How to use your Mac’s Magic Trackpad upside-down


Trackpad upside-down
It's old and battered, but it still works. Even upside-down.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

If you have a low desk, or you just hate bending your wrists back, then you might consider turning your Magic Trackpad upside down, and using it with the lower end of its wedge away from you. With the trackpad upside-down, its slope will better watch your hand’s natural shape and position.

But flipping the trackpad also flips the direction of the mouse pointer, right? Up is down, down is up, and left and right don’t know where they are any more. Wrong! If you have an older Mac, you can just type a command into the Terminal to allow automatic orientation detection. And on newer Macs — from Sierra onward, I believe — there’s an equally easy trick.

Reverse trackpad orientation

To reverse the trackpad orientation on older Macs, open up the Terminal app (you’ll find it in the Utilities folder, inside the Applications folder). Type in the following, and hit return:

defaults write TrackpadOrientationMode 1

If you want to reverse this change, type:

defaults remove TrackpadOrientationMode

Then you need to do something to remind the Mac that you made the change. You can reboot, but just changing a setting in the trackpad preferences, or toggling Bluetooth off and on, might do the trick.

Once you’ve done that, just flip the trackpad around, then rest five fingers (or four fingers and a thumb) on the bottom edge of the trackpad for a moment. The system should detect this, and will change the trackpad’s orientation automatically. To set it back to normal, spin the trackpad around, then place your five fingers on the bottom edge again.

Trackpad upside-down

If this works, you should now be using your trackpad as normal, only upside-down. If it doesn’t work, then try the following command. This one requires an admin password, so make sure you’re happy with that before running it.

sudo defaults write ForceAutoOrientation YES

Flip the trackpad on new Macs with Better Touch Tool

I you have a Mac running a newer version of macOS, then this trick no longer works. But don’t despair. Even if you’re running Mojave or Catalina, you can still take advantage of this ergonomic trackpad positioning. Just download the Better Touch Tool app, and change one setting.

To use your trackpad upside-down, just toggle this setting in Better Touch Tool.
Toggle this setting in Better Touch Tool.
Photo: Cult of Mac

Better Touch Tool, or BTT, lets you customize the hell out of your trackpad or mouse, including adding gestures to your Magic Mouse. Once you have downloaded and launched the app (there’s a free 45-day trial period to check it out), just click on its icon in the menu bar, and choose Configuration. Then choose the Trackpad in the drop-down menu, and click on Trackpad Settings. Make the change shown in the image above, to Mirror complete Trackpad orientation for “upside-down” usage.

The best part is, this reversal keeps on working even if you quit the BTT app. Maybe it even works if you uninstall the app. But if you’re interested in customizing your mouse or trackpad — and I’m guessing that you are, because you’re reading this article — then you should take a look around. The app is cheap, too, at just $7.50.

However you flip your trackpad, it’s worth a try, just to see if you like it. I have my desk set way lower than usual, because all desks are too high for typing on without damaging your wrists or forearms. A flipped trackpad works perfectly on it. Give it a go.


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