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How to Turn Off Multitouch Trackpad Look Up in OS X

Posted by Jim Tanous on July 8, 2015
mac os x look up definition

A neat feature in OS X is the ability to quickly look up the dictionary definition and related information of a word or phrase with a three-finger trackpad gesture. For those unfamiliar with the feature, users can move their cursor over a word, or highlight a phrase, and then tap once on their trackpad with three fingers to access a handy information window with the word’s dictionary definition, related terms, Wikipedia summary, and more.
But some users may find multi-touch Look Up to be distracting, especially considering that its three-fingered tap gesture is relatively easy to activate by accident. Thankfully, OS X multi-touch Look Up can be disabled with a quick trip to System Preferences. Here’s how to do it.
mac os x look up definition
First, note that multi-touch Look Up and the instructions below require the use of a trackpad, either the one built into a MacBook or a wireless Apple Magic Trackpad. If you don’t have a trackpad integrated with or connected to your Mac, you won’t be able to use multi-touch Look Up and you won’t see the System Preferences options discussed below.
mac system preferences trackpad
To turn off multi-touch Look Up in OS X, head to System Preferences > Trackpad and click on the Point & Click tab at the top of the window. The Trackpad preference pane lets you customize how the various multi-touch gestures and options work.
mac preferences trackpad look up data detectors
The option that configures multi-touch Look Up is labeled Look up & data detectors. To disable this feature on your Mac, uncheck this box. There’s no need to save any settings; the multi-touch Look Up feature will be disabled immediately when you clear its corresponding checkbox. To verify that the feature is indeed turned off, simply use a three-fingered tap on any word and you’ll find that nothing happens, thereby eliminating the chance of triggering a multi-touch Look Up inadvertently.

Access Look Up & Data Detectors Without Multitouch

As mentioned earlier, the integrated Look Up feature in OS X is quite useful, and most users who want to disable multi-touch Look Up do so because they don’t like it when they accidentally activate the feature while navigating a website or document with their trackpad, not because they don’t want the Look Up functionality at all. The good news is that users who disable multitouch Look Up using the steps above can still use it via the right-click context menu.
While this may be new to those who use OS X exclusively with a trackpad, Mac owners with mice or trackpads can access the OS X Look Up window by right-clicking (or Control-clicking) on any word or phrase and selecting Look Up.
mac right click lookup definition
With this method, users who prefer to disable multitouch Look Up can still enjoy the feature via a more deliberate method that’s much harder to perform accidentally.

5 thoughts on “How to Turn Off Multitouch Trackpad Look Up in OS X”

Bryson says:
Not working to turn off the dictionary in the Pages application. I am completely unable to select any text in Pages because the annoying dictionary pops up every time I click (with 1 finger). I ensured that the box was unchecked in preferences, yet it still happens. I also changed the preference to tap with 3 fingers and it still pops up when I click with 1 finger in Pages. Really frustrated with this…..
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Jen says:
Thank you! this would pop up on it’s own every two seconds and was driving me nuts!
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Tim Erwin says:
I have to agree. This is truly a terrible feature.
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Geoffrey A. Landis says:
THANKS!!!!
Man, what an annoying “feature”. Stupid dictionary pops up every time I’m trying to do almost ANYTHING.
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Todd_F says:
i wish you were a little more frank and a little less apologist. is the writer trying to get a job at apple? the lookup feature is a total waste of time of time since firm mouse pressure alone is enough to trigger it. furthermore, i look up one or two words a year on the internet so devoting so much real estate to a rarely used feature does not bode well for the once prognostic product pros at apple. hey, i just looked up my first word using the lookup tool and it performed well but it just misses the mark under normal use
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