Apple’s Mousetrap

Why did Apple reverse the way we scroll up and down?

Michael Agger

Mac OS X Lion.Mac OS X Lion has changed scrolling

In July, Apple released its new operating system, Mac OS X Lion, and pulled a Frank Lloyd Wright. The architect would return to the homes he had designed and rearrange the furniture as he saw fit, often in the middle of the night. You like the piano there? Too bad, it has to go in the center of the room! Similarly, 1 million Apple users downloaded Lion the first day and noticed something odd when their computers restarted: Down was up, up was down. Apple had decreed that "natural scrolling" was the new standard, overturning 25 years of convention. This was more discomfiting than rearranging furniture. This was pulling out the chair as you were taking a seat.

With natural scrolling, a trackpad or a mouse wheel no longer follows the direction of the scrollbars. Rather, the pointer responds as if your finger were touching the screen. One reason Apple made the change is to integrate the way we interact with our iPhones, iPads, and MacBooks. The secondary effect is to bind us more closely to the Apple way of computing. The trackpad is rapidly developing its own complicated sign language; I’m addicted to the two-finger swipe to flip between web pages. Using a Windows machine with a mouse suddenly feels very 1997.

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