How To Get Mac OS X’s “Natural Scrolling” In Ubuntu [Linux]

Danny Stieben 08-12-2011

In recent months, operating systems have been trying to reinvent how a person works with a computer, experimenting with ways that could lead to some positive results. Microsoft is working on Windows 8 What You Can Expect To See In Windows 8 No sooner had the dust settled over the bumpy transition from Windows Vista to Windows 7, than Microsoft started fueling interest around its upcoming new operating system, codenamed Windows 8, which is expected to be... Read More which is bringing with it a completely different interface, Apple included a couple of convenient features in Lion, and Linux distributions are reinventing the desktop via GNOME 3 GNOME 3 Beta - Welcome To Your New Linux Desktop Read More and Unity Ubuntu 11.04 Unity - A Big Leap Forward For Linux It's here. The newest version of Ubuntu sports an entirely new user interface: Unity. It also includes a much-improved Software Center, alongside the usual updates for the thousands of free programs Ubuntu offers. Canonical decided... Read More .


However, getting some of the features in one operating system into another can be difficult sometimes. Thankfully, someone has made a little program to replicate Lion’s “Natural Scrolling” feature for touchpads on Ubuntu.

What Is Natural Scrolling?

If you’re not sure what this “Natural Scrolling” feature is, let me explain. Currently, when you scroll with a trackpad, you move your finger down if you want to scroll down. It’s as if you’re moving the scrollbar, not the page itself. In natural scrolling – a fancy name for reverse scrolling – the opposite occurs. If you want to scroll down, you move your finger up.

Why does this make sense? Well, when you scroll down, it’s the same thing as pushing the page itself up. So in natural scrolling you’ll be using your finger to push the page in the direction you want instead of the scrollbar.

If you still don’t quite understand, get a piece of paper (or newspaper to represent content) and place it on a flat surface. Then take your finger and push the paper up. When you do that, you’re doing the same thing as scrolling down. This is what natural scrolling tries to replicate.



natural scrolling ubuntu

Getting this to work isn’t difficult. Go ahead and open a terminal window and type :

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:zedtux/naturalscrolling && sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get -y install naturalscrolling


That command will add a new repository with the needed package in it and give you some information and other possible warnings associated with the repository. It will also update the package lists to recognize the contents of the new repository and then install the needed package. Once everything completes, the program will be installed and ready to go.


Launching & Applying

ubuntu scrolling

For the first time, you’ll need to launch it manually from the dashboard. You’ll find it easily by typing in Natural Scrolling. Once it is launched, you’ll need to click on its indicator applet and choose Natural Scrolling to enable it. From here on, it should be smooth sailing. Note that natural scrolling is in effect for all windows, and not just your browser or the page in your browser.

natural scrolling ubuntu

The feature only works when the program is running, so to have it launch every time you log in, you can choose the “Start at login” option from the Preferences menu. Although at the time of writing there was a warning when first adding the repository that startup at login does not work. I assume that the package has been updated since then and works flawlessly now.



This nifty little program can make plenty of people happier to use their laptops and other touchpad-operated devices by imitating natural movement. As shown in many other ways, the power and nature of open source software shines brightly again, so that you too can have the same features as $1,000+ computers. While I myself will have to get used to it as I’ve been accustomed to “normal” scrolling on a computer for around 13 years, it should be a good experience when I finally scroll the same way on my laptop as I do on my phone.

What is your opinion of natural scrolling? Which do you prefer more? Is natural scrolling even a decent idea? Let us know in the comments!

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  1. minnesota linux
    December 12, 2011 at 5:21 am

    I've written it up for KDE, which is far far more simple.
    [Broken Link Removed]

  2. Donie Octora
    December 10, 2011 at 6:10 pm

    tried it and it only reverse the scrolling, not something big

    • Danny Stieben
      December 10, 2011 at 9:09 pm

      As the article says, that's pretty much what natural scrolling is. The opposite of the scrolling that we're used to.

  3. Chasity
    December 10, 2011 at 10:45 am

    my friend's mom made $210472 so far just working on the laptop for a few hours. Read more here NuttyRich.c0m

  4. Anonymous
    December 8, 2011 at 2:50 pm

    "the same features as $1,000+ computers"? Come on. It's scrolling… the direction turns a $500 into a $1,000+ computer? It's the same thing as what you already have, but a different direction.

    • Danny Stieben
      December 10, 2011 at 9:10 pm

      Yes I know that scrolling alone doesn't suddenly make it work like a computer that cost twice as much. In that sentence, I was describing open source software in general.

      • Anonymous
        December 11, 2011 at 6:26 am

        I understand that, I just think it can be a bit ambiguous. Since you were talking about scrolling, that's the context people will place this sentence in. Still, nice app!

  5. Trevor Lenten
    December 8, 2011 at 1:15 pm

    Did this awhile ago and love it.

  6. Guest
    December 8, 2011 at 12:42 pm

    Most Mac users disabled this unnatural thing

    • Danny Stieben
      December 10, 2011 at 9:12 pm

      Do they? I haven't exactly kept track. Though there are still enough people who like the idea.

      • Anonymous
        December 11, 2011 at 6:34 am

        A lot of people hate it, because they are so used to the way it worked before. Since Macs have used two-finger scrolling since 2003, that's 8 years of muscle memory (for some older users) to unlearn and a new one to learn. I took the change, since I had been using ScrollReverser from PilotMoon on SL. It took me less than an hour to learn it, since I'm a brand new laptop Mac user. I started in 2007 with a desktop, so I'm kinda late to learn the scroll gesture. Maybe that's why it was easier for me to learn.

        There are two disadvantages for me:
        1. Some apps would be much better leaving it as unnatural scrolling, like games for example. When scrolling through weapons, it scrolls the opposite way.
        2. Scrolling upwards meets more resistance than scrolling downwards, at least on my laptop. This was what annoyed me more than the muscle memory when I was first learning this. Upwards is less smooth and as I mostly scroll down to uncover more content on a webpage, I was scrolling upwards all the time, and I was met with this resistance more often.

    • Bart
      December 15, 2011 at 6:45 am

      I use a Mac at home, and Windows at work (98% of time  VNC'd to linux server). For awhile after my upgrade to Lion, I was struggled with the two different schemes, but found I made more mistakes at work, so I switched windows to "natural", instead of disabling the feature in Lion.

  7. Hakim Amamou
    December 8, 2011 at 9:19 am

    VEry USeful tip

    • Danny Stieben
      December 10, 2011 at 9:11 pm

      Thank you, Hakim!