The “Move The Content” Paradigm, Criticism And The Future Of Mac OSX


With Mac OSX Lion, the default setting for scrolling in Lion is that you don’t move the scrollbar, but instead you’re moving the content. This means the scrolling direction is inverted. Many people said they didn’t like this, but I guess they’re not using the touchpad – I grew completely accustomed to it within about three days, because it really feels more natural, especially when the scrollbars are hidden. Touching the webpage and moving it around feels more as if you’re in control.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Andrea Costa Photography

The Future

But Apple won’t stop here. If you’re looking at Safari’s new way of moving back in the history by moving the active page to the right (effectively scrolling to the left further than possible) so that the last page in the navigation history appears below the active page  shows where this could lead. If you try this left and right-scrolling in iCal and do it really slowly, you get an effect like in iBooks where a new calendar page slowly flips over. This kinda semantic way of moving things is also followed with mission control, where you push everything away from you (four-finger-swipe up) to get an overview of everything running and do the opposite to get back close to the windows. I believe this kind of semantic movement of windows and content will sooner or later work in a lot of menus, the finder, the AppStore and anywhere else where “back” usually would be a button.


If this is the course of the OS, I wonder why Apple didn’t go further with this. In the new iCal, you can move forward and backwards with this new side-scrolling. So, if you move the content (for example the month August on a sheet of ‘paper’) to the left, on the right side ‘September’ slides in. In my opinion, this is exactly the natural way it should work. Why then, if you use three fingers and make the same gesture (three finger swipe to the left) it moves the other way round, back to July? Because three finger swipe left is defined as ‘back’. Putting the ‘back’-command on three-finger-swipe right sounds silly, but I think this is the way it should work as you’re always moving the content to the right when you’re going backwards, and vice versa. This would also give a sign to third party applications like Twitter, where in a conversation the same confusing three-finger-swipe to the left actually moves the content to the right side to return to the stream.

What I would like additionally is a three-finger-down gesture for minimizing or closing a window, or better some way to define gestures as triggers for actions in programs, as possible in BetterTouchTool (with that you can remap and define new gestures for touchpads and magic mouses).

, Posted Friday, August 12th, 2011 under Usability.

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