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How to Use Mac Trackpad Gestures and Customize Them

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Last updated: September 14, 2023

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The Mac trackpad is an impressive piece of technology that is more than a tool for pointing and clicking. With the right knowledge, your trackpad can become a powerful ally in boosting your productivity and enhancing your user experience.

Surprisingly, many Mac users aren’t tapping into the full potential of their trackpad. Let’s change that today by learning to use Mac trackpad gestures and customize them to your liking.

Understanding the Basic Mac Trackpad Gestures

Apple’s trackpad, built with capacitive touch technology, is designed to respond to the electric charge produced by your fingers. Your Mac’s trackpad comes packed with various Multi-Touch gestures you can use immediately.

Multi-Touch gestures are actions using two or more fingers that your Mac trackpad understands. These gestures are more than just flashy tricks. They can dramatically maximize your productivity and save time doing recurrent tasks.

Here are some basic trackpad gestures built-in to your Mac:

1. Tap to Click

Single-finger tap functions as a click.

mac trackpad force click

How to Turn On Tap to Click on Mac

To turn on Tap to Click on a Mac, which allows you to register a click by tapping the trackpad instead of physically pressing it down, you can follow these steps:

  1. Click the Apple menu and select System Settings.
click the apple icon and select system settings
  1. Scroll down in the left sidebar, click Trackpad, and navigate to the Point & Click tab.
click trackpad and select point click tab
  1. Toggle on the Tap to click switch.
toggle on tap to click

Once you’ve enabled tap to click, you can register a click on the trackpad by simply tapping it with one finger without physically pressing the trackpad down. This can provide a more convenient and comfortable way to interact with your Mac.

The specific options and labels may vary depending on your macOS version or the customization options provided by your device manufacturer.

2. Right-click or Secondary Click

A two-finger tap or click performs a secondary click.

mac trackpad secondary click

3. Smart Zoom

You can zoom in or out on a webpage or PDF by double-tapping with two fingers.

mac trackpad smart zoom

How to Turn On Smart Zoom on Mac

To turn on Smart Zoom on a Mac, which allows you to zoom in and out on your screen by using a gesture on the trackpad, you can follow these steps:

  1. Click the Apple menu and select System Settings.
  2. Scroll down in the left sidebar, click Trackpad, and navigate to the Scroll & Zoom tab.
click scroll zoom tab
  1. Under the Scroll & Zoom tab, toggle on the Smart zoom switch.
toggle on smart zoom

Once you’ve enabled Smart Zoom, you can use the defined gesture (i.e., double tap with two fingers) on the trackpad to zoom in and out on your screen. This can be useful for reading small text, examining details in images, or navigating content more easily.

The specific options and labels may vary depending on the version of macOS you are using or the customization options provided by your device manufacturer.

4. Scroll

To scroll, glide two fingers up or down.

mac trackpad two finger

How to Turn On Natural Scrolling on Mac

To turn on Natural Scrolling on a Mac, which changes the scrolling direction to mimic the movement of content on a touchscreen device, you can follow these steps:

  1. Click the Apple menu and select System Settings.
  2. Scroll down in the left sidebar, click Trackpad, and navigate to the Scroll & Zoom tab.
  3. Under the Scroll & Zoom tab, toggle on the Natural scrolling switch.
toggle on natural scrolling

Once you’ve enabled Natural Scrolling, the scrolling direction on your trackpad will be inverted. Instead of scrolling down to move the content up and scrolling up to move the content down as in traditional scrolling, Natural Scrolling mimics the movement of content on a touchscreen device.

So, scrolling up will move the content up, and scrolling down will move the content down, similar to how you would interact with a touchscreen.

