Natural Scrolling Vs. Reverse Scrolling – Which Do You Prefer?

Apple released OSX Lion yesterday, and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. The great thing about buying new software from Apple is I don’t even have to leave my desk to do so. A click on the Mac App Store icon and OSX was downloading to my desktop.

Aside from all the cool new features that Lion offer, the one that immediately stood out to me was a switch to natural scrolling. For the longest time, both Macs and PCs have used reverse scrolling.

An example of natural scrolling is the Apple iPad. When you want to scroll up a web page, you put a finger on the iPad and move up. When you want to scroll down, you move your fingers down. This is, of course, very natural and logical.

This process is reserved when using a mouse wheel or trackpad. To make a webpage scroll down, you have to push up on the mouse wheel or trackpad. To make a webpage scroll up, you push down. This doesn’t sound logical or natural but it’s been this way for so long that we think it is. In fact, my first reaction to using natural scrolling on OSX was, “WTF!! Why is it doing this???”

After using natural scrolling for about an hour, I got immediately use to it, and now I can’t believe we’ve been doing it backwards all this time without even knowing it. I mean, this just makes so much sense: you want the content to go up, then you should push the wheel or trackpad up. Who’s idea was it to make this backwards? I bet it’s the same people who thought the way to shut down a computer is by pushing a “Start” button.

Going to natural scrolling is just another example of Apple trying to increase the user experience, and while it can mess with your mind at first, it will seem very natural after awhile. Give it a try and then tell me which you prefer. For me, I’m leaving naturally scrolling on. It’s a great way to mess with my PC friends when they try scrolling on my Mac. πŸ˜›

68 thoughts on “Natural Scrolling Vs. Reverse Scrolling – Which Do You Prefer?”

  1. Goob says:

    This process is reserved when using a mouse wheel or trackpad. To make a webpage scroll down, you have to push up on the mouse wheel or trackpad. To make a webpage scroll up, you push down.

    Either every single mouse I’ve owned has been broken or this is incorrect. For my entire life, if I’ve wanted to scroll down a page, I place my finger at the top of the mouse wheel and roll it downward towards my palm. If I’ve wanted to go up, I place my finger at the bottom of the wheel and scroll up to extend my finger. Up goes up, down goes down. OS Lion completely reversed that, which is asinine.

    An example of natural scrolling is the Apple iPad. When you want to scroll up a web page, you put two fingers on the iPad and move up. When you want to scroll down, you move your fingers down. This is, of course, very natural and logical

    Again, I have no idea what you’re talking about. I just pulled out my iPad and iPhone to be sure (both of which are using factory default settings when it comes to scrolling.) If I’m on a webpage or news article and I want to scroll down, I put my finger (or two fingers) on the page and move them up towards the camera. To go up, I have to move them down towards the bottom. Up goes down, down goes up. How is that natural?

    1. John Chow says:

      When you put your finger on top of the mouse wheel and roll it downward, what direction is the page heading? Up! Natural scrolling is about moving in the same direction as the page. You maybe confusion reading with scrolling. You are reading down the page but the page is moving up as you scroll. In the iPad, you make the page scroll up by pushing two fingers up. But this process is reserved when using a mouse wheel. Apple just corrected it.

      1. Virtual Tour says:

        It’s kinda tripping me out. Not sure how much I like it.

        1. Kevin Kimes says:

          Did they reverse what the PAGE UP and PAGE DOWN buttons do, also?

          Apple didn’t correct anything, they’re just fooling all the Apple sheep into thinking they’re smarter than everyone else. Attempting to change the definition of what “scrolling up” and “scrolling down” means isn’t going to fool me.

          If I want to reach the BOTTOM of a page, am I supposed to get there by scrolling UP or DOWN? Case closed.

          Touch screen interfaces are obviously different, because it’s simulating putting your finger on a physical page. Mouse wheels (a.k.a. moving the scroll bar) are changing which part of the page you’re viewing.

