OS X Lion: Vanishing Scroll Bars & How to Get Them Back

OS X Lion: Vanishing Scroll Bars & How to Get Them Back

Joelle Alcaidinho
Jul 21, 2011

After installing Lion yesterday one of the first things we realized was the lack of scroll bars. This led to thinking about what cues we take from the scroll bar and if we should, 1. Mourn their loss & get them back, or 2. Be thrilled about the extra screen real estate & embrace the future. Read on for our two cents on scroll bars and how to restore them in Lion if you so desire.

To be perfectly honest scroll bars were not something we gave much thought to till they disappeared from our screens. The first place we spotted this was on our iPhone, scroll bars in iOS appear when "scrolling," but are not always present on the side of the screen. We found this not to be terribly confusing because we knew there was more information than what was currently visible on the screen, but were a little annoyed that we could not know at a glance, for example, just how much more information was remaining in an article.

Scroll bars have been an integral but quiet part of our computer using experience and in our lifetime we have seen them change slightly in design, but still remain largely unchanged in their purpose. The function of scroll bars is primarily to indicate where you are in what you are doing and to present scope. A good example of this is when looking at Applications in Finder. I see a small number of Application in a small window in Finder, but the scroll bar lets me know that what I am seeing is only representative of 1/4 of the total content of this folder.

New computer users who are unfamiliar with the number of applications installed on their Mac might be thrown for a loop by the lack of a scroll bar in Finder. The scroll bar is not completely gone, but like in iOS, it reappears when scrolling. In the time that we have spent using Lion we find that we are the most bothered by the lack of scroll bars when reading in Safari (since they are still present in Firefox 5). We would like to know when reading various blogs just how much more content there is on the page without having to activate the presence of the scroll bar by scrolling, as it is adds more time and changes our reading experience ever so slightly. However, outside of this issue we have adjusted to not seeing them on the screen and automatically know to scroll down for more in other areas of our OS.

Why did Apple do this? One of our theories is for the screen real estate that the scroll bars took up. With machines like the 11" MacBook Air becoming more popular, every bit of screen space counts and the "floating" scroll bars does, according to a fantastic in-depth review on Ars Technica by John Siracusa, typically take up 16 pixels.

Upgraded to Lion but want the scroll bars you know and love? Getting them back is simple, just go to System Preferences, General, and under "Show scroll bars:" you can turn back time and return to the scroll bar presence you know and love by selecting "Always."

More computer tips and tricks from the Unplggd archives:

What do you think of scroll bars the Lion way? Will you miss the way they were and change the default Lion settings or are you embracing the new look?

(Images: Flickr member Peter Harrison licensed for use under Creative Commons)

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