While Microsoft has decided to implement a touch-based interface in Windows 8.1 (much to the ire of many Windows users), Apple has avoided this potential disaster and instead developed excellent solutions for OS X on its Trackpad and Magic Mouse. If you don't know about the various gestures of which these devices are capable then you're missing out on some of the quickest ways to navigate around OS X. Here we'll show you our favourites and answer the perennial question of how you right click on a Mac.

Read: How to right-click on a Mac

See also: How to control your Mac with mid-air hand gestures

And Best Mac mouse

Control your Mac with gestures: Enabling gestures for the Magic Mouse and Magic Trackpad

 If you own a MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, or even use a Magic Trackpad or Magic Mouse with your iMac or Mac Mini, then there are a wealth of excellent multi-finger gesture commands available to you. To find them you'll first need to go to System Settings>[Trackpad or Mouse] then peruse the list. Each command is also accompanied with a video demonstration that shows the gesture and what it does on your Mac. To the left of each command you'll see a tick box, which you'll need to click if you want the gesture to be enabled. Within the settings are various tabs - Point & Click, and More Gestures for the Mouse, with an additional Scroll & Zoom section for the Trackpad. Each of the commands listed below will be found in one of these.

control OSX with gestures

Read: 10 tweaks for Mac OS X you didn't know are possible

Control your Mac with gestures: Scrolling on a Trackpad

Two finger scrolling is a very useful gesture, and one you will use probably more than any other. These days its a default on any new Mac (or indeed Windows machine) and all it involves is using two fingers rather than one whenever you want the contents of a screen to move up or down. So when you point at something on a page you move one finger around the trackpad, but if you want to then scroll the document or webpage add a second finger and move them both in the direction you want the display to go. This saves you having to find the scroll bar on the right side of a window, or using the age old CTRL+[Arrow key] to make the contents leap up a page.

Read next: Magic Trackpad 2 review | Mac accessory reviews

Control your Mac with gestures: Disabling natural scrolling on Trackpad and Mouse

A few years ago Apple started using something it calls natural scrolling. This seeks to emulate the physical act of you moving content - i.e. if you push your fingers up on the trackpad the content on the screen will move up. Some people seem to like this, but as it's essentially reversing the way most of use have used trackpads for a good number of years, it's not always appropriate. To disable the feature go to the Scroll & Zoom tab and ensure the Scroll direction: natural option isn't ticked. The same rules apply for the Mouse too.

control OSX with gestures

Control your Mac with gestures: Right clicking on a Mac mouse

As Trackpads and Magic Mouse devices don't have separate left and right buttons it can be a little confusing at first to know how to bring up the right-click menu. Within the Point & Click tab you'll see the Secondary click command, this is the one that you'll need to define how the right click function works. When you enable the command look to see the description written below 'Secondary click', this is actually a drop down menu. Click on this and you'll have the option to either tap two fingers anywhere on your trackpad to right-click, or allocate the bottom left or right hand corner of the trackpad to open the menu when you click it. For the Magic Mouse you have settings that mean you either click the top right side of the mouse or the left, depending on what you prefer. Don't forget that you can also hold down the CTRL button as you tap or click to give you similar results.

control OSX with gestures

Control your Mac with gestures: Look up definitions on a trackpad

Another really useful gesture is 'Look up'. This simple idea allows you to instantly search for dictionary definitions and wikipedia entries on any text when you tap on it with three fingers. The best part is that you won't be taken to another app or browser, but instead a small pop-up window appears next to the word or phrase in which you were interested. To enable this excellent feature go to Point & Click and tick the Look up box.

control OSX with gestures

Control your Mac with gestures: Navigate websites by swiping

One way to speed up interacting with websites is to use the Swipe between pages gesture. When enabled (you'll find it at the top the list in the More gestures tab) you can move back to a previous page on a website simply by swiping two fingers to the left on a trackpad, or swiping one finger to the right on a Magic Mouse. To go forward again just reverse the process. This also works in other apps that have back/forward buttons, such as the App Store.

control OSX with gestures

Control your Mac with gestures: Zooming on a trackpad or mouse

If you use iPhoto then the Zoom gesture is one you'll want to learn. Just as you would on an iPad or iPhone, zooming on a trackpad involves putting pulling your thumb and one finger together in a pinching motion to make things smaller, or pushing them apart to make things larger. It also works in Safari for looking in more detail at webpages. Double-tapping on the trackpad with two fingers will also zoom within some apps, and repeating the tap will zoom out again. This double tap feature also works on the Magic Mouse, just remember not to click the top, just tap the middle of the device instead.

control OSX with gestures

Control your Mac with gestures: Rotate images on a trackpad

By twisting a finger and thumb around each other you can rotate items in apps like Preview and iPhoto, although only 90 degrees each time. To rotate 180 degrees you’d have to rotate once, then repeat the gesture to rotate a second time.

 control OSX with gestures

Control your Mac with gestures: Mission Control and Exposé

Two of the most useful ways of navigating around OS X is by using the gestures for Mission Control and Expose. Swiping up with three fingers activates Mission Control, which displays all the apps currently running on your Mac, and allows you to quickly swap between them.  Swiping down again cancels the command. This gesture also works on the Mouse by double tapping two fingers on the body of the device.

By ticking the box under the More Gestures tab in Trackpad’s System Preferences, you can swipe down with three fingers to activate App Exposé. This will show just the open windows related to the app you're working on, which can be very useful if you've lost a pop up window somewhere behind your web browser. 

control OSX with gestures

Control your Mac with gestures: Quickly view the desktop on a trackpad

If you want to quickly clear all your open windows away and get back to the desktop, then you need to use the Launchpad gesture. To execute this place a thumb and three fingers apart together on the trackpad and then spread them apart. Everything on the screen will now disappear off to the sides and you'll see the desktop. Reversing the gesture brings them all back, and if you bring them together again you'll enter the Launchpad section with shows you all of your installed apps. 

control OSX with gestures

Control your Mac with gestures: Open the notification centre on a trackpad

If you want to respond to social network messages, check your schedule, or use any other notification widget you may have installed, simply swipe two fingers in from just outside the right hand edge of the trackpad to open the Notification centre. 

control OSX with gestures

And here’s what is coming in the next version of OS X...