Why Is Scrolling Backwards In OS X Lion?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GPzRWca53Is

As you’ve probably heard, touchpad scrolling is backwards in OS X Lion. Instead of pulling your fingers down to scroll down a window, you know push your fingers up.

Confused? You will be. It undoes years of muscle memory. So why would Apple do this?

It’s easy: because of iOS. It’s the same gesture you make on the screen of an iOS device when you scroll up and down the screen. You want to scroll down? You pull the content up.

It’s another example of the influence of iOS on OS X.

  • Refute This

    Yay touch.

  • AdamFC

    Except it makes little sense here because there is no direct manipulation of the content as there is on iOS: one area where pulling things from iOS doesn’t help much.

  • Forest Walker

    Makes sense for those using touch pads. Will definitely take some getting used to otherwise. I imagine it will be a feature you can toggle back and forth?

  • TheMe

    You can turn this off and go back to the normal scroll by simply unchecking a box in the trackpad preferences.

  • Al

    Is it not because the scroll bars are invisible most of the time? I.e. in the old way, you were moving the scrollbar down. So down made sense. But in iOS the scrollbars are less prominent, so you are moving the page contents up instead. So up makes sense.

  • Ignignokt

    Why is it backwards? Simple. A scroll-wheel was designed as an alternative to move a scroll-bar. instead of clicking. Roll up to move the bar up, and, therefore, the page up. Trackpads and Magic mouses were all built from this principle: to move the scroll-bar.

    With Lion, Scroll-bars are no more. Therefore there’s no reason to keep this old behavior. Make the action manipulate the page directly. This new behavior makes more sense for the new window layout.

    Simple human interface logic.

    tl;dr
    Scroll-wheel moves scroll-bars. No scroll bars in Lion = scroll-wheel moves page.

  • Mark

    Thank bloody Christ for that

  • Ryanbreton86

    You all know what this means… the touchscreen iMac is coming. And if they do it correctly…. like the patents shows, this could be promising. I am calling it right now. Touch screen iMacs coming directly after OSX Lion’s release…. WOOO HOOO

  • Stefan

    I use my iPad quite a lot and sometimes when I go to my MacBook I actually end scrolling the opposite way by accident. This kind of makes sense but I’m sure there be many who switch it back in their preferences.

  • steffen_jobs

    dumbest idea ever.

  • Adam Faja

    It should be said, “Why isn’t scrolling backwards anymore?”

  • Rob

    That is the very FIRST thing I looked for and did after I booted.

  • DAvid

    Now the interaction of a document using the track pad will be similar to the way you manipulate a large PDF using the hand tool, or the way you navigate Google maps or Google earth. For anyone with a screen smaller than the width of the document, this form of manipulation makes ultimate sense. It should take as long to learn as does any of the aforementioned interfaces.

  • Yourdumb

    your dumb, this is a good idea and makes sense

  • Youremail23423432

    did you try to say? “Why isn’t cool scrolling backwards anymore?”

  • ianonmac

    An idea isn’t a bad idea just because it is the opposite of what you are used to, maybe Apple have found on the Mac that it can lead to you working more effectively.

  • Michael Ascari

    Seems reasonable, but what does this mean for people who use a mouse? Has anybody reported this yet?

  • Barton Lynch

    exactly what i thought!

  • Worksfine

    Makes perfect sense. Just deal with it.

  • Extensor

    It isn’t backwards. The old way is manipulating the scroll bar. The new way is moving the content as if it were real. Nothing to see here.

  • BeachWar

    How is this not intuitive? If you have a piece of paper in front of you you don’t “push it down” to see the bottom of the page… you “push it up”. It’s far more realistic.

  • facebook-1484526433

    A touchscreen iMac? Why would you want that? Will it come with an arm rest? Think about it….

  • gorgeousninja

    no, that was your parents thinking it would be cool to make babies

  • John Howell

    I hope it can be put back. But remeber safari beta with tabs above the window chrome? Apple will often try stuff out in the betas.

  • John Howell

    First reaction – ugh!, But then 10 seocnds thought. My kids (5 and 8) with no computing preconceptions always see the screen as moving up. Only my 38 year old brain thinks of pulling the scroll bar down.

  • Will

    It is a consistent motion of the hands for the same result across devices. For those buying a Mac because of the halo effect of iOS, it will be one of those moments of instant familiarization.

  • chano

    Silly post. Most humans are highly adaptable to change.
    Aren’t you?
    Eeesh!

  • alex

    i’ve been browsing a gazillion mac sites to try to understand this. i still don’t, and i admit that may be a glitch in my brain. i mean, isn’t “scrolling down” somewhat synonymous with “pulling content up”? the content “goes up” because you want to go down. when i scroll down on an iPhone or a Touch, i don’t REVERT the movement of my fingers. i move them downwards. yes the content “goes up” (as it does when scrolling on any computer), but my fingers still go down. i could go on like this all day :)) i just don’t get it, maybe i look stupid, would love for sm to enlighten me.

