How to Customize Powerful Gesture Controls on OS X

By Anthony Heddings on July 29th, 2015

The trackpad gestures and keyboards shortcuts on OS X are highly customizable right out of the box, but if you’re a power user who wants to tweak every setting possible, you may have to resort to third-party software. BetterTouchTool is a utility designed to make gesture controls more powerful on OS X.

Download BetterTouchTool

The first step is downloading BetterTouchTool. You can grab a copy of it here. The download is a zip of the application, so installing is as easy as dragging it into your Applications folder and running it. BetterTouchTool will set itself to run on startup, so you don’t need to launch it manually every time you restart your computer. If you ever decide you don’t want it, you can simply delete the application file. After it opens, you should see a new icon in your menubar, and this window:

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This is the configuration for BetterTouchTool. From here you can customize any number of gestures and tweak the settings for BetterTouchTool itself. Gesture control works very well with the multi-touch trackpads on MacBooks, but it has support for keyboards, the Magic Mouse, normal mice, the Apple Remote, the Leap Motion controller, and Wacom tablets. It also has it’s own companion app for iOS in the App Store.

Once you have the configuration window up, mouse over to the sidebar where it says “Select Application”. We will go ahead and select “Global” for our tutorial, but you can configure separate gestures for individual applications.

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Adding Gestures

Clicking the “Add New Gesture” button will add a new, blank gesture to the list:

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You can attach a single trigger and multiple actions to a gesture. The trigger depends on your personal preference and what device you are using, but BetterTouchTool provides a large number of gestures for each device, even supporting custom gestures you can define yourself.

Each gesture also has five modifier keys, allowing for nearly unlimited customization. You can set these in any combination.

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The place where BetterTouchTool really shines is with actions you can run. Here are some of the features we found to be the most useful:

  • Sending Keyboard Shortcuts
  • Resizing and Snapping Windows
  • Opening Applications
  • Showing Hidden Files in Finder
  • Controlling System Settings, like Brightness and Volume
  • Showing the Menubar in a Right-Click Menu
  • Running Terminal Commands
  • Running Automator Workflows

The list is very long. We recommend you download it and play with different settings to see which gestures fit right for you.

Anthony Heddings is a tech writer and student at George Mason University. When he's not playing Minecraft, he's configuring his Minecraft server. He's @anthonyheddings on Twitter.

  • Published 07/29/15
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