apple.mouse.tapBehavior -int 0

Again, reboot the Mac for all changes to take effect when using this command line approach.

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

5 Comments

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  1. Matt Viverette says:

    This does not work on OS X 10.9.3 Mavericks.

    • Christopher Cross says:

      Yes it does work on OS X 10.9.3 Mavericks, I am using it right now for enabling tap-to-click. You are probably entering the command wrong, be sure it’s on a single line and typed properly. You can use ‘defaults read’ to verify the command has been entered properly.

      • Lauri Hoefs says:

        I’m on 10.9.4, and don’t seem to be able to get this work either.

        All the defaults return 1 when I read them, so they are written correctly. But tap to click still only works for logged in users who have set it manually, not by default, and not in login screen.

        • Laura says:

          Nope, this does not work on Mavericks 10.9.5 either.

          “defaults read” displays that the setting is in there as:

          com.apple.mouse.tapBehavior” = 1;

          However, after reboot, there still is no tap behavior beyond what the options in System Preferences cover.

  2. Albert says:

    In Version 10.9.4 this does nothing to enable tap to click in the magic mouse.

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