Scroll Definition & Meaning

The term scroll refers to the act of moving the visual portion of a web browser or application window vertically or horizontally. Windows that appear on devices, such as PCs, laptops, tablets, and mobile phones are not large enough to show all of the content that’s present on a page at the same time. The ability to scroll through the page allows users to view all of the content in fragments.

Scrolling is considered one of the basic methods of user navigation. Scrolling can be accomplished in a variety of increments. Some applications can be scrolled line-by-line or page-by-page. The majority of browser and application windows can be scrolled freely using certain equipment, namely mouses, keyboards, touchpads and touchscreens.

Vertical scrolling vs. Horizontal scrolling

There are two types of scrolling: vertical and horizontal. Vertical scrolling is the act of scrolling up and down a page. This is the most common type of scrolling as most sites and applications will match a window’s width but not the height.

Horizontal scrolling is the act of scrolling from one side of a page to the other. This is common in applications with expandable spreadsheets, such as Microsoft Excel and Google sheets. Though some websites and applications will not automatically fit the width of a window if it’s too small, which will also require horizontal scrolling.

Ways to scroll

Browsers and applications provide scrolling features that are tailored to the user experience of the devices they are accessed on. Here are different ways to scroll across varying types of devices.

Scrolling with a mouse

Virtually all windows will have a scroll bar either on the right-hand side of the window for vertical scrolling or on the bottom of the window for horizontal scrolling. With a computer mouse, users can click on the scroll bar and drag it in either direction to change their view of the content.

Most modern mouses are also built with a scroll wheel placed between the left and right-click buttons. Rolling the wheel up and down on a selected window allows the user to scroll vertically.

Scrolling with a keyboard

The most common way to scroll with a keyboard is by using the arrow keys. The up and down arrows are used to scroll vertically while the left and right arrows will scroll horizontally. In some cases, the space bar can also be used to scroll down a page.

Scrolling with a touchpad

Most touchpads built into laptops are designed to use the two-finger scroll. By placing two fingers on the touchpad and moving them in unison along either axis, the user can move the page in the respective direction.

Touchpads also have the ability to click using the cursor. This functionality can be used to click and drag scroll bars like a computer mouse.

Scrolling with a touch screen

On devices with touch screens, users can scroll by using their fingers to drag the page vertically, horizontally, and in some cases diagonally.

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