5. Zoom In and Zoom Out

Use a two-finger pinch movement to zoom in or zoom out on Mac.

mac trackpad pinch to zoom

How to Turn On Zoom In or Out on Mac

To turn on Zoom In or Out on a Mac, which allows you to magnify the entire screen or a portion of it, you can follow these steps:

  1. Click the Apple menu and select System Settings.
  2. Scroll down in the left sidebar, click Trackpad, and navigate to the Scroll & Zoom tab.
  3. Under the Scroll & Zoom tab, toggle on the Zoom in or out switch.
toggle on zoom in or out

Once you’ve turned on Zoom, you can use the defined trackpad gesture (i.e., pinch with two fingers) to zoom in and out on your entire screen. The zooming effect allows you to magnify the content, making it easier to read text or view details.

6. Rotation

Twirl two fingers around one another to rotate an item like a photo.

mac trackpad pinch to zoom

How to Turn On Rotate on Mac

Here’s how to turn on rotation on Mac:

  1. Click the Apple menu and select System Settings.
  2. Scroll down in the left sidebar, click Trackpad, and navigate to the Scroll & Zoom tab.
  3. Under the Scroll & Zoom tab, toggle on the Rotate switch.
toggle on rotate

7. Page Navigation

To swipe between pages, swipe two fingers, either left or right.

mac trackpad swipe between pages

8. Notification Center Access

To open the Notification Center, swipe two fingers to the left from the right edge.

mac trackpad open notification center

How to Turn On Notification Center Access Gesture on Mac

To turn on the Notification Center access gesture on a Mac, allowing you to access the Notification Center from your desktop quickly, you can follow these steps:

  1. Click the Apple menu and select System Settings.
  2. Scroll down in the left sidebar, click Trackpad, and navigate to the More Gestures tab.
  3. Under the Scroll & Zoom tab, toggle on the Notification Center switch.
select more gestures and toggle on notification center

After enabling the Notification Center access gesture, you can perform the defined gesture (i.e., swiping left from the right edge of the trackpad) to reveal the Notification Center on your Mac. This allows you to view notifications, widgets, and other important information without leaving your current workspace.

9. Drag and Drop

Enable three-finger drag in Accessibility preferences to move items on your screen with three fingers, then tap or click to release them.

mac trackpad three finger drag

10. Word Lookup and Data Detectors

A three-finger tap lets you define a word or interact with dates, addresses, phone numbers, etc.

11. Desktop View

To see your desktop, spread your thumb and three fingers apart.

mac trackpad show desktop 1

How to Turn On Show Desktop Gesture on Mac

To turn on the Show Desktop gesture on a Mac, allowing you to minimize all windows and show the desktop quickly, you can follow these steps:

  1. Click the Apple menu and select System Settings.
  2. Scroll down in the left sidebar, click Trackpad, and navigate to the More Gestures tab.
  3. Under the Scroll & Zoom tab, toggle on the Show Desktop switch.
select more gestures and toggle on show desktop

Once you’ve enabled the Show Desktop gesture, you can perform the defined gesture (i.e., spread with thumb and three fingers) to minimize all open windows and reveal the desktop. This allows you to access files, shortcuts, or other desktop elements without closing or minimizing individual windows.

12. Launchpad Access

Bring your thumb and three fingers together to open Launchpad.

mac trackpad launchpad 1

How to Turn On Launchpad Access on Mac

To turn on Launchpad access on a Mac, which allows you to access and launch applications in a grid-like view quickly, you can follow these steps:

  1. Click the Apple menu and select System Settings.
  2. Scroll down in the left sidebar, click Trackpad, and navigate to the More Gestures tab.
  3. Under the Scroll & Zoom tab, toggle on the Launchpad switch.

Once you’ve enabled the Launchpad access gesture, you can perform the defined gesture (i.e., pinching with your thumb and three fingers) to open Launchpad. Launchpad provides a grid-like view of all the applications installed on your Mac, making it easy to locate and launch apps without navigating through the Finder or the Dock.

