Scroll Bars

February 6, 2010

If you use a computer, you have used scroll bars. Scroll bars are used when all of the information displayed is too big to fit in the current window. Scroll bars allow you to move the information inside a window around so that you can see the information that isn’t currently visible in the current window.

Take a look at this picture:

Example of Scroll Bars

The part of the window above encompassed by a red rectangle is the vertical scroll bar and the part encompassed by a blue rectangle is the horizontal scroll bar.

Vertical scrollbars let you scroll information up and down while horizontal scrollbars let you scroll information side to side or left and right.

You probably already knew all of that. I know this seems rudimentary, but there are some tricks to using scrollbars you may not be aware of.

The scroll bar consists of a bar with an arrow on each end. In the middle is a solid bar. There is also the space between the bar and each of the arrows.

For the purposes of this article, we will use the vertical scroll bar as an example, but the same applies to horizontal scroll bars as well.

If you click on the top arrow or the bottom arrow, the information in the window will move up or down by one line. You knew that.

Did you know that if you click in the white space between the arrow and the block in the middle of the scroll bar, the information will page up or down. So instead of just moving one line, it moves a whole screen’s worth of information at a time.

Did you know the size of the middle bar gives you an indication of how big the list is? In the example above, the bar is big and almost takes up the whole scroll bar. That means there isn’t a lot of information to scroll through. But if that bar were much smaller, that would tell us that there was a lot of information to scroll through.

Another useful thing to know is that you can click your mouse on that bar and drag it up and down to quickly scroll to another section of the information. So, for example, if you were looking at an alphabetized list and you wanted to go down to the T’s, you could drag the bar about 3/4ths of the way down.

If you click your mouse in the area where the information is being displayed, you can then use your arrow keys and page keys to scroll the information. Be aware that if  your current cursor is at the top of the information and you press the down arrow, it will just move one line down and it won’t scroll. If you keep moving down, however, when the cursor gets to the bottom of the window, it will start scrolling.

The touch pads on some laptops have an area on the right side of them that acts like a scroll bar. If you are in a window with scroll bars, you can slide your finger up and down on the right side of the touchpad to scroll up and down.

Desktops have a special key on the keyboard that is usually labeled “Scroll Lock”. This key is rarely used by anybody. When you turn scroll lock on, the arrow keys will scroll the contents of the current window. You may wonder how this is different than just clicking in the window and moving the cursor. The only difference is that with scroll lock on, you don’t have to wait for the cursor to move to the edge of the window before it starts scrolling. It just scrolls.

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