Lion Scroll Behavior

lionNow that Lion has been released, some of you may have  noticed the new scroll behavior.  For those of you who haven’t yet, scroll behavior is reversed in Lion as compared to previous versions of Mac OS X, and matches the scroll behavior in iOS.  This means that when you move your fingers/wheel down, content moves down and when you move your fingers/wheel up, content moves up.

Apple calls the new behavior “natural”.  Whether you love it or hate it, you may be called upon to change it.  Luckily, this is a setting stored in a standard plist file , making it easy to manage.

The preference file involved is .GlobalPreferences.plist

The key is

Values are true (Lion behavior) and false (previous behavior).

To change the scroll behavior for the current user (there are no line breaks in this command)…

defaults write ~/Library/Preferences/.GlobalPreferences -bool <value>

To change the scroll behavior for all users (there are no line breaks in this command either)…

defaults write /Library/Preferences/.GlobalPreferences -bool <value>

For example: the following command will make scrolling in Lion behave as it did in prior versions of Mac OS X, for the current user (again, no line breaks).

defaults write ~/Library/Preferences/.GlobalPreferences -bool false

Note that the behavior will not change until after a logout.  When changing the setting via the System Preferences GUI, it would seem that System Preferences is also forcing a re-read of the .GlobalPreferences.plist file.  If any readers know how to force that re-read, please share that information in the comments.

I have not yet tested it, but all indications point toward this working as an MCX setting.  This should work just as well as managing any other .GlobalPreferences item with MCX.

9 thoughts on “Lion Scroll Behavior”

    1. @Beth Thanks for the input! You’re absolutely correct, and this info is great for a home user or someone who wants to change the setting on their own account. This article was intended for sysadmins who may need to preset or manage these settings for a large user community.


  1. This is exactly what I was looking for! Thank you!! @Beth Its much different when one is trying to set up a default user account and can’t copy certain attributes over. I can’t ask every person that uses our public computers to get use to the natural scrolling, or to change the setting themselves after login. System administration isn’t the easiest thing on macs and articles like this help save me hours of trying to figure it out on my own.


  2. @Beth :Goodluck when you are running on a Mac Pro without a trackpad though 🙂

    @ The Mac Admin: Tnx for the GlobalPreferences.plist info, saved me a lot of frustration there


  3. Well well I hope it works in 10.8, I’ll test it tomorrow.
    It’s a nightmare with 10.8 Server as the settings are not respected/remembered … maybe with this I can force it.
    Thanks for the tip !


  4. Has anyone gotten this to work? I’ve been trying to get this set for a image i’m creating for all my users. Using Lion 10.7.4 I go to terminal write “sudo defaults write /Library/Preferences/.GlobalPreferences -bool false” after which I log out of my current Admin user and log into a new user (network mobile login) This new user still has Apple’s natural scrolling enabled and I cannot scroll like it did in 10.6.8.


    1. I haven’t tested setting this preference in the root Library, /Library. I do know the command works as written for the User Library, ~/Library. Preferences set in the User Library apply to that user only.

      The behavior that you’re seeing is consistent with setting the preference for only one user.


  5. Thanks, that is a great tip. I could not find where this was hidden and did not think to look for an invisible file! I just tried this trick in Profile Manager, adding it as a custom setting and it worked fine. Now to find the rest of the settings that have gotten moved in Lion/Mountain Lion 😉


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