How to Right-Click in Mac OS X

  Matt Cone       March 6, 2007      Tutorials Mac Hardware


For as long as anybody can remember, the Mac mouse has had one button and the PC mouse has had two. Why? Apple presumably felt that a one-button mouse was simpler and more efficient, and nearly every other hardware manufacturer thought that more functionality could be crammed into additional mouse buttons.

Right click on Mac

Battle of the buttons? A standard two-button mouse and the Apple ADB Mouse II.

That is, until Apple released the Magic Mouse - a mouse with four programmable buttons. This was a major milestone for Apple and Mac users everywhere, but truth be told, the Mac OS supported right-clicking for years before that - even back in the days of Mac OS 9! If you have a Mac, you need to know how to right-click whether you have a two-button mouse or not. We’ll show you how.

What Can Right-Clicking Do For Me?

If you have a Mac, and you haven’t been right-clicking, you’ve been missing out on a lot of cool functionality. There are loads of options in the “contextual menus” - menus that appear when you right-click - that you just can’t find anywhere else. Here are some examples:

How to Do It

The easiest way to right-click is to hold down the ctrl key before you click your mouse button. This works on any Mac!

Right click on Mac

But holding down the ctrl key gets old, especially when you’re an old-hand at right-clicking. If you’re serious about right-clicking, you’ll need to get a mouse with more than one mouse button. All of Apple’s new desktop computers (except the Mac mini) ship with the Mighty Mouse. To configure the right mouse button on the Mighty Mouse, select System Preferences from the Apple menu, and then select Keyboard & Mouse. Select the Mouse tab.

Right click on Mac

Make sure the right mouse button is set as the Secondary Button, as seen in the screenshot above. If you don’t have Apple’s Mighty Mouse, you can always pick up an inexpensive, two-button USB mouse at your local electronics store. Kensington’s Mouse-in-a-Box comes with a 5 year warranty and costs a mere $8.

Right click on Mac

For Apple Laptop Owners

If you own a Macbook or Macbook Pro, you can configure your trackpad for right-clicking. (Some older iBooks and Powerbooks also provide this feature.) Simply open the Trackpad options in System Preferences and make sure the Place two fingers on trackpad and click button for secondary click button is checked.

Right click on Mac

After checking this box, you’ll be able to right-click by placing two fingers on the trackpad and clicking. If you have an older Apple portable which doesn’t support this feature, you may want to look into iScroll2, a free application that may add this functionality to your trackpad.

No matter how you decide to right-click, you should definitely start doing it on a regular basis. It’ll save you a lot of time!

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