How To Display Scroll Bars and Slow Down Scrolling on Your Mac

Starting with OS X 10.7 (Lion) Apple changed some fundamental ways that scrolling works. Specifically, the scrollbars are hidden until one moves the cursor on top of the scrollbar area, then the scrollbars appear. Additionally, the scrollbars no longer have arrows at the ends to let you slowly scroll up and down. Here are some suggestions to help address both of these changes.

When I sit down at a Mac running OS X 10.7 (Lion) or OS X 10.8 (Mountain Lion), one of the first things I do it make the scrollbars appear all the time. I don’t like the fact that Apple hides them. Presumably Apple hides them to save screen space, but I don’t think scrollbars take up undue space. More importantly, I like to be able to glance at the scrollbars and use them as a guide to my location in a document. For example, if the scrollbar is almost at the bottom of the window then I know that I’m almost at the end of the document. Here’s how to make your scrollbars visible all the time:

  1. Click on the Apple menu and select System Preferences
  2. In the System Preferences window, click the General icon near the upper left corner.
  3. Locate the “Show Scroll Bars” section and select Always.
  4. Click the red dot in the upper left corner to close the System Preferences window.

Now, your scrollbars will appear on the right-hand side of documents and windows. You may notice that Apple has removed the small arrows that used to appear near the top or bottom of scroll bars. These arrows could be clicked on to slowly scroll up or down in a document. I presume that Apple removed them since they want users to use an Apple Magic Mouse 2 or Magic Trackpad 2 or the built-in trackpad on a Mac laptop. All of these devices let one scroll by dragging two fingers up and down. This is fine for a 35-year-old who has steady hands, but it’s not a great option for users whose hands are unsteady due to a disability or aging. Some of these users tend to drag the scroll bar up or down to scroll through a document and, sometimes, scrolling occurs too fast. Recently, I worked with a client who wanted to slowly scroll through her iPhoto Library to find a particular photo. The scrollbar didn’t offer enough precision of movement.

Here are a couple of methods one can use to slow down the speed of scrolling on a Mac. The easiest to implement method is to hold down the option key as one drags the scroll bar up or down. Another method requires some set up. Here are instructions:

  1. Click on the Apple menu and select System Preferences.
  2. In the System Preferences window, click on the Universal Access icon if your Mac is using OS X 10.7. If your Mac is using OS X 10.8 or 10.9, click the Accessibility icon.
  3. Click the Mouse and Trackpad icon.
  4. Then, depending upon whether you use a mouse or a trackpad, click either the Mouse Options or Trackpad Options button.
  5. Adjust the scroll speed slider to your preferred speed.
  6. Click the red dot to close the System Preferences window. Your changes should take effect immediately.

Apple has written illustrated instructions on how to change the scrolling speed.

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