          My opinion: This is an apple publicity stunt.

          1. Brendan says:

            Apple’s just trying to get all of their products to have similar features so it is easy to switch from device to device…

            I think that people should have probably been scrolling like this when scrolling was first thought up… it makes so much sense… it feels like your actually holding onto the website that you are viewing…

          2. Bob Balinor says:

            > If I want to reach the BOTTOM of a page, am I supposed to get there by
            > scrolling UP or DOWN? Case closed.

            Case not closed. If you want to reach the bottom of the page, you’d want to move the page up relative to the window, no? What natural scrolling does is, it ties touchpad and mouse wheel gestures to moving the content, not moving the viewport, as it has been until now. Whether that’s foolish is a matter of opinion.

            Part of the problem (and the reason what you’re saying is not really correct) lies with the use of the word “scroll”. If you think about it for a moment, it’s not at all obvious what this word means. What does it mean to “scroll down”? If you go by the analogy with a scroll of paper, “scrolling down” would seem to mean rolling more of the paper around the bottom rod — which is what you’d do when you wanted to read parts of the document nearer to the top. But that’s not how we’re used to using the word in a computing context. Maybe it’s time to abandon the term and move on to something else — such as “slide”: you slide a page up to see content nearer the end, and you slide it down to see content nearer the top.

        2. Why Virtual? Explanation please…

    2. Erwin Miradi says:

      I kinda agree with Goob anyway. When I want to scroll down, I put my finger at the top of mouse wheel and roll it downward. To scroll up, I put my finger at the bottom of mouse wheel and roll it upward…
      Or perhaps I got used to that for years I don’t even know which one is natural anymore..
      I think I should try the iPad first.

      1. John Chow says:

        It’s kinda like a UK guy coming here and wondering how the hell we can drive on the right side of the road. πŸ˜›

        But here’s the thing, when you put my finger at the top of mouse wheel and roll it downward, the page is really scrolling up, not down. It maybe natural because that’s the way it’s always been done. Another reason we maybe used to that is because of the scroll bar. When you move the scroll bar down, the page goes up.

        I suspect the reason Apple reversed the scrolling is because of the iPad generation. My daughter takes to the iPad like a duck to water, but she still gets confused when using a computer and mouse.

        I would say most family have their kids on iPads first and then move to the comp when they get older. So you’re going to have an entire generation of kids that think to scroll a page up, you move the wheel up. And they’ll be laughing at their parents for being so backwards. πŸ™‚

        1. Kevin Kimes says:

          Which way do you go to reach the bottom of a page, up or down? πŸ˜‰

          1. John Chow says:

            Which way does the content of the page go when you scroll up or down? πŸ™‚

            But to answer your question. To reach the bottom of the page you have to move the content up so you move the wheel up. It is not you that is moving down to the bottom, it’s the content moving up to greet you.

          2. Kevin Kimes says:

            Basically, as I’m indicating, it’s a point of view difference.

            You’re either moving the content, or moving your view position. Since it all happens on the screen, it’s basically a philosophical debate.

            In 3D first person games, when you want to look up, you move the mouse up. But in Flight simulators, (if you play it with a mouse) you move the mouse up to point the nose of the plane downward. πŸ™‚

        2. Erwin Miradi says:

          @John: lol yeah you’re right. I’ll go get my self used to the iPad then. So one day me and my children will be laughing at other parents for being so backwards :D.

  2. Goob says:

    I understand your argument, but I think you and others are confusing “page” with “content.” I Googled around and found this article that best explains what I’m getting at and why the new scrolling doesn’t work for a lot of people.

    When you turn a page in a book, both the page and words (content) go left along with your hand. You’re touching it and moving it left, so it goes left. That’s natural.

    But when looking at a website on a computer monitor, which is at a different plane than your hand, the page and words and separate entities. When you move the scroll wheel and finger down, the words go up but the point of reference on the page goes down. You’re going to the bottom of the page.

