Want an easier way to zoom in on a web page, twirl a snapshot in iPhoto, sneak a peek at the desktop, or look up the definition of a head-scratching word?
You can do all that and more with a simple swipe, “pinch,” or tap on your Mac’s trackpad.
All 14 of these multi-finger gestures will work on newer-model MacBook trackpads, as well as on Apple’s $69 Magic Trackpad accessory for Mac desktops.
Ready to start pinching and swiping? Let’s start with…
1. Swipe up or down with two fingertips
Put two fingertips together, touch the trackpad, then swipe up or down to scroll on the selected page or window. (Does it feel like you’re scrolling backwards? If so, just turn off “Natural Scrolling” in your Mac’s system settings.)
2. Swipe up with three fingertips
Instead of swiping up with two fingertips, try it with three—and when you do, you’ll activate the Mac’s “Mission Control” mode, giving you a bird’s-eye view of all your open windows and desktop spaces.
Hint: You can tweak or deactivate many of these trackpad gestures by tweaking your Mac’s settings. Just open the Apple menu in the top-left corner of the screen, select System Preferences, then click Trackpad. For example, you can set the Mission Control swipe to work with four fingers rather than three.
3. Swipe down with three fingertips
Shows all the open windows for the active application. For example, if you’re using the Mac’s Safari web browser, swipe up with three fingertips (or four, if you tweak the settings) to see all your open Safari windows—even those on other Mission Control desktops.
4. Swipe left or right with three fingertips
Switches you to the next Mission Control desktop; just keep swiping to cycle through all your desktops.
5. Swipe from right to left with two fingertips in Safari
Takes you back to the previous web page. Want to go forward again? Swipe once more with two fingertips—except this time, swipe from left to right.
6. Click the trackpad with two fingertips
Performs the equivalent of a “right-click” on your mouse. (You can also right-click by pressing and holding the CONTROL key as you click the trackpad, or there are some additional options, too.)
7. “Pinch” the trackpad
Zooms in on (or out of) the active window, depending on whether you’re pinching or spreading your fingertips. (“Pinching” on the Mac trackpad is the same as pinching on an iPhone, by the way; just put both your thumb and index finger on the trackpad, then slowly pinch them together or spread them apart.)
Hint: Pinching the trackpad in Safari is a neat way of switching to the “Tabs” view.
8. Pinch with your thumb and three fingertips
Activates the Mac’s “Launchpad” feature, which displays all your Mac applications in a handy grid.
9. Un-pinch (or “spread”) your thumb and three fingertips
Clears away the clutter of windows and reveals your bare desktop.
10. Pinch and twirl a photo
Want to twirl a snapshot around in iPhoto or the Mac OS X “Preview” application? Just select it, pinch the trackpad, and twist one way or the other.
11. Select a word, then tap with three fingers
Stumped by a word in an article you’re reading in Safari? Select the word, then tap the trackpad with three fingers; the definition will appear in a nearby pop-up window.
12. Double-tap with two fingers
Zooms in on a web page, focusing on the current position of the mouse. To zoom out again, just double-tap one more time.
13. Drag a window with three fingers
No need to click and hold to move a window around. Instead, just tap and hold the top of a window with three fingertips, then drag.
14. Drag “in” from the right side of the trackpad with two fingers
Want a new way to open Notification Center—you know, the slide-out panel of alerts on the right side of the screen? Start with two fingertips sitting just outside the right side of the trackpad, then slowly drag them in. Neat.
Note: This updated and expanded tip was first published in July 2012.