Weekly Poll: What Do You Think of Natural Scrolling in Lion?

Along with a ton of great new features, OS X Lion brings about at least one fairly controversial change: the default behavior for scrolling has been reversed. It used to the case that if you wanted to scroll down the page, you made a downward swiping gesture, and of course the reverse of that for going back up.

However, the iPhone changed things up a bit. With the direct interaction model, it felt more natural to move the page instead of the scroll position, so to scroll down on an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch, you swipe up.

When you’re directly interacting with a touchscreen, this scrolling model is incredibly intuitive. You reach out and touch the page and move it freely in any direction that you please. Your brain immediately understands what’s happening and there is zero adjustment period.

With Lion, OS X has picked up this system. Now the scroll gesture acts as if you’re reaching out and touching the screen: swipe up to scroll down. Now instead of moving the scroll bars, you must imagine that you’re tossing the page.

For some, the new system immediately made sense and required very little adjustment time. However, many users are complaining that the indirect nature of a mouse or trackpad is in conflict with the direct model of scrolling. Our brains are already so set on the way things have been for years that it’s difficult to reprogram them, especially since there doesn’t seem to be a pressing need to do so.

Today we want to know what you think. Do you like natural scrolling in Lion? Or do you wish Apple would subscribe to the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” theory? Have you decided whether or not to adjust to the new system or revert back to the old way? Vote in the poll above and leave your thoughts in the comments below.


  • Kyle

    It was definitely jarring at first, but it didn’t take me long to adjust. Every now and then scrolling sideways throws me, though. With Apple pushing trackpads and iOS, it makes sense. For me it’s been a pretty superficial change, nothing to get too worked up over.

  • EMRK

    I think it depend what controlling device you use to scroll. Might some people still using mouses with scroll wheel think the “natural scrolling” too strange to use.

  • John

    Got used to it in about a week. But the whole time several times I day I almost pulled the trigger and changed the scrolling back to the original way.

  • Jay

    I got used to it after reading an article on cult of mac about inverse scrolling and treating web pages / document etc. as a piece of paper that you’re pushing up / down.

    • Zhora

      Yes, I had started to change in Snow Leopard by reversing the “scrolling” with a 3rd party tool though that didn’t work consistently; when I changed to Lion it felt much more natural. And it really made sense when I realized that instead of operating controls lying between me and the work surface I was actually manipulating the work surface directly. At that point using the trackpad for “scrolling” felt totally right and better than the former method which now felt backwards. Then I was using the mouse again and rolled the wheel to scroll and found things feeling totally wrong again…backwards. Then I realized that working the wheel didn’t feel like working directly with the work surface–it *felt* using a control and thinking of it as a wheel it made sense that rolling my side in one direction would cause the other side to go the opposite way.

      So I’d like to work on the trackpad “naturally” and I’d like to work with the wheel “naturally” which for me means the old way. Then it got confusing because there are two options in System Preferences, one in the Mouse panel and one in the Trackpad panel which are actually labeled according to the specific panel. That’s great–I set the Trackpad option to the new way and the Mouse option to the old way. Then I went back to make sure they weren’t actually the same option–sure enough the trackpad option stayed checked and the mouse option unchecked. So out I went to use it the way I wanted and…it didn’t work! After a really confusing time of trying various things I discovered that after closing System Prefs the last of the two options you set was copied to the other option too–in effect, they are the same option. So, no, you can’t set them differently if you want to, even though it looks like you are doing so and they’re called different things! To me it seems that what I was wanting should be available (and maybe even was at some point considered). But I think the way it is is the REAL MISTAKE that Apple made with the new way of scrolling. I hope that it’s a bug and at least gets corrected so one can see that it can’t be done when they try to do so, though I’d rather be able to set each as I choose.

      Apple did seem to take an all or nothing methodology when reversing scrolling (actually i prefer to call it Dragging since that better describes the action) by also reversing the operation of some controls that does now feel wrong…like they got lost in the defense of a good idea and forced it into places it shouldn’t have been. I doubt, though, that any amount of discussion will make anything change here; I’m starting to believe that “Think Different!” is a command and not a suggestion. (Double clicking the window bar to minimize the window comes to mind here…and much more!)

  • http://traceflow.com Troy

    It feels great with a trackpad or magic mouse, not so great with a scroll-wheel mouse.

    But I’m now afraid I’m going to make a fool of myself using someone else’s computer with them watching.

    • http://www.mkasu.org Marc A. Kastner

      This :).

      Currently I’m using a scroll wheel mouse and it feels strange. Using my trackpad on MBP feels a lot better, but thats not my common input device – so I turned it off for now. Later this year I might get a new iMac with Magic Mouse etc. then I might give it a try again.

  • twisss

    I think it’s a neat feature, and it’s going to feel natural for alot of people switching over from iOS devices. But up until now I always make the mistake of scrolling the wrong way on my laptop at work.

  • Matt D

    It took a while to get used to, but I think it’s a change for the better in the long run. Swiping between spaces and full-screen apps with natural scrolling feels like it the way it should have always been.

    Can see how it wouldn’t feel at all natural on a regular scroll-wheel, but fine on trackpads and magic mouses.

    Only problem is going to be when I need to use a PC or Mac with normal scrolling.

  • http://meerzdaily.blogspot.com Meerz

    I hated it, I turned it off immediately. One of the things that bothered me in Lion is that there was a slight learning curve and getting adjusted to some of the settings. There are a lot of videos out there and blog posts about disabling the setting for Lion so it would look more like Snow Leopard. I didn’t like these new changes in Lion, it’s not that I’m tolerant to change, but guessing from the posts out there, a lot of people didn’t as well. Changes on Snow Leopard were more technical, on Lion they were more aesthetic and they didn’t make much sense. At least to me.

