Use A Secret Gesture To Switch To The Previous Space [OS X Tips]

Activating secret gesture

A secret gesture lets you double-tap with four fingers to switch back to the previously used space

There’s a secret gesture you can use with Mac multitouch trackpads that lets you double-tap with four fingers to switch back to the most recently used desktop space in OS X Lion (although not previous versions of OS X).

For example, should you switch to the Dashboard space from the main desktop, double-tapping in this way will switch back to the desktop. Note that this gesture involves merely tapping on the trackpad, and not clicking. This remains true even if you have Tap to Click turned off in System Preferences.

To activate the gesture, you’ll need to use a hidden setting. Open a Terminal window (Finder->Applications->Utilities->Terminal) and type the following:

defaults write com.apple.dock double-tap-jump-back -bool TRUE;killall Dock

Use A Secret Gesture To Switch To The Previous Space [OS X Tips]

The changes should take effect right away, so give it a try. Like all gestures, it takes a little practice. Note that it appears that after a minute or two, OS X “forgets” the previous desktop space, so double-tapping to switch a space will no longer work until you again switch to a different space.

To turn off this new gesture, open a Terminal window and type the following:

defaults delete com.apple.dock double-tap-jump-back;killall Dock
  • Jason Kurian

    does this work on older MacBooks? (~2008 ideally)

  • CharliK

    Is it running Lion? That’s your key issue. Because that’s when all these gestures came into the game. 

  • KeirThomas

    It depends if your computer has a multitouch trackpad and, as lucas says, whether it’s running Lion. However, I’d advise you just to try entering the command. It will do no harm if it doesn’t work because it just writes a command string that will be ignored. If it doesn’t work be sure to run the second command to delete the entry, though. 

    _______
    Keir Thomas
    Author of Mac Kung Fu
    Over 300 tips, tricks, hints and hacks for OS X Lion
    http://pragprog.com/book/ktmac

  • wilburg

    Yet another tip which doesn’t seem to work on Lion running on a early 2011 MBP 13″.

  • KeirThomas

    Really? Works fine on my mid-2009 MacBook Pro 13in, and the design is essentially the same (same glass trackpad, for example). 

    Are you doing it correctly? 

    1. Switch to a different space by swiping three/four fingers left or right.
    2. Four finger double-tap to switch back to the previous space. 

    Works? 

    _______
    Keir Thomas
    Author of Mac Kung Fu
    Over 300 tips, tricks, hints and hacks for OS X Lion
    http://pragprog.com/book/ktmac

  • elzee

    this is the best thing ever. it makes desktops 100 times more useful. thanks a million.

  • charlie edwards

    F-ing sweet.  Thanks.  

  • Ethan Wilde

    If you have it set so that you use 3 fingers to swap between spaces make it four and then put it back to three… thats how I got it to work. It is still four finger double after that not three (as three is taken by the ‘look up’ feature.

  • defrost

    yep, my terminal window (under lion and 2011 MBP 13”) show this:

    There is no (double-tap-jump-back) default for the (com.apple.dock) domain.Defaults have not been changed.

About the author

Keir ThomasKeir Thomas (http://keirthomas.com) is the author of Mac Kung Fu, which contains over 300 tips, tricks, hints and hacks for Mac OS X Lion. He's also the author of over 10 other computing titles.

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