This is another great tip from Mac Kung Fu, a new book full of over 300 tips, tricks, hints and hacks for OS X. The perfect Christmas present for the Mac-lover!
Open System Preferences (Apple menu->System Preferences), click the Trackpad icon, make sure the Point & Click tab is selected, then put a check next to Three Finger Drag.
Doing so activates the best-kept secret for Macs with a trackpad. Ignore the simple description: “Move with three fingers.” That’s the least of the productivity benefits this tweak can bring. Here are the rest:
- Coasting windows: Place three fingers on the trackpad when the mouse cursor is over a title bar and move it a little. Then leave one finger permanently on the trackpad and flick with a neighboring finger—the window will “coast” for a while (think of a puck on an Air Hockey board or of flicking within a list on an iPhone/iPad screen). Note that this doesn’t work so well with apps like Google Chrome, that store tabs in the titlebar area. But such apps are few and far between.
- Copying files: In Finder windows, if you position the mouse cursor over a file or folder and drag with three fingers, you can copy it to a new location instantly (hit Esc to cancel if you change your mind midway through). To drag long distances, lift one finger so that two still touch the trackpad and flick that finger to “coast” (try it and see).
- Downloading web images: When viewing web pages, position the mouse over an image, drag with three fingers on a picture, and copy it to the desktop or to a Finder window.
- Moving windows: As System Preferences indicates, you can move windows by positioning the mouse cursor over the title bar and dragging three fingers on the trackpad.
- Selecting text: You can select text by positioning the mouse cursor over a sentence in a paragraph, putting three fingers on the trackpad and dragging (double-click the first word, then drag with three fingers to highlight only whole words).
- Selecting within a list: Drag three fingers across a file listing and you can rubber-band-select them. The same applies to dragging three fingers within any other list within OS X, such as the Inbox in Mail.
There might be other benefits I’ve not spotted. If so, add them to the comments below.
Note that when the three-finger drag is activated, the three-finger gesture is switched to four fingers—swiping four fingers left or right will switch spaces, and swiping four fingers up will activate Mission Control..