When using the trackpad on your computer, Apple’s “natural” scrolling feature is pretty great. The content moves in the same direction as your gestures, just as it does on tablets and smartphones. In my opinion, it makes far less sense to use natural scrolling when using a mouse, though. Scrolling the scroll wheel down makes the page move up, and scrolling up makes the page move down -- it’s a bit counterintuitive to say the least. You can turn natural scrolling on or off in System Preferences > Mouse or System Preferences > Trackpad by selecting “Scroll direction: natural,” but doing so will change the scroll direction for both devices. So if you want to use natural scrolling for your trackpad but not for your mouse, you’ll have to go into System Preferences every time you switch between devices and manually toggle the feature on or off. Frustrating! Below I’ll outline how to make it so that Natural Scrolling will be always on for your trackpad, and always off for any mouse you connect.
- Download and install Karabiner, a free Mac app
- Open Karabiner from your Applications folder. On the Change Key tab, search for “Don’t Remap”, then check the box next to “Don’t remap Apple’s pointing devices.”
3. Now search for “Reverse Vertical” and check the box next to “Reverse Natural Scrolling”.
4. (Optional) Click the “AXNotifier” tab and un-check “Enable AXNotifier”. Doing so will cause Karabiner to use even less memory while it runs in the background.
5. (Optional) Click the MenuBar tab and un-check “Show icon in menu bar” to remove the Karabiner icon from the menu bar.
4. Click the Apple logo in the top menu bar and go to System Preferences > Trackpad. Make sure the box next to “Scroll Direction: Natural” is checked.
5. Go to System Preferences > Users and Groups. Click on your username, and the Login Items tab. Click the plus icon and select Karabiner so that it runs automatically whenever you start your computer.
Now Karabiner will start up when your computer does, and run in the background. Natural scrolling will be always on for your trackpad, and always off for any mouse you connect.
The method below uses a Mac Utility called ControlPlane to switch the scrolling instead. ControlPlane has more steps to set up, and doesn’t allow for the trackpad to be in natural scrolling mode at the same time a mouse is connected. So I’d recommend going with Karabiner, unless it doesn’t work for you for some reason.
- Download and install ControlPlane, a free Mac utility
- Launch ControlPlane. On the Contexts tab, click the plus button to add a new context, and name it “Automatic”. Create another context and name it “Natural Scrolling: Off”.
- On the General tab, check the “Enable automatic switching” and “Start ControlPlane at login” boxes. Also check “Use a default context” and set it to Automatic. You can also check “Hide from status bar” if you don’t want the ControlPlane icon to appear in your menu bar (you can always get the menu bar icon back later by launching the app from your Applications folder).
- On the Evidence Sources tab, click “Attached USB Device” for a USB mouse, or “Bluetooth” for a bluetooth mouse.
- Connect your mouse if it isn’t connected already. On the Rules tab, click the plus button and add a new rule. Select your mouse from the “The presence of” drop down, and choose “Natural Scrolling: Off” for the context. Click okay to create the rule.
- On the Actions tab, click the plus button > System Preferences Actions > Toggle Natural Scrolling to create a new action. In the popup window, set natural scrolling to on, then set “at context” to Automatic and On arrival. Click okay to save it.
- Just as in step 6, create another action, but this time set natural scrolling to off, then set “at context” to “Natural Scrolling: Off” and On arrival. Click okay to save it.
That’s all she wrote. Now ControlPlane will start up when your computer does, and run in the background. The moment you connect your mouse, it will toggle natural scrolling off, and the moment you disconnect your mouse, you’ll be ready to roll using natural scrolling on your trackpad again.
If you have any trouble, try adjusting the Confidence slider for the rule you created on the Rules tab, as well as the Confidence slider on the General tab. Or drop me a comment below and we’ll get it sorted out.