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Touchpad scrolling is broken in Lion

As Cult of Mac notes, the default behaviour for touchpad scrolling in OS X Lion is reversed. In previous versions of OS X, you move your fingers down on the trackpad to scroll down. In Lion, you move your fingers up.

The reason for this is probably to match the behaviour of iOS, where you “push” up on screen to scroll up.

So why is this wrong? Simple: when you touch a screen, cognitively you’re directly manipulating what’s on it. Your brain expects what’s under your finger to move in the direction you push it or drag it. It’s mimicking the way that real-world objects behave.

When you move your finger on a trackpad though, you’re not directly manipulating what’s on screen – you’re manipulating it at one stage removed. There’s a cognitive dissonance to be overcome before it feels right, reinforced by the 20+ years of scroll wheel behaviour doing the exact opposite.

I hope that Apple makes this behaviour optional – because it makes about as much sense as having a single button on your mouse.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • http://www.iand.net Ian

    Not got Lion installed but according to this post the behaviour is optional – http://www.9to5mac.com/53792/scrolling-is-bass-ackwards-in-lion

  • http://www.technovia.co.uk Ian Betteridge

    You can change it, but the default is the “broken” version.

  • http://twitter.com/hondanhon Dan Hon

    I hope you change the post title to “Touchpad scrolling is broken in Lion Developer Preview” :)

    I imagine that new Macs will ship with the “broken” behaviour and upgraded ones will have the non-inverted as the selected option.

  • http://twitter.com/remeika James Remeika

    I was surprised by this post because I’ve been an iPhone and MacBook user for three years now, and I’ve never noticed that the scroll gesture was reversed on these two platforms. Very likely this is because, as you said, the intuitive gesture to scroll is different when manipulating an interface directly (iPhone), or via an external input device. But perhaps there is an alternative explanation: both of these gestures are viable, intuitive ways to scroll from an external input device. In that case, existing Mac users who upgrade to Lion will experience a brief period of confusion before a gestalt switch occurs, and the “Lion” scroll gesture once again feels right.

    But why should Apple force existing users to switch at all? Keep in mind that the other gestures demonstrated on the Lion user page are consistent with direct, iPhone-esque manipulation; pinch to zoom, swipe to navigate, etc. If a someone was using all of these new gestures, I suspect that the classic Mac scrolling gesture would feel weird.

  • http://www.facebook.com/psitthipo Paul Sitthipo

    I’ve got the Lion DP4 installed on my late 2010 MBA 11″ and I’ve got this inverted trackpad.  It’s really seriously pissing me off because there’s no option to switch it off.  I hope when the retail version comes out it becomes a selectable option.  

  • http://www.technovia.co.uk Ian Betteridge

    There was an option to reverse it, although it’s hidden, in the first DP – I think it was in the touchpad system preferences. 

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_ZIZYHD352WCGEGPUEN5MYGJZFQ roake

    I was mighty pissed myself so hunted down a way to shut this off.  Go to system preference >>>> trackpad >>>> unclick the first box where it says to move w/ direction of fingers.

    It’s a really shitty function.  Piss me off.

  • John Ward

    I have to say I found the transition to be simple, I got used to it in minutes. Overall, I’d like to know the logic for the move as I can’t see it at the moment. Yes iPhones and iPads scroll this way but not everyone has one and regardless you interface with these devices completely differently.

    Anyway, I’d say to those angered, try and live with it – it’s not as bad as it seems and in time you may just HAVE to get used to it as they may pull the old feature completely.

  • http://www.technovia.co.uk Ian Betteridge

    On the released version, I’ve actually got used to it very quickly.