    1. John Chow says:

      I see where you’re coming from and I understand it as well since I’ve been doing it that way for so long. However, the only thing I can say is to give natural scrolling a try for a few hours. After awhile, it will feel completely natural. At least it was for me.

      1. Kevin Kimes says:

        Both ways are easy for our minds to grasp. It’s like switching between different graphics programs which give you different methods for quickly changing view position on the project.

        Some let you press the mouse wheel and move it around to pan, as if your viewpoint is a camera. Some give you a hand tool (sometimes activated the same way) which simulates moving the page, rather than your viewpoint. There are others which work in still different ways, as well.

        After using one for several hours, then switching to another type, it feels all wrong for a few moments (or longer, if it’s a first time experience). But any of them can feel natural, once you’re adjusted.

  3. Sam says:

    I’ve been trying to get used to it for 3 days now. I like it but I find I’m still not in the new habit.

    1. John Chow says:

      3 days? OSX Lion came out yesterday. πŸ˜‰

      1. Kevin Kimes says:

        Maybe he got an early release? I don’t follow Mac OS, so I have no idea if it’s easy, like it is to get Windows RCs for free (legally).

    2. Erwin Miradi says:

      @Sam: Oh.. then you must be one of the developer. You tried it earlier than anyone else around.

  4. Myke says:

    John – What are you talking about? I’ve been using a PC my whole life, and I am using Windows 7 right now and when I scroll down the page goes down and vise versa..

    Check out my post on Mac OS X Lion HERE.

    1. Myke says:

      Whoops — I had to reread it. I prefer natural scrolling, I think a change is good! Can’t wait to get a Mac!

  5. Virtual Tour says:

    I got my buddie downloading it right now… I can’t wait to try it out!

    1. Virtual Tour says:

      Gotta be honest, just downloaded it and the scolling is tripping me out. I’m not sure how I like it.

      1. John Chow says:

        Ya, it tripped me out for the little while as well. But after an hour or so, I got right use to it.

      2. PPC Ian says:

        Similar reaction here! May take a little getting used to!

      3. I also going to do this.

  6. fazal mayar says:

    mouses of laptops can be tricky, i think we should give a shot to natural scrolling

  7. i always love to prefer the natural ones

  8. i would like to try it out thanks for info

  9. Kevin Kimes says:

    Apple is brilliant. Not at software, in particular. Sure, their software is good, better than average usually. Apples brilliance and success has very little to do with making software and hardware that works well.

    They’re brilliant at marketing, and that’s exactly what this “natural scrolling” is. Marketing. Scrolling was never backwards, and they didn’t fix anything. There’s been programs for years which scroll in both ways (Adobe Reader is a super-common example – scroll with the mouse wheel or with the Hand Tool).

    But now, most people who find out about this are going to think that it has always been backwards, and they’re going to do what John did and “tell everybody”. Especially any Mac fans, they’re going to praise Apple as being brilliant for “fixing” the “backwards” scrolling “problem” that never existed.

    This is a huge marketing ploy, a very brilliant one. Once again, Apple has made millions of people believe their products are the best things around, without making them all that much different.

    1. John Chow says:

      I think Apple did this to bring everything in line with iOS. Apple has said the best way to do multi-touch on a Macbook is with their trackpad and doing multi-touch means making the gesture the same as the iPad. That means you moving your fingers up to move the content up.

      It also hints that future Mac may have touch screens. I’ll be the first to admit that more than once (usually after using my iPad all day) I touch my Macbook screen to try to move stuff around. LOL

      1. Kevin Kimes says:

        I agree that’s likely a part of what they’re doing. I think it still ties into the marketing effort, because iOS is their cash cow. So many people have bought Macs after having iPhones and iPods who otherwise never would have. My parents are in that category.

        I feel like an encyclopedia could be written about how everything Mac does is marketing-driven, even their great innovations are just manifestations of brilliant marketing. I wonder if they’ll be able to keep doing this well when Jobs finally has to retire – it’ll have to happen some day, and he’s the genius making it happen.

