How to use a third-party mouse on Mac and get trackpad gestures

How to use a third-party mouse on Mac and get trackpad gestures

Apple’s Magic Mouse is an excellent peripheral for Mac, but it has its fair share of flaws that deter users, especially newbies, from buying it. Hence, many tend to use a third-party mouse on Mac. This leads to missing out on some amazing trackpad gestures that otherwise are available on the Magic Mouse.

But there’s a way out! I recently found a workaround while setting up my Dell’s mouse, and now, it seamlessly runs all the macOS gestures. Let me show you how to properly set up a third-party mouse (like Dell, HP, or Lenovo) and get those smart gestures on it.

How to connect a wireless mouse to Mac

First of all, let’s get your mouse connected to your Mac. Don’t worry. Even if the packaging of your mouse says ‘compatible with Windows,’ there are high chances that the mouse will work with your Mac.

There are two types of wireless mouse in the market: one with Bluetooth, and the other with a 2.4GHz wireless USB connector.

  • If you got a Bluetooth mouse, simply switch on the mouse’s Bluetooth, go to System Preferences → Bluetooth on your Mac and connect to the mouse.

    Click on Bluetooth in System Preferences on Mac
    You may need to hold and press the power button to enable the pairing mode.
  • For a mouse with a USB stick, simply insert the USB stick in your Mac and start using it. The Mac will automatically install the drivers for the mouse in the background.
    Depending on your Mac or MacBook, you might have to spend a few more bucks on a USB-C to USB-A adapter.

Tweak the basic mouse settings on Mac

Once you’ve connected the mouse to your Mac, tweak the settings as per your preference. After all, the mouse is the one that lets you navigate macOS.

1. Turn off Natural Scrolling

First of all, you’ll need to tweak the ‘Scrolling’ settings. You must have noticed that once you connect a mouse to a Mac, moving the wheel up and down does the opposite of what you want it to do. This is because, on a Mac, you’re used to using the two-fingers swipe-up gesture to move a website or a page in the downwards direction.

However, when using a mouse, moving the wheel in the backward direction feels natural. You need to disable Natural Scrolling to stop this from happening.

To do this:

  1. Go to System Preferences.
  2. Select Mouse settings.
  3. Uncheck Scroll Direction: Natural.
Turn off Natural Scrolling on Mac

2. Set Tracking, Scrolling and Double-Click Speeds

macOS lets you set different speeds for controlling your mouse:

  • Tracking Speed: This speed means how fast your Mac can recognize a mouse movement. The faster the tracking speed, the faster the gestures.
  • Scrolling Speed: This determines the amount of page scrolled when you spin the wheel button. The faster the scrolling speed, the faster the page will be scrolled. I wouldn’t recommend you to change this speed.
  • Double-Click Speed: As the name suggests, it determines how fast the double click can be tracked. The faster the speed, the faster your Mac will determine click gestures. If you increase this speed, your Mac will even recognize faintest of faintest mouse clicks.
Set Tracking, Scrolling and Double-Click Speeds on Mac

3. Turn on Spring Loading

I’m sure you’re aware of the feature when you hold a file over a folder, and the folder opens. Well, Apple has disabled this gesture with the third-party mouse by default.

To enable, go to System Preferences AccessibilityPointer ControlMouse & Trackpad → turn on Spring Loading. The shorter the Spring Loading delay, the faster the folder will open when you hover a file over it.

Turn on Spring Loading on Mac

Use Mac Trackpad gestures with a regular mouse

One of the limitations of using a third-party mouse with a Mac is that you don’t get to use the Mac trackpad gestures, such as three-finger swipe to switch windows or three-finger swipe up to open Mission Control.

Worry not! Using a third-party tool called xGestures, you can use some of the Mac trackpad gestures with your regular mouse as well. Follow these steps:

  1. First, download and install xGestures on your Mac.

    Download and install xGestures on your Mac
    xGestures is a free-to-use tool that helps you to map custom gestures to a mouse.
  2. Now, go ahead and download three Apple Scripts.
    It will enable you to use a three-finger window switch gesture and a three-finger swipe up to use the Mission Control gesture with a mouse.
  3. Save these Apple Scripts in a separate folder, and do not delete these Apple Scripts.

    Save Apple Scripts in a separate folder on Mac
    Note: Deleting these Apple Scripts will disable Mac gestures on the mouse.
  4. Now, go to System Preferences → open xGestures.
  5. Select if you want to perform the gesture while holding the middle button (the scrolling wheel) or by using the left or right button.
    You can even customize it to perform the gesture when you’re holding the Command button.
  6. Go to the third tab — Applications.
  7. Checkmark Enable Global Gestures and select New Gesture.

    select New Gesture from xGestures on Mac
  8. Swipe right while holding the middle button.
    The window screen should say ‘Right.’

    Swipe right while holding the middle button on Mac
  9. Choose Gesture Action as Run AppleScript.

    Choose Gesture Action as Run AppleScript on Mac
  10. Select the ctrl Right file for the Left gesture and ctrl left for the right gesture.
    This is because when you switch a window from left to right, you actually swipe towards left thus performing the ‘Control +’gesture.
  11. Similarly, add gestures for Swipe Left (Ctrl Right file) and Swipe Up (Ctrl Up file).
  12. Click Apply Settings.
  13. Go to the Options tab and select Start xGestures.

    Click Apply Settings on Mac

You can now go ahead and use the three-finger gesture on your Mac with the mouse. I’ve attached a GIF above to show how it works. (I’m holding the middle button while performing these gestures.)

Note: The service might get killed abruptly due to macOS background processes. Just go to System Preferences xGestures OptionsStart xGestures to re-enable it.

With this guide, I hope you’re able to use a third-party mouse on Mac and run all the trackpad gestures.

If you want to create your own AppleScripts to mimic Mac trackpad gestures, you can do so. Just copy the files given above and change the keycode and gesture action. You can find here the keycodes for Mac’s keyboard.

If you have any issue mapping gestures to a mouse, let me know in the comments section below. I’ll be more than happy to help!

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  1. Do you mean the settings for the built-in trackpad or another mouse? If it’s an external mouse, it may not be compatible with your Mac or with xGestures.

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