13. Mission Control Access

Four-finger swipe upwards opens Mission Control.

mac trackpad mission control 1

14. App Exposé

To view all windows of the current app, swipe four fingers downwards.

mac trackpad app expose

15. Full-Screen App Navigation

Swipe four fingers left or right to switch between desktops and full-screen apps.

mac trackpad swipe full screen apps

How to Customize Your Mac Trackpad Gestures

Your Mac allows you to tweak trackpad settings to suit your needs. Customizing your Mac trackpad gestures can greatly enhance your user experience and productivity. Whether you want to rotate photos with a simple twirl of your fingers or swiftly switch between full-screen apps with a four-finger swipe, the choice is yours.

Let’s see how you can customize your Mac trackpad gestures to work seamlessly on your system.

1. Adjust Tracking Speed

To adjust the tracking speed on a Mac, you can follow these steps:

  1. Click the Apple menu in the top-left corner of the screen and select System Settings.
click the apple icon and select system settings
  1. Scroll down in the left sidebar, click Trackpad, and navigate to the Point & Click tab.
click trackpad and select point click tab 1
  1. You will see a slider labeled Tracking speed. Adjust the slider to increase or decrease the tracking speed according to your preference. Moving the slider to the right will increase the speed, and moving it to the left will decrease the speed.
tracking speed slider
  1. As you adjust the slider, you will see a preview of the cursor speed in the window. Find a setting that feels comfortable for you.

2. Turn On Silent Clicking

To turn on silent clicking on a Mac, you can follow these steps:

  1. Click the Apple menu and select System Settings.
  2. Scroll down in the left sidebar, click Trackpad, and navigate to the Point & Click tab.
  3. Toggle on the Silent clicking switch.
toggle on silent clicking

After enabling silent clicking, you should be able to click the trackpad without making an audible clicking sound.

3. Turn On Force Click and Haptic Feedback

To turn on Force Click and Haptic Feedback on a Mac, you can follow these steps:

  1. Click the Apple menu and select System Settings.
  2. Scroll down in the left sidebar, click Trackpad, and navigate to the Point & Click tab.
  3. Toggle on the Force Click and haptic feedback switch.
toggle on force click and haptic feedback

Once you’ve enabled Force Click and haptic feedback, you can perform a Force Click by pressing down firmly on the trackpad with one finger or using a two-finger click, depending on your trackpad model. The haptic feedback will provide a subtle vibration or tactile response to simulate a physical click.

Not all Mac models or trackpads support Force Click and haptic feedback. The availability of this feature depends on the specific hardware and macOS version you are using.

4. Customize Look Up & Data Detectors Gesture

To customize the Look Up & Data Detectors gesture on a Mac, you can follow these steps:

  1. Click the Apple menu and select System Settings.
  2. Scroll down in the left sidebar, click Trackpad, and navigate to the Point & Click tab.
  3. Look for the Look up & data detectors option.
look up data detectors option
  1. Click the dropdown menu or the associated settings button next to Look up & data detectors. You will see a list of available actions or gestures for this option.
  1. Select the desired gesture from the list or choose a custom gesture if available.
select an option from look up data detectors menu

5. Customize Secondary Click

To customize the secondary click (also known as right-click) on a Mac, you can follow these steps:

  1. Click the Apple menu and select System Settings.
  2. Scroll down in the left sidebar, click Trackpad, and navigate to the Point & Click tab.
  3. Look for the Secondary click option.
secondary click option
  1. Click the dropdown menu or the associated settings button next to the Secondary click.
  2. You will see a list of available options for the secondary click. The options typically include Click or tap with two fingers, Click in the bottom-right corner, or Click in the bottom-left corner.
  3. Choose the option that feels most comfortable and intuitive for you.
select an option from secondary click menu

6. Customize Swipe Between Pages

To customize the swipe gesture for navigating between pages on a Mac, such as in Safari or other apps, you can follow these steps:

