There are three page swipe gesture options in Lion:

Swiping gestures in Mac OS lion

  • Scroll left or right with two fingers, which is new to Lion, has a neat animation and is currently supported only by Safari.
  • Swipe left or right with three fingers existed in Snow Leopard and doesn't have the animation, but is supported by other applications.

  • Swipe with two or three fingers enables both of these gestures.

Now, I would be happy with the third option, however it seems that three-finger swipe gesture completely ignores natural scrolling preference.

If you disable natural scrolling, all options work identically, but if you turn it back on, two-finger swipe changes its direction, while three-finger gesture stays the same.

This leaves me utterly confused because to go Back in Safari with natural scrolling I can:

  • swipe right with two fingers, or
  • swipe left with three fingers.

This gets just as confusing in Mission Control or any other application that supports navigation.

Can I override this behavior and “invert” three-finger gestures, too, and should I?
What was the idea behind this design decision?

  • Sounds like a bug to me. Similar legacy bugs include references to install DVDs in Disk Utility, and a few others I spotted...
    – dan8394
    Commented Aug 11, 2011 at 3:02
  • 1
    I think the scope is too large for it to be a bug. Maybe the decision was to keep “navigation” gestures always pointing to target direction, as they swipe and not scroll. But this is a speculation.
    – Dan
    Commented Aug 11, 2011 at 3:04
  • > I think the scope is too large for it to be a bug. Maybe the decision was to keep “navigation” gestures always pointing to target direction, as they swipe and not scroll. But this is a speculation. But then, the four finger swipe would should also be the same, but it isn't in the "same direction" and works in the same way as "natural scrolling".
    – kapad
    Commented Mar 15, 2020 at 19:44

4 Answers 4


This may be one of those things that is labeled as a "feature not a bug." It's possible that the swiping gestures that are the same as the gestures on Snow Leopard are considered "Legacy" gestures. If that's the case then it is possible that having it "backwards" Is the expected behavior. If it's a legacy gesture then it may be considered to ignore natural scrolling because that is a "new" feature. I'm not saying that's how it should work, if you ask me if you change the direction of scrolling, it should apply to all gestures, not just the scrolling ones. I've moved mine back to the two finger option for the moment. You should file it at http://www.apple.com/feedback to make sure that Apple knows how confusing this is.

  • 2
    Doesn't look like it's happened yet. FWIW I sent my feedback. 4-finger swipes for switching workspaces also follow natural direction so I don't see why they can't just offer the same option for 3-finger swipes too.
    – dev
    Commented Nov 17, 2013 at 0:33

A workaround to make the three finger swipe natural:

  • I had to disable 3 finger tap lookup in system preferences and enable it in BTT to avoid accidental 3-finger taps in Terminal.app while using settings above.
    – Sergei
    Commented May 11, 2015 at 2:48
  • not the same gesture though, it doesn't "stick" while switching workspaces, ie it executes a key shortcut Commented Jul 10, 2017 at 20:15

Follow-up on this question, since I arrived here searching for how to invert the three-finger swipe gesture in the later versions of OS X (El Capitan etc.), where this is switching screens (Mission Control, aka spaces) and not pages anymore. I hope this will be useful for others.

Building on the answer by shock_one, you can use BetterTouchTool to invert the 3F swipe.


  • In System Preferences/Trackpad/More Gestures, ensure "Swipe between full-screen apps" is disabled
  • In BetterTouchTool or equivalent, create new gestures for mapping "three finger swipe left" to the Predefined Action/OS X Functionality/Move Right a Space, and viceversa

Alternatively, you can use other macro tools, by mapping the 3F swipe to the shortcut key used in Mission Control for switching spaces.


I have found that toggling the following does the trick:

System Preferences >> Trackpad >> Scroll & Zoom >> Scroll direction: Natural

Note that toggling this option does not only reverse the direction of the three-finger swipe gesture; it also reverses the direction of two-finger scrolling (as both two-finger and three-finger gestures are affected by the one check-box).

Tested on macOS Big Sur (Version 11.4)

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