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Restore Snow Leopard’s three-finger swipes in OS X Lion

Back in the glory days of Snow Leopard, three-finger trackpad swipes could help you navigate the Finder: A three-finger swipe left took you back one step in your Finder navigation; three fingers right brought you forward again. In Lion, of course, three-finger swipes perform a very different function—they navigate between spaces. (You can change that gesture to a four-finger swipe in the Trackpad pane of System Preferences; note also that if you enable three-finger drag, then Lion enables four-finger swiping automatically.) Here’s an intriguing way to restore Snow Leopard’s old behavior on an as-needed basis.


The trick? Hold down the Option key while you perform your swipe. That suppresses the space-switching gesture, and lets the old Snow Leopard functionality shine through.

And here’s the best part: The Option-swipe trick doesn’t just work for navigating Finder windows. Back when I ran Snow Leopard, I loved using three-finger swipes to navigate the official Twitter app; when I hold down Option and swipe, I get those gestures of old back again.

The Option trick works in Safari, too: Hold down the key while you swipe with three fingers, and you can navigate back and forward through pages you’ve visited. And the Option swipe works differently from Lion’s default inverse two-finger swiping in Safari—it follows the Snow Leopard approach where swiping to the left goes back one page.

It’s worth experimenting with the Option-swipe. Many apps offer gestures that you may well discover by playing around. And of course, when you do make Lion swiping discoveries, we’d love to hear about them.

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