Mac Tips: Smarter Scrolling (OS 9 only)

The scrollbar, arrows and scrollbox are on almost every Mac window. "Smart Scrolling" is an option in the Appearance control panel which changes the way the scrollbar works. This is turned on by default, in Control Panels-->Appearance-->Options (OS 8.5 thru 9.2). But this option is a mixed blessing that is easily improved by running these two applescripts to make your scrollbar even smarter.

The Smarter Arrows App is based on a script by John Gunnison. The Smarter ScrollBox App is based on a script by Colin A. Foster. Tony Brooke modified each to make them easier to use.

appearance control panel

The "scroll arrows" are only active when there is more content than the window can show at its present size. Originally, each arrow was at either end of the scrollbar.

The "scrollbox" is the box between the arrows which you can grab to scroll the window (also only active when needed).

Smart Scrolling on

[Smart Scrolling off]

With Smart Scrolling on, the arrows are together at one end, and the scrollbox is "proportional." This actively adjusts the size of the box to show how much of the total contents are shown in the window. It gives a better idea of relative window size.

We like the new scrollbox, but not the new arrow placement. A better option is to have BOTH arrows at BOTH ends, for quick access to these essential controls from anywhere on the screen.

But the Appearance control panel only gives you two Smart Scrolling options: "on" or "off," which affect both the arrows and the box. It is set to "on" by default, but there is no option for double arrows at both ends.

Smart Scrolling off

[Smart Scrolling on]

The "best of both worlds" solution is the one-time use of a simple application which gives you access to hidden settings. Download this tiny app and run it once. It will offer you choices and then change the settings for you.

This "Smarter ScrollBar" stays in effect through restarts, until you change it again with the app or in the Appearance CP. (No control panels or extensions are installed. These hidden settings are in the Mac OS, but Appearance can't access them.)

See below for the step-by-step method...

after modification

[Smarter ScrollBar]

Here's how to do it:

  1. Download this super-tiny application (4k, stuffed): Smarter Arrows App. (Decompress with the free Stuffit Expander.)

  2. Make sure Smart Scrolling is on in the Appearance Control Panel (Control Panels-->Appearance-->Options, see above).

    (While you're there, turn on the other option too. This additional "windowshade" method is easier than the tiny "collapse box" in the upper right corner of every window.)

  3. Run the Smarter Arrows App. You will see this dialog box:

    scrollarrow mod app

  4. Click "Double."

  5. Wait as it makes the change and then closes the control panel. The check box next to the "Smart Scrolling" option becomes a minus sign. That's it! (If it doesn't work, see below.)

A few notes:

  1. If you change the Smart Scrolling setting in the Control Panel you will have to run the application again.
  2. A few older applications might not show the proportional scrollbox, but almost all apps and the Finder will.
  3. If you want similar independent control of the proportional scrollbox too, download this Smarter ScrollBox App, and follow the same procedure (Decompress with the free Stuffit Expander.).

    It looks like this:

    scrollbox mod app

  4. These apps won't work if for some reason you have disabled AppleScript. "AppleScript" and "AppleScriptLib" should be in the extensions folder.

  5. If it doesn't work, try mucking with the applescript code. There are a number of reasons why you might get an error when you launch one of these. Here's the uncompiled AppleScript for Smarter Arrows and for Smarter Scrollbox. You'll have as much luck tinkering with it yourself as I would trying to diagnose your system remotely. Good Luck!