How to Get Back Three-Finger Tap in OS X El Capitan

Three-finger tap has been a great trackpad shortcut in OS X for a while, but it’s disabled by default in OS X El Capitan. Here’s how to get back the three-finger tap gesture in Apple’s latest Mac operating system.

The three-finger tap gesture allows you to simply tap with three fingers on your MacBook’s trackpad with your mouse cursor over a word in order to quickly get a definition of that word. It saved time from having to open up a new tab and finding the definition manually.

We’re not exactly sure why Apple disabled the three-finger tap this time around in OS X El Capitan, but it’s probably because the newer MacBooks with Force Touch don’t really need the three-finger tap anymore. However, those will older Macs can still utilize the gesture just like before. Plus, users can either Force Touch enabled or the three-finger tap enabled, but not both.

However, if you’re one with an older MacBook, it might be a good idea to re-enable the gestures and get back three-finger tap just like with previous versions of OS X. Here’s how to do it.

Getting Back the Three-Finger Tap for Dictionary

If the three-finger tap gesture was something that you used a lot in past OS X versions, then you were probably pretty disappointed when you tried to activate the gesture in El Capitan but came up short. Luckily, it’s really easy to re-enable the feature.

All you need to do is open up System Preferences, click on Trackpad, and select the Point & Click tab at the top if it isn’t already selected.

From there, place a checkmark next to Look up & data detectors. This will re-enable the dictionary look-up feature for words that you select using the gesture.

While you’re there, you may as well look over some of the other trackpad gestures that you can take advantage of. For instance, in the Scroll & Zoom tab, you can change the direction that the page scrolls whenever you scroll on the trackpad, and you can also enable a few cool features that take advantage of two-finger gestures, like pinching, rotating, and zooming.

The More Gestures tab has even more trackpad gestures to take advantage of. You can swipe between pages and apps, quickly bring up the Notification Center and Mission Control, and even enable a gesture that gets you back to your desktop more quickly.

Unfortunately, you can’t customize trackpad gestures and shortcuts like you can with your keyboard (and there are a lot of great keyboard shortcuts that you should know), but there are plenty of third-party tools that can expand trackpad usability and allow you to create new gestures and such, with BetterTouchTool being a great option for this.

Of course, if you don’t use three-finger tap all that often — if ever — then there’s no harm in leaving the feature disabled like it was. Plus, you can still right-click on a word and select Look up in dictionary, which is still quick to do when you need to know the definition of a particular word.

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