Tech Tips: Fix scroll direction on Mac OS & muting email threads in Gmail |

Tech Tips: Fix scroll direction on Mac OS & muting email threads in Gmail

Doug Behl and Ken Getz

I’ve never used a trackpad before, but my latest computer is a Mac. I now find myself trying to use the trackpad, and it seems that scrolling goes in the wrong direction. On my phone, when I swipe up, the content on the screen goes up. That’s how I’d like it to work, but on my Mac, things go the opposite direction. Can I make the trackpad on the Mac work like swiping on the phone?

This is as a contentious an issue as the perennial question: “Which way should you put the toilet paper roll on its holder?”

All Windows users and most Mac users are used to the “historical” direction for scrolling: That is, when you scroll up with a mouse wheel, the content on the screen goes down. When you swipe on a trackpad, the result is the same. In that case, swiping up causes content on the screen to move down the screen. Maybe this makes sense to you, but to many folks, it does not.

Ken uses a Mac with a trackpad daily, and agrees with you on this issue (but has his own opinions about how to mount toilet paper, mostly to keep the cats from playing with it and strewing bits of shredded tissue about the house). It sure seems like moving your finger up on the trackpad should move the content up, as well. If you don’t agree, stop reading here.

On a Mac, changing this behavior is simple. There’s a setting that controls scrolling behavior, and all you have to do is “tick” the setting, and scrolling will go as you ask. To find it, click the Apple menu in the upper-left corner, select System Preferences, and then select the Trackpad settings.

(In case you’re interested, you can get to the same place quicker using Spotlight, Apple’s built-in search mechanism. Press Alt-Spacebar to begin the search, type Trackpad, and press Enter. Spotlight it a great way to get to specific system preference panes.)

Click the Scroll and Zoom tab at the top and select the Scroll Direction: Natural option. This causes content to track finger movement and will get you the behavior you want.

Most likely, you’ll want mouse scrolling to work the same way, so while you’re in System Preferences, find the Mouse pane, and select the Scroll Direction: Natural option. Now, both mouse scrolling and trackpad scrolling will work the same.

Beware that once you set this option, moving to anyone else’s computer will make you nuts (and conversely, allowing someone else to use your computer will make them nuts) because scrolling works opposite to how most folks expect it.

All kidding aside, if these options make sense to you, they can greatly speed up how you work with your own computer. You don’t need to care what other people think.

Mute email threads in Gmail

I’m a Gmail user, and recently, I got involved in a family discussion via email that simply wouldn’t stop. I kept deleting emails, and more kept showing up from distant family members hitting “reply all.” Is there some way to get myself out of email discussions like these, when I don’t care about any further email messages on the topic?

And here we get to the etiquette of “Reply All,” a big topic for some other day.

If you find yourself in an endless chain of email responses, you can try all you like to just delete them, but they keep coming back. Every time a responder hits “Reply All,” the pain just keeps recurring.

Luckily, Gmail makes this relatively easy. The feature is referred to as “muting” a conversation. In the Gmail Web app (that is, using the default user interface for Gmail, not an email client application), select the email message in the thread you’d like to mute.

Click the check box to the left of the message, or open the message to view it. Then, in the More dropdown at the top of the list of messages, select Mute. That’s it, no more responses from Uncle Harold.

Unmuting message threads is a little more complicated, so if you find that you need to unmute a thread that you previously muted, search online for “Gmail unmute” and you’ll find simple instructions to rejoin the conversation.

Doug Behl and Ken Getz spent years answering technical questions in private, and are minimizing the questions by pre-emptively publishing the answers. Hear Doug and Ken’s tech tips on KNCO radio weekdays at around 8:21 a.m. and 5:38 p.m.; find full write-ups including links to the products they mention at Submit your own technical questions to

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