I've been using Ubuntu for a while now, and I discovered today how to use what's called the natural scroll, which corresponds in fact to the same scroll as in a mac OS.

So in Ubuntu, unnatural scrolling is considered as scrolling two fingers to the bottom of your touchpad which moves your scroll to the bottom of the page.
While Ubuntu natural scrolling is considered as scrolling two fingers to the bottom, which scrolls your page to the top.

I understand that this natural scrolling is relevant for touchscreen, but can it be considered natural in the case of a touchpad?

  • 2
    Why are you asking this here instead of on a Ubuntu forum? Unless someone here specifically works for Ubuntu you're not likely to get an actual answer. Perhaps if you rephrase your question about whether scrolling up is more intuitive to moving the screen up / down that'd be a bit more suitable, but asking why Product X does something isn't really an answerable question.
    – JonW
    Commented Apr 25, 2014 at 13:10
  • @JonW I agree it was unclear, I hope this formulation is better now.
    – Kiwy
    Commented Apr 25, 2014 at 13:14
  • I think the edit makes this a very valid question.
    – DA01
    Commented Apr 25, 2014 at 16:42
  • @DA01 too bad that the answer has 7 upvote and my question 0 :D
    – Kiwy
    Commented Apr 27, 2014 at 22:55

2 Answers 2


"Inverted" scrolling/movement has been an age old problem especially for video games. The inherent problem is the "logical" reaction to moving down isn't always clear for non-touchscreens.

Why does moving down move the item up? Put your finger in the middle of a piece of paper and fix your eyes to the middle of the page. Press your finger down and move it downward--the paper has moved "down" but your eyes are closer to the "top" of the page, this is what natural scrolling is emulating. It feels much more natural on a touchscreen because the pixels are acting exactly as the paper is, on a touch pad the feedback is a bit less clear, and can take some getting used to either way.

What you're seeing is a conflict in what's really the conflict between direct manipulation (move the trackpad up to move the cursor up) and not-quite-direct manipulation ("dragging" the page down, with the same trackpad). I'm not convinced there's a real solution to this other than to allow the user to change this at will, as video games generally do, and make the defaults internally consistent so users can learn how to operate them easily.


I think Ben's answer is excellent. I'd maybe go with a short-and-sweet explanation, however:

  • 'traditional' scrolling = user is manipulating the scroll bar
  • 'natural' scrolling = user is manipulating the document itself

Natural scrolling is a necessity on a touch screen, as your finger is a lot fatter and clumsier than a cursor, so you can't easily interact with the scroll bar.

For a while, touch screens were the exception, rather than the norm, so touch pads still emulated the 'norm' (mouse interactions).

FFWD a decade or so and now touch screens are very much the norm, so touch pads have switched teams and now emulate touch screens.

  • interresting point of view indeed, though touchscreen are still not the norm on computers, but more on phone
    – Kiwy
    Commented Apr 25, 2014 at 18:13
  • @kiwy they tend to be the norm (or close to being) 'in general'--at least for the generation coming up. I'd bet that for many people, they spend as much time with a touch device as a keyboard these days.
    – DA01
    Commented Apr 25, 2014 at 18:52

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