Tag Archives: gestures

Add Tab-Switch Gestures to Mac OSX

Here’s how to add the tab-switch gesture across the OS and in whatever app you want:

  1. Download and install Better Touch Tool.
  2. In it’s configuration window, choose the Trackpads tab.
  3. In the sidebar, click the + and find the app to which you want to add the gesture (Finder.app, for example).
  4. At the bottom, click on Add New Gesture.
  5. Under Trackpad Gesture, select Two Finger Gestures > rotate right.*
  6. Click in Custom Keyboard Shortcut, hold control and tap tab.**
  7. Repeat steps 4-6 for rotate left and ctrl-shift-tab.

*or whatever gesture you prefer. ** the tab-switch keyboard shortcut might vary from app to app. ctrl-tab is the default for most.

When I first switched to a Mac, I was still very used to the Windows way of doing things. One of those things was to use a mouse instead of the trackpad, because every trackpad I had ever used on a Windows laptop basically sucked. Then came the MacBook trackpad, which is just plain awesome-sauce. It’s large, smooth, responsive, and most of all: the available gestures are both plentiful and plenty useful. So, after some consideration, I decided to switch to primarily using the trackpad instead of the mouse. The clincher was the gestures; they were just too good to give up.

However plentiful they may be, there isn’t a gesture for everything. In particular, there’s one very common task that doesn’t have an associated gesture: switching tabs. Pretty much every app worth its salt has tabs: web browsers, text editors, and now even the Finder (in Mavericks). The default keyboard shortcut for tab-switching (ctrl-tab) is slow to perform. You have to move your whole left hand out of its normal position. So, there’s either that or you have move the cursor to click on the desired tab, which is even slower.

My inspiration for a solution to this problem came from one app that actually does have a tab-switch gesture (although it’s disabled by default): Firefox. Even though Google Chrome is faster, I still prefer Firefox for its excellent customizability. I’ve set a two-fingered clockwise twist to switch to the next tab, and a two-fingered counterclockwise twist to switch to the previous tab. I’ve gotten so used to these gestures that I get annoyed when I can’t use them in other apps (which is essentially every other tabbed app).

But now I can!