    The only thing I am happy for in Lion is that I can finally float QuickTime on top on everything now! Used to use VLC for that. And of course, other hidden settings here and there. But other than that, Snow Leopard was just fine. It’s a good thing they changes its price to only $29. A lot of people would’ve been pissed, I know I would’ve.

  • http://www.digibart.nl Bart

    It took only a few hours to adjust the new scrolling, and it feels natural..

    But I believe you risk Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI). At least, I am.
    Mostly you open a webpage/document/article and scroll to the bottom of it. In Snow Leopard you would use the inner muscles of your hand/wrist/arm, trained by nature for heavy duty (grabbing stuff ie). But on Lion you would use the muscles on the upper/outer side. These muscles are not trained by nature, and you don’t use them that often.

    I have turned natural scrolling off, because I was starting to feel RSI in my upper arm.

  • molecule-eye

    Look at all these suckers who forced themselves to adjust to this default scrolling behavior just because Apple “encourages” it. There is no other DESKTOP OS that scrolls like this, so it’s pointless to adjust to this sort of behavior when every time you have to use a non-Lion OS you need to revert back to NORMAL behavior. And look how many times you’ll have to resort to a non-Lion OS! (If I use someone else’s computer, at the library, a friend’s, family’s, etc.)

    Is the new behavior more “natural”? No! My trackpad sits perpendicular to my screen, so the original and new behavior are either equally natural or equally unnatural. So there’s no point in readjusting to new behavior. None!

    • Michael

      Not everyone who is sticking with it is a sucker. Yes Apple “encourages” it, but when you are used to iOS it makes since. You are right there is no other Desktop OS that does the because it is the first. Things change, if you look at computer history about every 10 years someone comes along and changes the paradigm and the world is never the same. Apple did that with the iPhone and is bringing what they have learned to the Desktop.

      As far as using other computers I have to adjust every time I sit at a Windows PC or another Mac. Being a power user I have keyboard shortcuts setup for common tasks. My system is setup the way I use it so every computer is a change for me.

      p.s. I find it takes a fraction of a second to go “Oh I need to scroll the other way”

    • cargath

      So we should stick to the old fashioned way and never make any progress because some developers are less innovative than others?

      Not everyone who uses natural scrolling forced himself to do so. Actually i disabled it at first, because i was so used to the old way, that i got confused. But then i was fiddeling with Launchpad, because it was a lot of fun, just to swipe between pages of Apps. But it didn’t feel natural, because Launchpad has no scrollbars. So i thought about it for a moment, and all of a sudden, the old way of scrolling felt wrong and confused me. I then turned natural scrolling on again, and i am loving it ever since.

      I don’t think one way is more natural than the other – you either push the content or you push the scrollbars. Natural scrolling is for people with laptops who disable scrollbars to get more space. They might find it more intuitive.

      I don’t get all the fuzz about it. It is an option. Yeah, they activated it by default, but Apple sells a lot more laptops than desktops, so disabling scrollbars and enabling natural scrolling makes sense.

  • Ivari

    Where’s the “I used the Scroll Reverser app to get natural scrolling on my Snow Leopard mac 6 months before Lion came out and loved it from day one” option?

    • Peter

      Yeah, I’d check that box too.

  • http://adrusi.com Adrian

    I’ve been using the natural scrolling ever since I got a magic trackpad and installed bettertouchtool, which provides an option to get the inverted scrolling.

  • Sebastiaan

    It definitely took a LOT of getting used to. But when i use VLC… scrolling upwards is counter-intuitive. Normally scrolling up in VLC was Volume up, now it’s down. Same with skipping forward and backwards, switched around as well. I hope VLC get’s an option to reverse that.

  • João Luís

    I’m still getting used to it.
    The thing that made me stick to natural scrolling is the Launchpad. Even if I don’t own an iPad it feels “unnatural” to scroll it horizontally the “usual” way.
    The vertical scrolling is a matter of time.

  • Angel

    The scrolling direction would be the least of my concerns if forced to use one of those other os’s. Thankfully many of us aren’t forced to use anything else. I use osx at home and at work along with iOS for anything mobile so I’m sufficiently insulated from all that. Thank bob.

  • g

    really annoys me the reverse scrolling, I pref the old way tbh

    the multi touch gestures are one of the reasons I have not upgraded to lion on my main computer.

  • http://about.me/sgonzaga Stephanie

    It didn’t work for me. I’ve always used old fashioned scrolling when navigating and browsing through pages and sites, so I chose to turn it off. The only time I ever used natural scrolling was when Launchpad is up.

  • http://www.istuff.huh.lt Tomcis

    It didn’t work for me too. I’ve always used old fashioned scrolling when navigating and browsing through pages and sites, so I chose to turn it off. The only time I ever used natural scrolling was when Launchpad is up.

  • GhostEater

    I’ve been using it since the Golden Master was released. At first, I got extremely confused because of habit– but that quickly changed. The old way of scrolling seems blatantly counterintuitive and makes absolutely no sense when you think about it. If you behave one way with something in person and another way when using your mac, how does this establish consistency? That’s the main aim with OS X Lion: to establish a consistency between iOS, things like reading your newspaper, and OS X.

    If you don’t like it, then you don’t like it. Apple understands not everyone will, or much less not everyone will be able to use it, and that’s why they provided an option to turn it off. Just my two cents.

  • Brendan

    I got OS X Lion about two days ago and its been a little difficult to get used to (I have a MacBook Pro and a Magic Mouse). I like the idea and because I have an iPhone, I think I’ll stick to it. I think once I’m fully used to it, it will be much easier than the old way…

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