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Apple Mac OS X tips and tweaks

Date: 29th July 2011     

OS X Lion: Configure the scrollbars

If you have just upgraded to OS X Lion from a previous version you will have noticed that it looks very similar, but there are also lots of small differences too. Take the scrollbars for example. If a window is too small to display the contents the controls at the side and bottom enable you to scroll up and down or left and right as required.

Lion has removed the up/down and left/right arrows completely and, depending on the circumstances, even the scrollbar altogether. You can configure them and change the way they work in System Preferences.

Go to the Apple menu and click System Preferences. Then click General (it used to be called Appearance). You'll see a few differences in the settings in this window and whereas before there was an option to place scroll arrows together or one at each end of the scrollbar, these have gone.


Snow Leopard's settings

Now that there aren't any scrollbar arrows the option has been removed. In its place are three options for determining how and when scrollbars are displayed. Actually, there are two options and either the scrollbars are always displayed or only when scrolling. The Automatically based on input device option automatically selects either When scrolling or Always depending on whether you have a mouse or old trackpad, or a new gesture-capable trackpad.


Lion's settings

The Always option works like previous versions of OS X and it doesn't mean that scrollbars are always displayed. It means that they are always displayed if the window is too small to display the contents. Open a Finder window and if there is only a couple of items in the folder you won't see any scrollbars because there is no need for them. If there are a lot of files then a scrollbar is displayed. This is how OS X used to work. You just don't have the up and down arrows.

The When scrolling option makes the Mac work like iOS devices. There's no scrollbar on the iPhone for example, but drag down with your finger and a scrollbar is displayed at the right-hand side as you scroll. This now works the same on Macs with this option set, but it is best with a MacBook trackpad or Magic Trackpad on your iMac that responds to gestures like swipes. Old MacBooks don't and iMacs without the Magic Trackpad obviously can't.

You can use the When scrolling option with a mouse and if you load a web page for example, you won't see a scrollbar on the right. However, if you click and drag a few pixels in from the right-hand edge of the window you will see that a scrollbar appears and you can drag up and down to scroll the window contents. It disappears after a few seconds when stop using it. It works, but it's not really intended for mouse control.



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