  1. Click the Apple menu and select System Settings.
  2. Scroll down in the left sidebar, click Trackpad, and navigate to the More Gestures tab.
  3. Look for the Swipe between pages option
swipe between pages option
  1. Click the dropdown menu or the associated settings button next to Swipe between pages.
  2. Select the desired gesture from the list or choose a custom gesture if available.
select an option from swipe between pages menu

7. Customize Swipe Between Full-screen Applications Gesture

To customize the swipe gesture for switching between full-screen applications on a Mac, you can follow these steps:

  1. Click the Apple menu and select System Settings.
  2. Scroll down in the left sidebar, click Trackpad, and navigate to the More Gestures tab.
  3. Locate the Swipe between full-screen applications option.
swipe between full screen applications option
  1. Click the dropdown menu next to Swipe between full-screen applications.
  2. Select your desired gesture from the list.
select an option from swipe between full screen applications menu

8. Customize Mission Control Access Gesture

To customize the gesture for accessing Mission Control on a Mac, which provides an overview of open windows and spaces, you can follow these steps:

  1. Click the Apple menu and select System Settings.
  2. Scroll down in the left sidebar, click Trackpad, and navigate to the More Gestures tab.
  3. Locate the Mission Control option.
mission control option
  1. Click the dropdown menu next to Mission Control.
  2. You will see a list of available actions or gestures for Mission Control access. Select the desired gesture from the list.
select an option from mission control menu

9. Customize App Exposé Gesture

To customize the gesture for triggering App Exposé on a Mac, which shows all open windows of the active application, you can follow these steps:

  1. Click the Apple menu and select System Settings.
  2. Scroll down in the left sidebar, click Trackpad, and navigate to the More Gestures tab.
  3. Look for the App Exposé option.
app expose option
  1. Click the dropdown menu next to App Exposé.
  2. Select the desired gesture from the list.
select an option from app expose menu

Take Control of Your Mac Trackpad Gestures

The Mac trackpad is an underappreciated gem, full of potential to make your Mac experience more smooth, efficient, and enjoyable. While you can use Mac trackpad gestures to optimize your usage, there are many other ways to enhance your Mac experience.

Some tips to maximize your productivity on Mac are as follows:

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Why isn’t my Mac trackpad working?

    Your Mac trackpad may not work for several reasons, from hardware issues to misconfigured settings. Try restarting your Mac, checking your trackpad settings, or updating your macOS.

  2. How do I clean my Mac trackpad?

    To clean your Mac trackpad, turn off your Mac and disconnect the power adapter. Use a lint-free cloth slightly dampened with water to clean dust and debris. Don’t spray liquid directly onto the trackpad.

  3. Can I use Mac trackpad gestures on a Windows laptop?

    You may be unable to use Mac trackpad gestures on a Windows laptop. Some Windows laptops support gestures, but the range and functionality may not be as extensive as on a Mac. You can often customize these in the touchpad settings.

  4. What do I do if my Mac trackpad is too sensitive?

    If your Mac trackpad is too sensitive, adjust the trackpad sensitivity. To do that, open System Settings from the Apple menu and click Trackpad. Look for the Point & Click tab and adjust the Tracking speed slider to make the trackpad less sensitive.

Hashir Ibrahim

Author

I'm Hashir, a tech journalist with a decade of experience. My work has been featured in some of the top tech publications like MakeUseOf and MakeTechEasier. I have a bachelor's degree in IT, a master's in cybersecurity, and extensive knowledge of Apple hardware, specifically MacBooks. As the senior writer at MacBook Journal, I write in depth guides that help you solve any issues you have with your mac and unbiased reviews that help you make the right buying decisions.

Ojash

Reviewer

Hi there! I'm Ojash, a tech journalist with over a decade of experience in the industry. I've had the privilege of contributing to some of the world's largest tech publications, making my mark as a respected Mac expert. My passion lies in exploring, using, and writing about MacBooks, and I enjoy sharing my expertise to help others make informed decisions and get the most out of their MacBook experience. Join me as we delve into the fascinating world of MacBooks together!

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