One of the best things about MacOS is its support for a wide range of helpful trackpad gestures. Coupled with the generous, responsive trackpad that we’ve called “the best, and largest, you can find on a laptop,” these gestures make navigating your Mac an absolute breeze.
You may know one or two gestures already, but there’s a plethora of little-known swipes and taps that can unlock extra functionality on your Mac. It’s absolutely worth learning a few of the most useful gestures, as they can have a meaningful impact on how quickly you can get around your Mac and get things done.
Want to quickly open an app? The quickest and easiest way to browse your apps is to use Launchpad, which gives you a quick overview of all your installed apps, letting you open one with just a tap.
To launch it, place three fingers and your thumb on the trackpad, then pinch them together. You’ll see an overlay appear displaying a grid of app icons. To close Launchpad, just reverse the gesture.
The opposite of the Launchpad gesture, spreading three fingers and your thumb apart will clear away your open apps and show your desktop. It’s useful if there’s a file on your desktop that you want to access.
This is particularly handy if, for example, you’re composing an email and want to attach a file to it. Show the desktop using this gesture, then drag the file down to the Mail icon in the Dock. The icon will flash a couple times, then your email will appear and you can simply drop the file onto it to attach it.
Sometimes dragging and dropping files can be a little tricky when you’re just using a trackpad, especially if you have to drag a file a long distance. Fortunately, Apple lets you use a three-finger drag instead, which you may find more comfortable.
To enable it, open System Preferences and click Accessibility, then click Pointer Control in the left-hand column. Click Trackpad Options, then tick the box next to Enable dragging and select three finger drag from the drop-down menu.
Seen a word you want to look up? Just do a single-finger Force Click on it (or a three-finger tap in some versions of MacOS) to look it up. You’ll be presented with a pop-up window containing dictionary definitions, thesaurus entries, plus info from Siri, maps data, movie times and much more, all related to the word you looked up.
This works on what Apple calls “data detectors.” These can be addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, web links — anything that you can take a subsequent action on in MacOS. Force Click a link, for example, and you get a pop-up preview of the web page. The many different uses of this gesture make it a very useful one to have to hand.
The longer you use a Mac over the course of a day, the more apps and windows you’re likely to be using. Managing them can be a hassle, especially when you need to find one particular window among the many you have open.
However, a quick four-finger swipe up solves this problem. This invokes Mission Control, which gives you a bird’s eye view of all your open windows. You can then click the one you need and it’ll open up. And if you use multiple desktops, Mission Control can also be used to manage them.
If, on the other hand, you just want to see the windows for one particular app and nothing else, it’s a four-finger swipe down. This invokes App Exposé, which hides your other windows and only shows those belonging to the active app.
You’ll need to enable this gesture before you can use it. Open System Preferences and click Trackpad, then the More Gestures tab at the top of the window. Tick the box next to App Exposé and you’re good to go.
If you’re a fan of multiple desktops, there’s an even quicker way to switch between them than by using Mission Control. A horizontal four-finger drag across the trackpad will see you switch from one desktop to another — simple.
If you have a number of apps open in full-screen mode, this same four-finger drag will instead switch between them, so you’ll need to use the Mission Control gesture to move between desktops.
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