It seems extremely hard to be able to drag and drop files between two finder windows with a single move on the trackpad - as soon you reach the end of the trackpad you'll drop the files,… in the wrong place.

How can you solve the drag'n'drop problem without using a mouse and still be able to use gestures?

6 Answers 6


You can use your thumb to click on the lower part of the track and the index finger to move. As long as you keep the trackpad pressed with the thumb you can release the index finger.

enter image description here

  • 8
    This works for the New MacBook with soft pressure from the thumb (firm pressure causes an "about" dialog to popup)
    – Bohemian
    May 7, 2015 at 14:26
  • 7
    This technique caused repetitive strain for me. 3 finger drag in accessibilities is much better if you're using this all day long.
    – SmileBot
    Jan 4, 2017 at 17:59
  • On my 2021 MacBook this works so long as the pressure from your thumb is both soft and constistent throughout the drag. Increase the pressure at any point while dragging and it registers a second press and tries to rename the file... Jul 20, 2021 at 13:03

Click and Drag

Press the physical button, then drag. While the button is depressed, you can reposition your "dragging" finger without letting go of what you're dragging.

One-Finger Tap & Drag

With Dragging enabled, tap the trackpad twice and start dragging on the second tap (instead of lifting your finger from the trackpad). There is a short delay from when you lift your finger from the trackpad and when the drag actually ends, during which, you can reposition your finger on the trackpad to continue dragging. To end a drag immediately (without the delay) you can tap the trackpad again.

Three-Finger Drag

Tap the trackpad with three fingers and drag all three fingers. This has the same delay as the one-finger drag, so you can reposition your fingers and continue dragging. Again, a single tap will end the drag without the delay.

Drag Lock

Drag Lock works with both the "one-finger tap & drag" and the "three-finger drag". When enabled, the drag does not end after lifting your finger(s) from the trackpad. Rather you have to tap/click the trackpad to end the drag.

In Snow Leopard, the Dragging and Drag Lock settings are in System Preferences > Trackpad, but in Lion they were moved to System Preferences > Universal Access > Mouse & Trackpad > Trackpad Options.

With Dragging enabled, you may notice a delay when tapping compared to when it's disabled (at least in Lion).

Three-Finger Drag with Inertia

This is easily the most fun way to drag. This is like the three-finger drag, but instead of moving all three fingers, you only move one finger, keeping the other two in place on the trackpad. When you do this, you can use a flick gesture with the finger that's moving and whatever you're dragging will continue to move after you lift that finger, gradually slowing down. It works very much like scrolling with inertia. As long as you keep your other two fingers in place on the trackpad, you can lift your third finger without letting go of what you're dragging.

If you wanted to, you could actually keep one finger in place on the trackpad and use two fingers for dragging, but that's a bit awkward.

  • It's rare for an answer to not only teach me a skill, but show me something fun! Thanks.
    – Noumenon
    Feb 8, 2021 at 2:16

Holding with your thumb and dragging kills the thumb after a while. You can enable double tap to select (versus clicking) and drag in preferences> accessibility under the mouse area in Yosemite. Then just tap lightly twice and drag with your finger. You might need to have tap to click enabled under the trackpad settings. That's the best way to do it if you're on your machine all day and prone to repetitive strain injury.

Update: I'm now using 3 finger drag available in the accessibility settings area.enter image description here

  • Note that enabling three-finger draft often (always?) interferes with MS Office's copy/paste features and you often end up having to his copy (Command-C) twice. This is obviously an MS bug but they've not fixed it since Office 2011...
    – RJR
    Mar 19, 2018 at 1:10

I turned on 3 fingers for dragging in the trackpad preferences. There also used to be an option on there called Click lock, where you would double click and drag and then the file would stay with the mouse until you clicked again. I can't seem to find that particular option anymore, but I know that if you enable the three finger dragging gesture that it's supported, so you just tap twice with three fingers on the file you want and then start dragging, and tap again when you want to drop the file.

  • They moved it to accessibility. See my post above.
    – SmileBot
    Mar 22, 2015 at 13:49

Another technique to avoid premature dropping is to take advantage of trackpad acceleration.

Let's say you are dragging a file from left to right. When you run out of room on the right edge of the trackpad:

  1. Slowly drag the file to the left side of the trackpad.
  2. Then quickly drag the file to the center/right of the trackpad. Due to difference in acceleration, you should be on the right half of your screen.
  3. Now you have of lot of space to move before dropping.

This also works for a mouse if you run out of mousepad or desk space.


Instead of using trackpad gestures for App Exposé and Mission Control - it's more reliable to use hot corners instead.

The setting can be found under System Preferences → Mission Control → Hot corners...

If you want to avoid accidental tiggering of hot corners, you can add modifier-keys to them (i.e. trigger by +dragging to corner).

enter image description here

  • In a way dragging to the corner counts as a gesture, right? ;)
    – gentmatt
    Mar 3, 2012 at 11:51
  • 3
    I don't understand what this has to do with the question: the OP is asking about dragging-and-dropping files, not about hot corners or trackpad gestures. :S
    – Dan J
    Mar 3, 2012 at 20:17
  • @djacobson You're right, I over thought this. I made the false assumption that what @ matteo has said was already clear - and that the problem was using the drag and drop in combination with gestures. But that's not the case.
    – gentmatt
    Mar 3, 2012 at 20:52
  • Not relevant to the question.
    – SmileBot
    Mar 22, 2015 at 13:50

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