        A Mac OS with a natively integrated touch screen interface would truly set Apple apart from Microsoft, and you’re probably right about them going that direction.

        They’d finally have something which “Windows” doesn’t do “the same or better,” in terms of interface (at least for power users like me). Microsoft, however, publicly announced years ago the “Microsoft Surface”, which is a natively touch-screen interface and much more.

        Apple will, no doubt, market theirs far more effectively, and probably bring it to the marketplace first. And, everybody will think it was Apple’s idea. πŸ™‚

        1. John Chow says:

          I’ve used the MS Surface. it’s not a consumer device. Right now, they’re been used in bars to send message from one table to another. They used them at the bar in the Rio Hotel in Las Vegas.

          1. Kevin Kimes says:

            The first demos I saw of the MS Surface indicated a lot of consumer level features. Like you could set your camera on it, and it’d automatically interface wirelessly with the camera to start downloading your pictures, which are then displayed on the surface to start interacting with.

            Eventually something like that is bound to show up at the consumer level. Probably not an actual table, but likely a large touch screen monitor at an angle, closer and lowerthan we put them now.

  10. Then it was a new program to try.

  11. fas says:

    Even I put the natural scrolling off, but I think I will switch it on now and get used to it.

  12. Marita says:

    You know another place reverse scrolling is driving me crazy? Is cable TV: when you want to scroll to a higher channel on the program guide you have to use the down arrow (the channels are listed lowest to highest number). But on the remote control if you want to go to a higher channel you push the up arrow. I don’t think a lot of people notice that one either πŸ™‚

    1. John Chow says:

      I don’t watch TV so I never noticed that problem. But here’s one more for you. A calculator has the 1 at the lower left and goes up, but a phone has the 1 on the upper left and goes down. Figure that one out!

      1. Kevin Kimes says:

        Yeah, that’s a funny one, but somehow people who use both (including keyboard 10-key with calculator) frequently are able to seamlessly switch between the two.

        I have noticed the channel guide issue on every cable menu system I’ve used. You get used to changing channels with the arrow buttons, then when the menu’s not on the screen you press the downward pointing channel button, and go the opposite direction you intended. Heheh.

      2. Marita says:

        No TV? How do you live? πŸ™‚
        There are probably even more examples. You wonder how this whole thing got started. What was the thought process behind this madness? πŸ™‚

      3. John Chow says:

        Netflix, Hulu and torrent is all I need. πŸ™‚

        1. Marita says:

          I see, I consider that TV as well πŸ™‚ I do love Netflix streaming service. It works amazingly well. When they first started, you had to plug in your computer into the TV to use it as a monitor and the image quality was really bad.

          Came across another scrolling example: when you’re on a video game’s virtual 3d environment on a touch screen, the scrolling is usually correct, going up when you swipe up.

          No wonder we’re all confused…

  13. Nice post about natural scrolling. First I didn’t understand but after reading comments picture became clear to me . I’m not sure which method is natural but one is thing is clear that Apple marketing is very much strong.

  14. PPC Ian says:

    I still can’t get over Apple’s market cap of $364 billion! I remember when they were in the $20 billion range in the 90s. Amazing stuff.

  15. Jeff says:

    Years before iPhones and iPads, graphic programs had the “Hand” tool. Your image/document moved with the mouse in a natural way just as if you were touching the screen. After nearly two decades of using Photoshop I still trip up from time to time when using a program that requires standard scrolling. Thank you Apple for fixing a long time irritant that I have always found to be backwards!

  16. Technology its getting increased a lot day by day soon more will be available in the market

  17. Anonymous says:

    I actually have trouble seeing ‘natural scrolling’ as an innovation of Apple, period. Open up a PDF in a copy of acrobat from 2000 and use the hand tool to navigate and you’ll see what I mean.

