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Eclipse on Mac: Use Magic Mouse/Trackpad back and forward gestures

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Eclipse on Mac: Use Magic Mouse/Trackpad back and forward gestures

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The new Apple Magic Mouse is a  controversial piece of hardware.  Most people either really hate it or adore it. Personally, I think it is probably the best mouse I've ever used. There's a lot of criticism regarding the low profile of the mouse, suggesting it is not ergonomic. From my experience, I don't have any more wrist pains since I started using it. Ergonomics aside, the highlight of the mouse is the upper multi-touch surface with the enabled gestures.

I use the back and forward gestures a lot. Especially when browsing the web. Swipe two fingers to the left and go back. Swipe right to go forward. It is very easy to get used to it. It works in web browsers, it works in Finder windows and native applications are adding support as well. However, it doesn't work in Eclipse. I want to swipe back and forward when browsing code. Back, go to previous location. Forward, return to the next location.

I incidentally found a solution for that. There are many programs on the market that augment the Magic Mouse behavior. The reason for their existence is because Apple provides very limited gesture functionality. Other than back/forward and scroll, there's simply no support for other functions, not even Exposé or Spaces which were supported in the previous Mighty Mouse and are supported on the multi-touch trackpads. The most popular tools are MagicPrefs and BetterTouchTool (both free) but there are many others, free and commercial. Personally, I use MagicDriver, which is commercial (free while in beta). The reason I prefer it is because it has much lower CPU utilization, which was an issue for me in MagicPrefs.

MagicDriver replaces the back/forward gestures with their keyboard equivalent: ⌘+[ and ⌘+]. These shortcuts are commonly used in OS X. Eclipse, by default, also uses these keyboard shortcuts to navigate back and forward. It just works. MagicPrefs and BetterTouchTool will require some customization: you can define the two finger swipe left and right to fire these keyboard shortcuts rather than use the default back/forward functionality.

If you use a newer MacBook with a multi-touch trackpad or a Magic Trackpad, you can achieve the same functionality by using BetterTouchTool. AFAIK MagicPrefs does not support it and the current version of MagicDriver doesn't support it either.  BetterTouchTool also has the ability to define gestures per application, so you can customize the behavior specifically for Eclipse and leave it as is for the rest of the applications.

If you are new to these tools, I should warn you: defining too many gestures doesn't work very well. There are tons of options and it is very easy to get carried away and use as much as you can. However, there's probably a reason why Apple did not include support for all those gestures in the first place. It is very easy to "miss-fire" and perform gestures by accident. You don't always pay close attention to the number of fingers you have on the surface, so mistakes are very common. I just use a 3-finger click for expose. Don't be greedy and it will work just fine.

Finally, if you want proper native support for back/forward gestures in Eclipse, you can vote for this bug.

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Published at DZone with permission of Zviki Cohen. See the original article here.

Opinions expressed by DZone contributors are their own.

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