  • alex

    but you can always say something is utterly counter-intuitive. especially when it come from the “it just works” company.

  • ccmovies

    Ahh, there we go, much better! Thanks!

  • Maxi

    It’s more intuitive. You have to imagine to roll some round thing or so.

  • Ronin33

    Calm down everyone. You can choose your scroll direction preference in the control panel. Old or new both work.

  • Download

    Interesting and useful post

  • Nourez Rawji

    Tried it out for the day. Too awkward for my taste, turned it off. Especially since I switch back and forth between OS X and Windows somewhat regularly, the constant changing back will drive me nuts. Also, I’ve just become so used to scrolling that way for such a long time.

  • Jase Ryfle-Turi

    Flicking down to move down a document only makes sense in the context of the scrollbar. Essentially, we’re all trained to move a scrollbar.

    We SHOULD be getting used to the idea of moving the content instead. Content is where our minds should be, not the chrome that surrounds it.

    Whether the interaction is direct or not makes no difference – using a mouse pointer is indirect anyway, and so anything and everything on top of it is too.

  • Jase Ryfle-Turi

    It doesn’t mean that at all. It means the coming of multi-touch interaction to the masses. Direct manipulation is possible even when indirectly.

    If Apple wanted to sell you a touchscreen computer, they’d make a bigger iPad.

  • Rishi

    It’s BRILLIANT. Now that I’m back in Snow Leopard so that I can use Photoshop (haven’t got round to installing it in the partition), everything seems weird and unnatural. Definitely a welcome feature for me

  • Al

    Here I thought I was going nuts! Seems like iOS is not as intuitive with my mouse than it was with my iphone…

  • Anthony Wallis

    Brilliant – thanks for the tip, was driving me mad. 

  • Agento1001

    Wow I have been on Lion for 38 minutes now and I am used to the scrolling. It make so much more sense when you think about it. This is leading up to the 27″ iMac touch screen Im sure :P

  • holozip

    lol! 

    … first person to put their mucky paw prints on my shiny iMac gets a slap

  • Ash Whiting

    If you don’t like it. Invert it in your System Preferences… Simple…. It’s like inverting the Y axis in a first person shooter.. Some like it inverted, some don’t… Set it up how you want it and stop moaning…

  • Vali Filip

    You can disable this so called feature from the mouse settings. I have an iPhone for about 1.5 years, been using touchscreen phones for about 4, but the regular scrolling is so much better. Just my 2 cents.

  • fadedvalue

    Imagine the touchpad is your screen on your iOS device ; )

  • A O

    Can you turn off the backwards scrolling?

  • eliekhoury

    This doesn’t make sense at all… When I’m pointing my finger on an iOS device, my finger will remain at the exact point as if I’m turning a page which makes sense on iOS. But when scrolling on OSX Lion, it’s a complete different behavior. Is there a way to change that?

  • Charlie Milton

    This is driving me crazy… how about an option. 

  • azz0r

    There is an option in the Trackpad area of System Preferences.

  • Emmi Carson

    I don’t know if anyone’s already mentioned this as I’m not going to read all of the comments, but you can go to System Preferences> TrackPad>Scroll and Zoom and unselect “Scroll Direction – Natural”

  • rejbrandt

    Apple would be stupid to make a touchscreen version of the iMac.  All this would create is a dirty screen and a case of tennis elbow.  

  • Matt Lovett

    It is very annoying! :-/

  • David Howe

    The new scrolling is just fine with me but why aren’t people confused with the arrow behavior. There you touch the down arrow to move the content up. Shouldn’t that be reversed too !?!?!?!

  • monty90242

    And, if you don’t have a TrackPad, just open the Mouse Preferences and near the top of the window you should see a check box with “Move content in the direction of finger movement when scrolling or navigating” OSX Lion comes with the box checked. But if you want it to work the old way, just uncheck the box.

  • Andrey S.

    I like it this way…the only drawback is when I use my logitech mouse with the scroll wheel. For some reason when I change the scrolling direction for the touchpad it is changed also for the mouse :/ THAT is annoying

  • roger gillies

    Do not question the Apple. The Apple knows the way.

  • LeDouche

    The real question here is, why was scrolling backwards in Snow Leopard?

  • Kdog734

    WOW. A TOTALLY FUCKING USELESS ARTICLE.

  • Scorpionva01

    THANK YOU!! You saved me much frustration!

About the author

Leander KahneyLeander Kahney is the editor and publisher of Cult of Mac. He is the NYT bestselling author of Jony Ive: The Genius Behind Apple's Greatest Products; Inside Steve’s Brain; Cult of Mac; and Cult of iPod. Leander has written for Wired, MacWeek, Scientific American, and The Guardian in London. Follow Leander on Twitter @lkahney and Facebook.

(sorry, you need Javascript to see this e-mail address)| Read more posts by .

Posted in Mac, News | Tagged: , , , , |