How to Right-Click on a Mac

2020 MacBook Pro 13-inch

The first Mac launch in 1984 with a one button mouse. It wasn’t until 1997 that Steve Jobs relented to allow right-clicking in Mac OS, and Apple later shipped a mouse capable of a direct right-click. Here’s a recap on how to right-click on a Mac.

Mouse Droppings

Apple Mighty Mouse - first to allow right-click on a Mac.
Mighty Mouse in 2005 was first Apple moue to allow direct right-click.

Over the years, there has been some confusion abut this topic. CNN Money relates the history nicely.

According to Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs, the late Apple co-founder insisted on a one-button mouse for simplicity’s sake. The three-button mouse Apple saw Xerox demonstrate was too busy and confusing, Jobs argued.

With the proliferation of Microsoft Windows, which embraced the right click, Apple eventually enabled users to CTRL-click to simulate a right click. It then began to support right-click mice with Mac OS 8, which debuted in 1997. And with the 2005 introduction of the “Mighty Mouse,” Apple finally made a mouse with a programmable button that could be used for right clicking.

As an interesting aside, via Wikipedia,

On October 20, 2009, Apple was forced to rename the Mighty Mouse the Apple Mouse (part number MB112LL/A) due to legal issues regarding the name. This version of mouse was continued to bundle with Mac Pro till July 27, 2010, when new models included the Magic Mouse.

For the longest time, Apple made it difficult how to discover right-click enabling a Mac or PC compatible mouse, and that legacy contributed to confusion for years, especially with the popularization of the track pad on MacBooks. It lingers today.

How to Right-Click on a Mac

Apple, of course, has the definitive article on how to do this. It covers:

  1. Right-click with an Apple trackpad
  2. Right-click with an Apple mouse

But before you go there, it’s a good idea to look at your mouse (or trackpad) settings. There you will set up the technique(s) to activate a right-click.

  1. Apple () menu > System Preferences > Trackpad.
  2. Apple () menu > System Preferences > Mouse.
Right-Click on a Mac
Mouse prefs in macOS.

Finally, as Apple explains: “If your mouse, trackpad, or other input device doesn’t include a right-click button or other way to perform a right click, just hold down the Control key on your keyboard while you click.”

For PC users, right-clicking has always been a no-brainer, but for those new to a Mac, just a little extra bit of attention to detail is required.

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