Thursday, July 21, 2011

Mac OS/X Lion, "Reverse" Scrolling, and Chrome

Up until yesterday's release of Mac OS/X Lion, the user interface metaphor for scrolling was that you manipulated the scrollbar on the side or bottom of your content (say a webpage).  So in order to scroll content upwards you swiped, wheeled, or otherwise moved down.  To scroll your content downwards you moved up.  This is a very computer-sciency method of scrolling in that the container had a dohicky (the scrollbar) that you touched to scroll.

Tablets and smartphones have flipped the metaphor on its head.  With a modern touch interface you manipulate the content directly.  If you want the content to scroll up off the top of your tablet you swipe it up.  To scroll the content down off the bottom of your tablet you swipe down.  All very natural.

One of the major themes of Apple's Lion release is the harmonizing of the touch and desktop interfaces including a change to how desktop scrolling works.  This change is immediately apparent when you load content in Safari.  First, there are no scrollbars.  Second, you swipe, wheel or otherwise move up in order to move your content up.  Apple calls this "natural scrolling".  This is initially disconcerting for most users since they've spent most of their computer lives doing the opposite.  You can configure Lion to do it "the old way" but I really encourage you to give it a chance.  In about 10 minutes (or nearly instantly if you're using a trackpad) your brain accepts the change and things settle down to normal.  Natural scrolling really feels natural.

In order for applications to behave correctly in Lion they do need to be updated.  This will take some time depending on the application's complexity and the ability of its owner to turn around change.  Google, for example, is actively modifying Chrome in order to provide the best Lion experience.  However, until they do, Chrome will act a little odd in Lion.  For example, it enters full screen mode quite nicely but it isn't immediately apparent how to exit it (see "How to exit full screen mode in Mac OS/X Lion (when you're stuck)" for more on this topic).

Another inconsistency is that the scrollbars are persistent rather than Lion transient.  Rather than waiting for Google to release a new version of Chrome for Lion you can get rid of those pesky, pixel hogging scrollbars now by using one of the scrollbar-remover extensions available on the Chrome web store.  I'm currently testing Scrollbar Hide by Saúl Pilatowsky.  By default it only hides the vertical scrollbar but you can configure it to hide both.  You can also configure it such that the scrollbars are either permanently disabled or appear "when needed" (basically when the mouse pointer roams close to the right or bottom edges).  Another option is No Scrollbar by Bestrafer which simply hides the vertical scrollbar.  For both extensions you may need to restart Chrome for the scroll bars to stay gone.  After that, you can take a tiny step closer to the full Lion experience.


Alejandro Valenzuela said...

Personally I would like apple to allow trackpads to do the "reverse" (iOS) scrolling and "normal" (Windows, GNU/Linux, etc) way of scrolling on a non-trackpad input device (ordinary mice).

I have no problems accustoming myself to the scrolling change on the trackpad because it feels very "physical", but my brain refuses to reverse scrolling on the mouse and interprets the screen not moving as "there is no more content below, no use trying to scroll down". Then I have to make a conscious effort to notice it: "but there IS more content below, what's going on? Ah, right.."

Also, I arrived here because I had no idea how to get out of fullscreen chrome. Thanks for the tip!

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Silks Angel said...

I've used "reverse" scrolling in linux for a long time now. I have no problem switching around when using someone else's computer; but I find it incredibly annoying that Chrome somehow manages to ignore the ZAxisMapping in xorg.conf; and so scrolls the opposite way to every other app on the system.

I tried googling the problem, but this post was the closest result I found :(

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