Supercharge Scrolling in OS X with Smart Scroll

Improving the scrolling experience on your Mac might not be the first thing you think of doing, but it turns out that a few tweaks and changes can actually make scrolling around much easier and more efficient. Smart Scroll from Marc Moini offers an abundance of features to make scrolling a better experience, and after using it for a few days, you might not want to go back.

A big feature of Smart Scroll is smooth scrolling – a feature now implemented by default in new MacBooks and the Magic Mouse, but a must have for users of older hardware. It’s also packed with other useful features for those of us already up to date with smooth scrolling.  Read on to find out more!

Overview

Smart Scroll is a preference pane application, meaning it runs in the background without cluttering your dock or menu bar. To adjust the settings of Smart Scroll, you simply fire up System Preferences. The different features of Smart Scroll are sorted across tabs, which I will cover in more detail below.

Smart Scroll lives within the System Preferences.

Smart Scroll lives within the System Preferences.

Super Scroll

The first tab of Smart Scroll is the Super Scroll feature (pictured above). This creates the smooth scrolling effect found on the iPhone, new MacBooks and the Magic Mouse. If you don’t have a new MacBook or Magic Mouse then Smart Scroll is worth it just for this feature alone. It really does make the scrolling experience that much better.

You can adjust the coasting amount and scroll speed, and a very useful feature is the ability to hold the ‘Option’ key while scrolling to travel 4x or so faster.

Auto Scroll

Auto Scroll is great, most of the time.  It allows you to open up a Safari Reader page (by clicking the Reader icon in the right of the address bar) and scrolls through the page automatically, allowing you to simply sit back and read hands free, at whatever pace you like.

Unfortunately, it also claims to work in Quick Look which did nothing for me, and it would be great if this could work in other applications too such as Preview.

Scroll automatically in Safari Reader

Scroll automatically in Safari Reader

Hover Scroll

I really like this feature.  It allows you to scroll around pages simply by placing the curser near the edge of a window.  The closer to the edge you move it, the faster it scrolls.  This is really useful for myself when using a tablet and would also come in handy for scrolling sideways if your mouse could only scroll vertically.

Hover the curser near edges to scroll

Hover the curser near edges to scroll

Grab Scroll

Enabling Grab Scroll means that you can ‘grab’ and drag the page around when holding down a button such as the middle mouse button.  It’s nice to see that most ways of scrolling offer the ability to speed up the process, as scrolling through long documents is often a longer process than it should be.

When using Grab Scroll, scrolling can be sped up by dragging from the top or bottom edge or by holding a specified key.

Grab the page and drag to scroll

Grab the page and drag to scroll

Scroll Keys

I don’t quite see the benefit in these, but if you need them Smart Scroll offers Scroll Keys which give you universal controls to scroll using keyboard shortcuts.  You are limited to modifier keys though which is a bit awkward and I find that spacebar/shift+spacebar, and the arrow keys serve fine in most apps I need it in.

It seems a shame there is no shortcut key for the top and bottom of page, since the ‘home’ and ‘end’ keys have now been chopped off of most Mac keyboards.

Did you know that you can quickly skim to the top or bottom of a page in OS X by pressing Command+Up Arrow, or Command+Down Arrow? Worth remembering next time you open a huge document!

Use universal keyboard shortcuts to scroll

Use universal keyboard shortcuts to scroll

Misc

The Misc settings hide a few good features.  If you’re noticing ripples in the display while scrolling you can smooth it out.

I was impressed to see support for scroll tools included in Wacom tablets, as this essentially stops working with Smart Scroll enabled, but ticking the compatibility mode springs it back to life.

You can also reposition the scroll arrows more than normally possible and improve scrolling in AppleWorks and FireMaker Pro. Smart Scroll also allows you to set up different scroll settings for individual applications if need be.

Move around the scroll bar buttons

Move around the scroll bar buttons

When it Doesn’t Work

I have to admit that I have run into a little bit of trouble when using Smart Scroll.  The biggest issue is that it seems to have a problem scrolling within frames inside of a webpage; for instance the ‘mutual friends’ window that pops up in Facebook.  The only way to scroll these with Smart Scroll enabled is to drag the scroll bar, which is a bit of a nuisance.

I also find Apple’s implementation of smooth scrolling to often be a little more responsive, but for those that don’t have the new MacBooks or Magic Mouse then it is still much better than no coasting at all.

Also as mentioned above, Auto Scroll didn’t work for me in Quick Look.

Conclusion

All up, Smart Scroll is a must try for those who don’t already have smooth scrolling, and offers faster and more comfortable ways to scroll for those who do.  There are some issues that need to be sorted out, but otherwise it’s an impressive and feature packed scrolling enhancer.

Smart Scroll is free to try, and $14 for a single license.  Give it a scroll and let us know what your thoughts are in the comments.


Summary

Smart Scroll makes scrolling faster, smoother, and adds a few more ways to scroll to suit your hardware and preferences.

7
  • Josselin Raguenet de Saint Albin

    simply an awesome app. I mostly use the smooth scrolling feature, don’t really need others. the “smooth scrolling” built-in since SL isn’t that great, it’s way too slow for me (as well as the “fastest” tracking speed of the pointer, better use MouseZoom or BetterTouch Tool) and the options to instantly accelerate scrolling is perfect to go back on top of any page.
    On web browsers the “inner-page-frames” issue can be minimized by momentarily disabling smart scroll (just press Cmd & scroll), you will be able to scroll within the frame, the “background” of the page won’t move.

    anyway, far worth the 15 bucks…

theatre-aglow
theatre-aglow
theatre-aglow
theatre-aglow