24 Multi-Touch Gestures for Mac OS X

Apr 20, 2012 - 24 Comments

Mac Multi-Touch Gestures

Most Macs have multi-touch capabilities these days, allowing for gestures to perform common tasks that would otherwise require keyboard shortcuts or additional clicking about. To use the gestures, you’ll obviously need a Mac with multitouch capabilities, that means either a newish laptop with a trackpad, Magic Trackpad, or Magic Mouse.

Some gestures require modern versions of macOS, whether that’s Catalina, Sierra, OS X Lion, Mountain Lion, Mavericks, or later to use, and some gestures may have to be enabled manually in the System Preferences > Trackpad control panel.

Without further ado, here’s a bunch of helpful gestures for Mac OS X and commonly used Mac apps…

Gestures for Finder, Mission Control, and Desktop

  • Push Windows Aside to Show Desktop – Four Finger Spread
  • Activate Mission Control – Four Finger Swipe up
  • Switch Desktops & Full Screen Apps – Three finger swipe left or right
  • Mission Control All Windows for Current Application – Four Finger swipe down
  • Zoom Into Window in Mission Control – Two finger swipe up over window
  • Open Launchpad – Four finger pinch
  • Drag Windows – Three finger hold and drag over window bar
  • Tap to Click – Tap with a single finger
  • Right-Click – Two finger click
  • Scroll – Two finger swipe in direction to scroll

Gestures for Safari, Chrome, Firefox

  • Zoom In & Increase Font Size – Spread
  • Zoom Out & Decrease Font Size – Pinch
  • Go Back – Two Finger swipe right
  • Go Forward – Two Finger swipe left
  • Look Up Word in Dictionary – Three fingered double tap over word (Safari only)
  • Smart Zoom – Two finger double tap (Safari only)

Gestures for Quick Look & QuickTime Player

  • Enter Full Screen – Spread
  • Exit Full Screen – Pinch
  • Scrub Video – Two finger swipe right or left (QuickTime only)

Preview Gestures

  • Rotate Image – Two finger rotate gesture
  • Zoom Into Image – Spread
  • Zoom Out Image – Pinch

Misc Gestures

  • Flip Calendar Pages – Two finger swipe left or right (iCal)
  • Refresh Tweet Stream – Two finger pull down (Twitter)

Know any other helpful multitouch gestures for Mac OS X or popular Mac apps? Let us know in the comments.


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


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  6. frankie says:

    3-finger swipe up/down: change conversations in Skype.

  7. Michael says:

    In System Preferences, click on Trackpad. Once there, you’ll see looping videos of how each gesture works.

  8. Haruhiko says:

    Re: grant
    You can change the 2 finger page back/forward back to a three finger gesture then you will able to going back/forward pages in Finder and the App store again. Cheers.

  9. Grant says:

    Cheers. Do you know if they are bringing back gestures to go back and forward in between finder windows (and the App store)? I can’t believe they go rid of that. WHY???

  10. mike v says:

    these do vary depending on preference settings which you should mention. for example, “Activate Mission Control – Four Finger Swipe up” the first choice is three fingers. same for “Mission Control All Windows for Current Application – Four Finger swipe down”

  11. Tim says:

    Google “BetterTouchTool.” Then you can really go to town. And it’s free.

    • SamLR says:

      +1 on this! BTT allows you to customise all your finger gestures (and has even more than normal), for example I have it set up so that in chrome keeping one finger on the pad and tapping with another goes back whilst 3 fingers move between tabs.

      BTT also has settings for alt+drag to move windows whilst the mouse is anywhere over them and windows 7 style maximise to half and quarter window

  12. GianMarco Tavazzani says:

    Switch between desktops need 4 fingers, not 3.

  13. Swager Aveeva luckx says:

    I do not know about mac ox… Can any body tell me how to change it to window 7?

  14. Massimiliano says:

    Look Up Word in Dictionary works also in Chrome ;-)

  15. me says:

    Spread and pinch don’t work for me in firefox…

  16. fondoo says:

    thanks! this was very useful for a newbie like me.

  17. Pete says:

    You can go back and forth in Finder windows too with 3 finger swipes left and right, but only if you don’t have desktop switching enabled. Could be a Snow Leopard thing.

  18. parin says:

    Drag Windows – Three finger hold and drag over window bar..

    what do u mean by this??? i don’t get it.. and want to try it out..

    • Tony says:

      You have to enable it in the trackpad settings

      • keithn says:

        Frustratingly, by doing this you do get 3 finger hold and drag ability over a window bar, but you automatically lose the ability to go back/forwards in finder, which previously used the 3 finger swipe gesture.

        Safari gets around this by providing the alternative back/forwards between pages by way of scrolling with 2 fingers left/right. But in Finder, scrolling is needed up/down and left/right on the current window, so scrolling left/right will not take you back/forwards.

        Shame its either one or the other with the UI design as I like both the 3 finger drag of the windows, but also like the ability to move back and forwards in the finder window without moving my hand off the trackpad.

        If anyone has any solutions/suggestions please let me know!

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