    To me, natural scrolling is only instinctive where I actually ‘grab’ the content such as on an iPad or a touchscreen interface (or use the hand tool, or edit in a CAD window). For scrollbars, or when I scroll with a wheel and my cursor floats above the content, it instinctively feels like I am moving *my* viewpoint rather than pushing a page, and traditional scrolling is more comfortable.

  18. Great technology indeed.

  19. I would like to prefer natural scrolling.One of the first things that new users of OS X Lion are apt to either completely love or hate with a passion is the change to “natural scrolling.

    1. I like my iMac, but I doubt I will like natural scrolling. If I upgrade to Lion, I hope there’s a way to turn it off!

  20. I like to prefer the natural ones

  21. natural scrolling always best

    1. RazoR says:

      Yes, of course !

      1. Thanks for your comment

  22. Wow, it sounds good… I can’t wait to try it already. Technology is improving everyday and it is so amazing to benefit from it.

  23. phototristan says:

    Natural scrolling is well, natural.

    It’s very logical, here’s why:

    Hint-think about the motion your hand does when pushing a document that is in front of you on your desk to the back of your desk.

    1. Evan says:

      That doesn’t sound natural to me.

      When I’m reading a document on my desk generally the document stays exactly where it is and my field of vision (my eyes) move downward.

      I have never met a person who physically moves a book or piece of paper up while reading rather than moving their eyes down.

      Scrolling the window is moving the field of vision down. I am moving my “eyes” down the page.

      The old way seems far more natural to me.

  24. so everyone has tried an different level of scrolling

  25. mazza says:

    Using a computer was never a natural interaction and things like a mouse weren’t really intended to mimic the real world of hands but rather to point and select objects more precisely within that environment.

    Touch UI’s have changed computers and therefore the way that people think about them – now they are extensions of our fingers and the world around us.

    Apple hasn’t fixed a long standing basic problem, but a newer one which was really needing to make their different platforms work the same. So well done to them for making things consistent but really game changing? Look through the hype people and see the marketing men in suits.

  26. Gary Allen says:

    For me natural scrolling is the way it’s always been done. I don’t care what the words on the page do. If I want to get to the bottom of the page I naturally expect to scroll downward with my mouse. If I want to see the top of the page, I want to scroll upward with my mouse. I don’t remember being bothered by this when I first started using my mouse–so it’s not something I had to learn back then.


  27. Ryker says:

    I don’t know what is more ridiculous:Reversed scrolling, or Apple apologists defending anything Apple does.

  28. If you don’t like it… which i personally agree with the other Gary.

    “For me natural scrolling is the way it’s always been done. I don’t care what the words on the page do. If I want to get to the bottom of the page I naturally expect to scroll downward with my mouse. If I want to see the top of the page, I want to scroll upward with my mouse. I don’t remember being bothered by this when I first started using my mouse–so it’s not something I had to learn back then.”

    If your like us and want to change it back just go to your system preference in the mouse options and unclick the box at the top that says “move content in the direction of finger scrolling”

    This will fix this issue and you will be happy again. No need to stress out. I used for 2 minutes and figured out that I want it back to “natural”.

  29. each one will have different types of option

  30. Essays says:

    Most of the cell phones have reverse scrolling option these days and PCs have natural scrolling. It makes everything much more difficult when I use my cell. I try to do natural scrolling in cell, then realize, what i am doing wrong πŸ™

  31. Technary says:

    great info. Was not knowing about reverse scrolling.

  32. Derek Bolander says:

    I think Natural Scrolling, while a good idea, is not properly implemented. The arrow ought to contextually change to a hand (since it’s representing you interacting with the page rather than just a point of focus).

    Most importantly it should move a bit (up or down) to visually show you that you’re grabbing the page up or down. Currently the arrow remains stationary and is not consistent to what happens on the iPad or iPhone where your finger physically moves up or down the page.

  33. who2india says:

    Never tried the other way round, but used to my laptop’s scrolling for over 5 years, might be difficult for me to adjust to other way round, but my friend has this would go and check this out.

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