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On Windows, most programs with large, scrollable text containers (e.g. all browsers, most word processors and IDEs) let you press the middle mouse button and then move the mouse to scroll. This scrolling is smooth and allows you to scroll very quickly using just the mouse.

When I've used Linux on laptops, two-finger scrolling performs roughly the same function; it's easy to scroll down a page quickly (much more quickly than one can by scrolling a mouse wheel) but the scrolling remains smooth enough to allow precise positioning.

I am unsure how to achieve the same thing when running Linux on a Desktop with a mouse. As far as I can tell after a whole bunch of Googling, there are neither application-specific settings to swap to Windows-style middle mouse button behaviour, nor any system-wide settings to achieve the same effect.

Just to make this concrete, let's say - if it's relevant - that I'm asking in the context of Firefox, Google Chrome, Gedit and Eclipse on a recent version of either Mint (what I use at home) or Ubuntu (what I use at work). I suspect this is a fairly distro-agnostic and application-agnostic question, though.

As far as I can tell, my options for scrolling are:

  • Scroll with the mousewheel - slow!
  • Use the PgUp / PgDn keys - jumps a huge distance at a time so can't be used for precise positioning, and is less comfortable than using the mouse
  • Drag the scroll bar at the right hand side of the screen up and down like I used to do on old Windows PCs with two-button mice. This is what I do in practice, but it's just plain less comfortable than Windows-style middle-mouse scrolling; on a huge widescreen, it takes me most of a second just to move the cursor over from the middle of the screen to the scrollbar, and most of a second to move it back again, and I have to take my eyes off the content I'm actually scrolling to do this.

None of these satisfy me! This UI issue is the single thing that poisons my enjoyment of Linux on desktops and almost makes me wish I was using a laptop touchpad instead of a mouse. It irritates me enough that I've concluded that either I'm missing some basic Linux UI feature that solves this problem, or I'm just an oversensitive freak and it doesn't even bother anyone else - but I'm not sure which.

So my questions are:

  1. Does Windows-style middle mouse button scrolling exist anywhere in the Linux world, or is it really purely a Windows thing? In particular, do any Linux web browsers let you use Windows-style scrolling?
  2. Are there any mechanisms for scrolling pages that exist in Linux but not in Windows, especially ones that perform the role I've described?
  3. Any other solutions that I'm missing?
share|improve this question
You call "holding down middle mouse and moving the mouse" "Windows-style" scrolling but I was never aware that there was anything Windows-specific about it. I actually had no idea what you meant by "Windows-style" before I read through your question carefully. You may want to edit your question to use a more enlightening term as I doubt many other people on this site will know what you mean. As far as I can remember that was fairly standard behavior even on Linux - it's probably just a matter of mouse configuration and whether holding down the mouse wheel registers as middle mouse button. – jw013 Dec 19 '12 at 16:04
@jw013 I've never seen a Linux install where this behavior existed; middle mouse button always seems to just be Paste, and Googling suggests there's no way to turn off the middle-mouse paste behavior (which implies to me no way to turn on middle-mouse scroll behavior - but I'm not sure, which is why I asked here). – Mark Amery Dec 19 '12 at 16:07
@jw013 BTW, if you can suggest a more enlightening term I'll use it, but as far as I know this behavior has no proper/official name and I can't think of a succinct and clear name to give it - which is why I described it carefully in my first paragraph instead. – Mark Amery Dec 19 '12 at 16:11
I actually switched to a scroll-wheel-less trackball mouse a while ago so all of this is recollection. I'd probably call it "middle mouse scrolling". If I remember correctly, paste only triggered on a simple click, scrolling happened if you held the button down and moved the mouse around. I might have had some settings in my xorg.conf that helped (I tend to copy over my old xorg.conf customizations to new installs so I don't remember exactly). If you are using GNOME try poking around in your mouse preferences and see if there's anything there. – jw013 Dec 19 '12 at 16:32
@MarkAmery Just in case you didn't already find this, see Gilles' answer to a similar question. The method described by Gilles will enable scroll wheel emulation across all X.Org applications, not just Firefox. – Arkanon May 31 '15 at 9:02
up vote 15 down vote accepted

The feature you are talking about is called Auto-Scrolling. It lets you press & hold the middle mouse button and move your mouse to scroll smoothly. In Linux, the default behavior for this action (pressing middle mouse button) is generally used for pasting text.

However, there is a preference setting in Firefox and an extension available for Chrome/Chromium which would let you use middle mouse button for scrolling and activate this feature.


  • Open your Preferences Dialog: Edit Menu >> Preferences.
  • Navigate to Advanced Tab and then General Tab.
  • Under Browsing, you would find the option called Use autoscrolling. Put a check mark beside this to activate this functionality in Firefox.

    Firefox Preferences


For Chrome/Chromium we can use an Extension called AutoScroll (from kaescripts.blogspot.com).

  • Go to this Link on Chrome Web Store (obviously using Chrome/Chromium).
  • Press on the button labeled ADD TO CHROME to install this extension.

    Chrome Extension

  • Click on Add in the Confirmation Dialog Box.

Other Applications

As far as other applications are concerned, I haven't yet found a solution for them. Anyways, its the tall webpages which creates most of the problem for which both Firefox and Chrome/Chromium have a solution.

Happy Scrolling!

share|improve this answer
Awesome. I will try out the extensions at work tomorrow and then accept this answer. I'm fairly convinced by now that for most other applications there simply isn't a solution. – Mark Amery Feb 4 '13 at 18:32
@MarkAmery: Yup... For me this is the most annoying thing in Linux... It still annoys me in one of my folders which contains lots and lots of files... Otherwise, as I said, this feature is mostly useful for webpages, for which we have a solution at hand... :) – Aditya Feb 4 '13 at 18:36
It works! Yay! :) – Mark Amery Feb 5 '13 at 9:41
Funny it does not work on some websites like https://chrome.google.com/webstore/category/apps?hl=en itself. – dashesy Feb 27 at 19:22

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