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The Right Click

January 11, 2010 - Dave Hecei
In the beginning, sounds ominous doesn't it, the Mac mouse had but one button. This single button was thought to be cleaner and simpler to understand. Then came Bill Gates and Windows (actually he didn’t invent the multi-button mouse, but…). The mouse evolved and it grew more buttons, the most significant being the Right Mouse Button. Eventually the Mac OS grew to understand the right click and the Mac mouse itself got a right mouse button, sort of.

It's easy to overlook the importance of the right mouse button. If you have a multi-button mouse, put it in a drawer and use an older single button mouse for the rest of the day. Now you know what I mean. That extra little button gets used an amazing amount of time.

One of the main functions of the right mouse button is to perform the right click. This is not the same as a correct click. With a two-button mouse we have to differentiate between a standard click, what we will call a left click, and the right click, or the clicking on the right mouse button. Phew!

Of course what happens when you right click is determined by what software you are currently using. If you are just on the Finder in OS X, then a right click will normally bring up a contextual menu. If you right click on your hard drive icon, a menu will appear allowing you to do several different tasks. This menu should list these commands: Open, Get Info, Duplicate, Make Alias, Copy "insert name of your hard drive", Clean Up Selection, Label, and More. While all of these commands can be done through the Finder menus at the top of the screen, what if you have more than one monitor or you are lucky enough to own a 30" Apple Display. Having to track the mouse to the top menus can be tedious.

What makes the right click even more powerful is that most software written for the Mac has features that can be accessed by the right mouse button. The current iMacs now come with the new Magic Mouse, Apple’s second attempt at a two-button mouse. While it is slightly better than the previous Mighty Mouse, it still isn’t great.

If you want to have a multi-button mouse you will want to look at those made by either Microsoft or Logitech. My favorite mouse is the Microsoft Wireless Optical 5000. It has two standard mouse buttons plus the scrolling wheel can act as a third. The wheel allows you to smoothly scroll in vertically and also tilts to allow left and right scrolling. The shape is perfect for those who are right-handed, sorry, but there is no lefty version that I can find.

There are two more buttons on the left side, just in front of where your thumb naturally rests. These can be programmed, with the included Mac software, to perform several different tasks. I have mine set to the default, which is to go back or forward a page in most any web browser.

So if you are a right-clicker, or you have defected from the Windows camp to the Mac OS, then do yourself a favor and get a traditional two-button mouse and leave the ‘magic’ for someone else.


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