How to Change the Scrolling Direction on Your Mac

The mouse or trackpad preference pane controls the scrolling direction

Scrolling in macOS currently includes an option to use what Apple calls a "natural" method. The "natural" method is based on how multi-touch iOS devices scroll: You use your finger directly on a screen to control the scrolling process. It's like you're physically moving the page, so scrolling up moves the page down.

On a Mac, this method may seem strange at first. But if it's too weird, you can change it. Here's how.

These instructions apply to devices running macOS 10.7 and later.

Changing Scrolling Direction in OS X for the Mouse

Two devices can scroll in macOS: mice and trackpads. You can make each one behave differently if natural scrolling feels intuitive on one but not the other. First, here's how to change the settings for a mouse.

  1. Launch System Preferences by clicking the System Preferences icon in the Dock, selecting System Preferences from the Apple menu, or clicking the Launchpad icon in the Dock and selecting the System Preferences icon.

    Mac desktop with the System Preferences option highlighted
  2. When System Preferences opens, select the Mouse preference pane.

    You must have a mouse connected to your Mac and switched on to access these settings.

    Mouse in System Preferences
  3. Depending on your version of macOS, you may need to select the Point & Click tab to get to the scrolling settings. Newer editions skip this step.

  4. Remove the checkmark next to Scroll direction: natural to use the default scrolling direction. With no check in this box, a page will scroll in the same direction you turn the scroll wheel or move your finger along a touch-sensitive mouse.

    Mouse preferences on a Mac with the box next to "Scroll Direction: Natural" highlighted

Changing Scrolling Direction in OS X for the Trackpad

These instructions work for a MacBook product with a built-in trackpad, as well as the Magic Trackpad Apple sells separately.

  1. In System Preferences, select the Trackpad preference pane.

    Trackpad preferences
  2. Select the Scroll & Zoom tab.

    Trackpad preferences in macOS with the Scroll & Zoom tab highlighted
  3. To return the scrolling direction to the older method, remove the checkmark from the box labeled Scroll direction: natural. To use the new iOS-inspired scrolling method, place a checkmark in the box.

    The video clip on the right side of the window will demonstrate the current scrolling setting.

    Checked box next to Scroll direction

Unnatural Came First

The unnatural setting is the one both Mac and Windows computers used in earlier versions of their operating systems.

Scrolling down to reveal additional information became the standard for scrolling. It especially made sense for the first mice that included scroll wheels. Their default scrolling behavior was for a downward movement of the wheel to move down on the page.

Natural Scrolling

When you have a direct interface to the viewing device, such as an iPhone or iPad's multi-touch user interface, then natural scrolling makes more sense.

With your finger directly in contact with the display, it's more intuitive to view content that is below the window by pulling or dragging with an upward swipe. If Apple had used the indirect scrolling interface then in use on the Mac, it would have been an odd process. Placing your finger on the screen and swiping down to view content would not seem natural.

When you move the interface from a finger on the screen to a mouse or trackpad that isn't on the same physical plane as the display, the choice of a natural or unnatural scrolling interface comes down to preference.

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