17 Trackpad Gestures on Mac and How to Customize Them

Your Mac’s trackpad is more than just a replacement for a standard mouse. It really is much more than that. There’s even a separate panel for you to configure the touchpad on your machine. You can use the trackpad to switch between apps, get more information about files, and open the Trackpad to access your apps, among other things.

You should learn these Mac’s trackpad gestures so you can get the most out of your device without much effort. Most of these gestures are customizable, so if you don’t like how they work by default, you can change them.

How to Customize Trackpad Gestures on Mac

Customizing your Mac’s trackpad gestures is pretty easy. There are alternative options provided in which you can change the current gestures.

  1. Click the Apple icon in the upper left corner of the screen and select System Preferences.
System Preferences in the Apple menu
  1. Click Touchpad on the screen then to see your touchpad settings.
Trackpad in System Preferences
  1. You now have three tabs at the top that allow you to access different touchpad gestures.
Three tabs in Trackpad preferences
  1. To change a gesture, click the down arrow icon below the gesture and choose an option.
Add Gestures tab

What are the different touchpad gestures on Mac?

There are many gestures you can use from the trackpad on your Mac. They are divided into three categories as shown below.

Point & Click

This category contains the most used and standard gestures, such as single-click and right-click actions.

Lookup and data exploration tools

File info window

This allows you to quickly find standard details about a file. You can select a file in the Finder and tap with three fingers to see information about that file. It’s one of those non-customizable gestures, and using three fingers is the only way to do it.

Secondary click

Get information in the right-click menu

Those of you from a Windows computer like to call it right-clicking and that’s exactly what it is. It allows you to right-click an item to bring up the context menu. You can perform a right-click by tapping the file with two fingers.

Tap to press

Selected root directory

Tap-to-click refers to the single-click action you perform when you want to select a file or a folder. You just need to touch an item once and it will be selected. Again, this is one of those gestures you can’t customize, but you won’t really need to because it’s already so easy.

Scroll & Zoom Gestures

If you already use the arrow keys and magnifying icons to scroll and zoom in on your items, you don’t need to do that anymore with these gestures.

Scroll direction: Natural

Swipe up and the page goes down

As long as you keep this gesture enabled, you should have natural scrolling on your Mac. You cannot customize it but you can turn it off, which will change the way you scroll the page. When it is off, your scroll will be reversed.

Zoom in or out

Mac laptop corner

You are familiar with this gesture as it is used on most smartphones and tablets. You can pinch with two fingers and it will magnify the selected object. Likewise, you can zoom out and zoom in on your screen. You can’t customize it but you can turn it on and off if you want.

Smart zoom

Smart zoom in action

Smart zoom lets you zoom in and out, but doesn’t require you to pinch in. To zoom in on an object, hover the pointer over it and double-tap the trackpad with two fingers. To zoom out, double-tap your trackpad and the trackpad should work normally again.

Turn

Rotate images with gestures

This gesture may not work in all apps, but it works perfectly fine in the built-in Preview app. You can open an image or a PDF in Preview and rotate them with two fingers as if you were rotating a real object. You should see your image or PDF rotate in the direction of your finger.

Other Gestures

Here are some gestures that help you quickly navigate between different macOS features.

Swipe between pages

Do the job of the Back button

This is an extremely useful gesture because it allows you to quickly go back and forth between pages in your browser. You can swipe left with two fingers to go back a page and swipe right with two fingers to go forward a page. You can also customize it to use three fingers.

Swipe between full-screen apps

Swipe gesture between full screen apps

This is the most effective gesture you can have on your Mac. By swiping left or right with three fingers, you can switch between open full-screen apps on your Mac. You can use it to quickly switch from browser to desktop, etc. You can also customize it.

Notification Center

Notification Center`

Your Mac’s Notification Center contains important notifications and weather information. The gesture here allows you to quickly bring it up by swiping left from the right edge of the trackpad with two fingers. Swiping right with two fingers closes the Mac’s notification center.

Mission Control

Mission Control

This gesture lets you open Mission Control by swiping up with three fingers on the trackpad. You can then quickly switch from one app to another. It’s a customizable gesture, and you can change it to use four fingers if you want.

Expose app

Expose app

Some applications like Finder can open multiple windows at the same time. To see them all on one screen, you can scroll down with three fingers to activate App Expose. It allows you to see all open windows of an application side by side on your desktop. You can customize it to use four fingers.

Launchers

Someone is doing pinching

Launchpad is one of the most used tools on a Mac, and this gesture makes launching it super easy. Just pinch together with your thumb and three fingers and Launchpad will be activated. Gestures cannot be customized so there is no choice but to get used to it.

Display the desktop

Someone is making a spread

Sometimes you want to quickly access your screen, and this gesture will help you do that. Just use your thumb and three fingers and spread them apart to see your screen. It will take a bit of learning but eventually you will get used to it. You cannot customize this gesture.

Do you use gestures to access some macOS features? Which one do you like the most? Let us know in the comments below.

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