Mac Scroll Bars

Mac scroll bar settings

A vertical or horizontal bar commonly on the far right or bottom of a window that allows you to move the window viewing area up, down, left, or right. Most people today are familiar with scroll bars because of the need to scroll up and down on almost every Internetweb page.

System Preferences (from the Apple Menu) General. Here’s how Show scroll bars setting typically looks by default (with Automatically based on mouse or trackpad selected). Yes, a “magic” mouse can cause scroll bars to be hidden with this default setting. Change the Show scroll bars setting to Always. This will force the scroll bars on. A few years ago, Apple switched their scrolling direction to follow this analogy. The Scroll Bar Analogy. Another way to look at (Windows-style) scrolling is that you are interacting with the scrollbar, rather than with the controls. Apple is not keen on the whole concept of scrollbars currently, and hides them in many contexts by default. You can read this tip on the web at:‎Wondering what happened to the scroll bars on your.

Scroll bar overview

Below is an image of a Microsoft Windows window with a vertical and horizontal scroll bar.

How to scroll and use the scroll bar

Scroll bars are utilized using the mouse, touchpad, or keyboard. With a mouse, you can move the scroll bar by clicking the scroll arrow at either end of the scroll bars. You may also click on an empty portion of the scroll bar, or click-and-drag the scroll box. With a keyboard, you can use the up or down arrow keys to scroll a few lines at a time. The page up and page down keys or the spacebar scroll down one page at a time.

Most computers today include a mouse with a wheel or button, allowing you to scroll up and down, and in some cases, left to right. See the IntelliMouse definition for additional information about these mice.


On an Apple computer, some programs, such as Safari, may not display a scroll bar. To scroll up and down in these programs, touch two fingers on your touchpad or touch mouse and drag them up or down.

Mac Preview Scroll Bars


See our touchpad page for other methods of scrolling using a laptop touchpad.

How do I use or enable the horizontal scroll bar?

The horizontal scroll bar is often missing or disabled because the text or other content being displayed is wrapped or resized to prevent horizontal scrolling. For example, with this web page, there is no horizontal scrolling because it's designed to fit the screen. If you are viewing a page that has horizontal scrolling, you can scroll to the right by clicking the right scroll arrow on the horizontal scroll bar.


To enable horizontal scrolling on a long text document, you can disable word wrap. When working with images or other documents, zooming in also enables horizontal scrolling.

How many scroll bars are in a window?

There is often only one scroll bar in a window, which is the vertical scroll bar that allows you to scroll up and down in a window. Many programs automatically wrap the text in a window as you change the size of the window or zoom into the document. Programs that have a fixed window size or do not have word wrap enabled display a horizontal scroll bar as the window is resized. For these programs, there would be two scroll bars, a horizontal and vertical scroll bar.

Should I be using 'scroll bar' or 'scrollbar' in my writing?

Both 'scroll bar' and 'scrollbar' are correct depending on the context and where it's used or the style guide being followed. For most style guides, 'scroll bar' as two words is used when describing the bar or feature that allows you to scroll, up, down, left, or right. When referring to a configuration, object, or setting 'scrollbar' as one word is used.

Related pages

Horizontal scroll, Mouse terms, Scroll, Software terms, Vertical scroll, Wheel mouse

How to always show scroll bars on a Mac

What if you were missing out on web content just because your Mac wasn’t telling you that you could scroll?

It turns out that this is the default on the current version of OS X. So there’s a good chance you are missing content.

Here’s the short and sweet steps to a solution.

  1. System Preferences (from the Apple Menu) > General.
  2. Change the Show scroll bars setting to Always.

The Problem and the Solution in Detail

How To Restore Scroll Bar

Here’s a screen capture from a demo that Keith Gilbert created for a lesson he wrote on creating interactivity from InDesign (such as scrolling frames).

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Unfortunately, my Mac isn’t giving me any indication that this content is scrollable (even in Firefox, a non-Apple web browser).

The fix is quick if you know where to find it.

System Preferences (from the Apple Menu) > General.

Here’s how Show scroll bars setting typically looks by default (with Automatically based on mouse or trackpad selected).

Yes, a “magic” mouse can cause scroll bars to be hidden with this default setting.

Change the Show scroll bars setting to Always. This will force the scroll bars on whenever there is scrolling.

And there’s the scroll bar! The change is typically visible right away.

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