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Top 10: Mac trackpad gestures

You’ll be surprised what you can do with a Trackpad – here are ten of our best tricks

Apple’s recent history has been all about touch. It even called one of its products the iPod touch. While the iPad and iPhone are built around what our fingertips can get up to, the revolution started on the MacBook range of computers. Apple took the humble laptop Trackpad and then innovated like only Apple can, adding gestures that make it quick and easy to do everything from move back and forward through your browser history, to quickly switching to Mission Control.

Apple hasn’t stood still since. Each new version of OS X usually brings at least one new trackpad trick and there’s a surprising amount you can do – regardless of whether the Trackpad is built into a MacBook or a standalone Magic Trackpad device. In fact, mouse users have reason to look on with envious eyes. Here are ten Trackpad tricks that may well surprise you.

1 Look up words

Tapping a word with three fingers in apps like Safari shows a pop-up dictionary definition. You might also see a thesaurus list and a Wikipedia link, although the latter two won’t appear if the word isn’t listed in either. Click a heading to open the Dictionary app.


2 Enlarge text

Most people know that swiping left or right with two or three fingers in Safari moves back and forth in the browser history. You can also use the pinch gesture to zoom – place your finger and thumb together, then move them apart. This works across OS X.


3 Zoom into columns

Another way to zoom into columns of text in Safari, Preview and TextEdit is borrowed from the iPhone and iPad – double-tap an area with two fingers to instantly zoom into it so it fills the screen (tap – don’t click!). Double-tap again to zoom back out again.


4 Navigate 3D maps

Maps uses the two-finger tap gesture, but only for zooming out. However, rotating just one finger around another in Maps will rotate the map. This is very useful when viewing 3D maps because you can fly around a building. This gesture also works in apps like Preview.


5 Alter 3D zoom

Holding down the Alt key in Maps when in 3D mode and then dragging up or down with two fingers (as if scrolling) will alter the 3D angle – essentially, altering the virtual camera’s height off the ground. You can’t drop too far but it’s surprising how low you can go!


6 Zoom in always

Open System Preferences> Accessibility, then select the Zoom icon at the left of the window. Put a tick alongside ‘Use Scroll Gesture With Modifier Keys To Zoom’. From now on, holding down Ctrl and dragging up or down with two fingers will zoom the entire screen.


7 Move iTunes sliders

Any slider within iTunes can be adjusted by placing the mouse cursor over it then dragging two fingers left and right, or up and down – even if the iTunes window is in the background. The volume control and the playhead both work this way.


8 Expand Mission Control

Most users know that sliding three/four fingers up will open Mission Control. Less well known is that sliding two fingers up or down when the mouse cursor is placed over a cluster of grouped windows in Mission Control will expand them, showing more detail.


9 Navigating the Calendar app

Swiping left or right with two fingers in the Calendar app when in Day or Week view moves between individual days or weeks. In Day view, place the cursor over the day listing at the right of the screen, or the gesture won’t work.


10 Reveal notifications

The Notification Centre can be revealed by swiping with two fingers from the right edge. Start the movement physically to the right of the Trackpad and slide your fingers onto it while doing so. On a MacBook this is tricky. On a Magic Trackpad it requires much practice!


In-depth: Gestures on Mac

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