Scrolling in XP and Mac OS X

For those with a scroll wheel on their mouse, Mac OS has one nice feature that is annoyingly absent in Windows XP. In Mac OS, if you put your mouse cursor over a window and scroll, it scrolls the contents of that window – a document, a webpage, whatever. In Windows XP, it will only scroll if it is the ‘active’ application, and will ignore scrolling when the cursor is pointed elsewhere.

The difference may have to do with some deep mechanism by which Mac and Windows applications interact with the operating system, or it could be a minor configuration choice. Either way, the Windows approach is annoying.

Of course, Apple doesn’t do everything right. My fancy wireless Mighty Mouse is over in a dresser drawer somewhere, too annoying to use. Instead, I am using an old $20 Microsoft optical wheel mouse.

Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

6 thoughts on “Scrolling in XP and Mac OS X”

  1. There is a power toy from Microsoft that allows you to do exactly what you describe. Tt makes any window the cursor is over the ‘active’ window.

  2. That goes a bit further than I would like.

    Say I am typing an email in one window, but scrolling down a website in another. If I point my cursor into the browser window, I normally want to continue typing in the ‘active’ email application, but I do want to be able to scroll the browser window with the scroll wheel.

  3. I use a little utility called Katmouse in Windows. It allows you to scroll in whatever window the cursor is in. It’s free.

  4. The prime purpose of the KatMouse utility is to enhance the functionality of mice with a scroll wheel, offering ‘universal’ scrolling: moving the mouse wheel will scroll the window directly beneath the mouse cursor (not the one with the keyboard focus, which is default on Windows OSes). This is a major increase in the usefullness of the mouse wheel.

    Another feature involves the wheel button. Since the wheel button is not consistently used in Windows, KatMouse can use it for a kind of task switching: with a click of the wheel button you can push a window to the buttom of the stack of windows that is your desktop, making a recovered window the active window.

  5. I’m using OS X now and realizing this actually is a pretty nice feature. It doesn’t seem to work 100% of the time, though. Also, the active window thing with the XP Power toy is fairly intrusive.

    One thing I wish existed in OS X is the right click -> resize photos. It’s very handy.

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