How to right-click on a Mac

July 26, 2011 in Mac OS X

Newsletter subscriber Larry submitted a question asking how to do a right-click on his MacBook Pro. That’s a common question for many Mac converts (myself included) who were used to using Microsoft Windows PCs. Since most Macs don’t have a right button on their mouse or trackpad, it’s at first not obvious how to open a contextual menu (little pop-up menus that relate to a particular object or area). In this video I cover five ways to perform what is more property called a “secondary click”.

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  1. Hold down the “control” key and then click–This is why you’ll often hear me and others talk about doing a “control click”.

If you have a trackpad, here are two more methods:

  1. Two Finger Click–On trackpads with a button, hold down two fingers on the trackpad and then click the button. On buttonless trackpads, just press down with two fingers. [To enable this feature, check the “Secondary Click” option in the Two Fingers section of the Trackpad pane in System Preferences.]
  2. Two Finger Tap–A gentle two finger tap. [To enable this feature, in the Trackpad pane in System Preferences, check both the “Tap to Click” option in the One Finger section and “Secondary Tap” (which says “Secondary Click” if Tap to Click is not checked) in the Two Finger section.]

If you have a buttonless trackpad you can assign one of the bottom corners of your trackpad as the secondary click location.

  1. Trackpad Secondary Click–Usually assigned to the bottom right corner of the trackpad, but you can assign the left corner if you feel rebelious. [To enable, set the “Secondary Click” option in the One Finger section of the Trackpad pane in System Preferences.]

If you have a Magic Mouse, then you can assign one side of the mouse for secondary clicks.

  1. Mouse Secondary Click–Like the Trackpad Secondary Click, this is usually assigned to the right side of the mouse, but Apple gives you the freedom to pick whichever side you like. [To enable, set the “Secondary Click” option in the One Finger section of the Mouse pane in System Preferences.]

Finally, there is a more complicated option that I didn’t cover in the video. It requires three fingers but it’s interesting because it only uses the keyboard.

  1. Mouse Keys Secondary Click–fn+control+i on a laptop (press “i” while holding the “fn” and “control” keys) or fn+control+5 on a desktop (press “5” while holding the “fn” and “control” keys). [To enable this, check the “Mouse Keys” option in the “Mouse & Trackpad” section of the “Universal Access” pane in Systems Preferences.]

So, now that you know six(!) ways to “right-click”, find your favorite (or favorites) and explore your Mac by trying it on different parts of the screen. You may be amazed at the handy shortcuts you find that you never realized were there.

Of course, if you know any other ways of performing a secondary click, impress us all by sharing your method in the comments below.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Nick August 5, 2011 at 3:21 pm

#7: buy a classic non-Mac mouse with its two buttons (at least the Logtech USB mouse I use behaves as I’d expect from other systems relative to its right clicker ;-).

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Steve August 5, 2011 at 3:51 pm

Hi Nick, thanks for #7. Actually, when my MacBook Pro is at my desk I also have a non-Mac wireless USB mouse attached. It’s ancient but, as you say, the right click button works just fine, and the built-in scroll wheel works too.

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