7 Apps to Customize Your Mac Controls | MakeUseOf

macOS gives you a few options to tweak your mouse and keyboard controls, but these apps let you customize them completely.

If you want to customize your mouse, trackpad, or keyboard controls, macOS lets you do that right out of the box. You can edit keyboard shortcuts and change certain gesture settings. But there are also many things you can’t do–actions that can’t be assigned just how you want them.

Thankfully, there are many third-party applications that let you go beyond the limits of macOS, so you can customize your Mac controls in many different ways. Here are some of the best.

1. BetterTouchTool

Despite its name, BetterTouchTool does much more than customizing the touch controls of your trackpad or Magic Mouse. It can also be used to set up your Touch Bar, your keyboard, a regular mouse, a Siri Remote, and more.

For each of these, it offers an array of options. With the Magic Mouse, for example, you can alter the behavior of clicks, swipes, pinch/zoom, ignore areas, and multi-finger taps. You can also create your own keyboard shortcuts and record key sequences.

With BetterTouchTool, you can easily set up actions, which are triggered by mouse buttons, keyboard combinations, and touch gestures. Actions range from things like taking screen grabs to powering down your Mac, as well as more complex series of input.

BetterTouchTool includes some useful bonus features too, including customizable window snapping, a clipboard manager, and a screenshot tool.

You can buy a two-year license, a lifetime license, or get the app free as part of the Setapp subscription service. The free trial lasts 45 days.

Download: BetterTouchTool ($8.50 for two-year license, $20.50 for lifetime license)

2. SteerMouse

SteerMouse is a simple utility that adds itself to your System Preferences. It doesn’t support Apple’s Magic Mouse or Magic Trackpad. Instead, it enables you to customize the controls of non-Apple mice, which don’t always behave as you would expect them to in macOS. Side mouse buttons, for example, may not navigate back and forward in web browsers.

SteerMouse can customize up to eight mouse buttons, which can each be assigned an action. That includes back and forward browser controls, Mission Control actions, music controls, and more.

You can also customize your mouse wheel and cursor behavior. This includes mouse acceleration as well as the speed of the cursor. Cursor snapping, if enabled, automatically moves your cursor to the default button in dialog boxes.

SteerMouse has a 30-day trial period before you need to buy a license.

Download: SteerMouse ($19.99, $12.99 for upgrade)

3. Jitouch 2

Jitouch 2 is an older app, which used to be paid but is now available for free. The last version released was a beta for Mojave, so bear in mind it probably isn’t supported anymore.

If you’re okay with that and provided Jitouch 2 works on your Mac, it might be worth a try if you want a free way to customize your Mac's touch controls.

Jitouch 2 is a simple app that you access through System Preferences. It allows you to customize trackpad and Magic Mouse controls, including button presses and swipes. You can assign actions to each of these.

With your trackpad or any mouse, you can also trigger actions by drawing letters on your screen. You might, for instance, click and hold your right mouse button, and then draw a “B”. That, by default, opens your web browser. This can all be customized to how you want.

Download: Jitouch 2 (Free)

4. Trackpad++

Notably, Trackpad++ is made for Macs but not macOS. It’s a trackpad application for Boot Camp installations of Windows on MacBooks.

Apple already provides Windows drivers and tools for its trackpads, but Trackpad++ takes things further. It gives you more control over multi-finger gestures, better ability to ignore accidental input, improved scrolling, and greater pointer accuracy.

Trackpad++ is completely free, and it currently supports MacBook models from mid-2009 right up to mid-2020.

Note that it doesn’t support Apple’s Magic Trackpad or Magic Trackpad 2. For that, the same developer has created ExtraMagic, which is also available for free.

Download: Trackpad++ (Free)

5. Keyboard Maestro

Keyboard Maestro is a powerful customization and automation tool. You can use it to assign any number of actions to a particular key or keyboard combination. Examples include typing your email address, opening a particular web page or application, changing a setting in an app, or just about anything else you can think of.

With Keyboard Maestro, you can create all manner of complex macros, but it enables you to make more basic tweaks to your Mac controls as well.

Related: The Most Useful Mac Keyboard Shortcuts to Know

Keyboard Maestro is not as immediately accessible as some of the other programs on this list. If you don’t require a fully-fledged macro tool, you might be better off with something less complicated.

After the month-long trial period, you can buy a Keyboard Maestro license, which covers that version. Major new releases require a new license.

Download: Keyboard Maestro ($36, $25 for upgrade)

6. Swish

There are already plenty of built-in gestures for the Magic Mouse and Apple trackpads, but Swish adds even more control to your touch gestures. It supports the Magic Trackpad, as well as the Magic Mouse.

With Swish, you can customize a variety of gestures, including swipes, pinches, and taps. You can use these to control windows and apps, as well as screens and spaces.

Swish is designed to be as elegant as possible, integrating seamlessly with macOS. It’s not as powerful as BetterTouchTool, but it’s more straightforward. Swish's developer suggests using them alongside each other.

Like BetterTouchTool, you can buy a license for Swish or get it as part of a Setapp subscription.

Download: Swish ($9)

7. Karabiner Elements Karabiner Elements for Mac settings

Karabiner Elements is a free program that enables you to customize your keyboard input.

You can do simple modifications, like changing one key into another key, but more complex edits are possible too. You can also do things like using a combination of keys to return a single character. This would be useful if you needed to type an unusual character that isn't available on your keyboard.

Furthermore, you can apply different settings to different keyboards. You can also create multiple profiles. So no matter who's using your Mac, on which keyboard, they can have their own settings.

Download: Karabiner Elements (Free)

Which App Should You Use To Customize Your Mac Controls?

Some of these applications are relatively simple, while others are much more complicated. SteerMouse, for example, is focused simply on improving the performance of third-party mice on Macs. Swish does something similar for Mac trackpads.

BetterTouchTool and Keyboard Maestro are much more powerful tools. They enable you to use keyboard combinations and gestures not just for basic controls but for more complex actions as well. You can also launch macros to automate all kinds of tasks. This is a great way to deal with actions you repeat a lot. You could also use these tools to customize a third-party keyboard on your Mac.

If you want a free app to customize your Mac controls, there aren’t many options. Karabiner Elements works for keyboard controls. Touchpad++ and ExtraMagic are fine but are limited to Boot Camp. If you want to customize your trackpad in macOS without paying, then Jitouch 2 will work, but it's no longer being updated, so it may not work with newer Macs.

Which app you choose also depends on whether you’re using a Magic Mouse, a third-party mouse, or a Magic Trackpad. There are many reasons why each of those might be better than the others, so you might want to consider making a change there before buying any customization software.