How to Right-click on a Mac

One of the biggest misconceptions being spread around the world of technology is that you can’t right-click on a Mac. It’s also said that you can’t use a mouse with more than one button, but this is also nothing more than a myth spread among the misinformed.

In this article, we’ll go over three ways you can right-click inside of OS X, even if you have one of the older Apple mice with only one button.

Key Combinations

If you happen to have a single-button mouse and don’t see any reason to upgrade, you can right-click very easily by hitting control + mouse click. This will allow you to use the right-click menus and application features without having to actually right-click anything at all.

Magic Mouse Settings

If you have a Magic Mouse, you actually have the ability to right-click directly on the mouse. The multi-touch surface can detect whether you’re clicking with your right or left finger, in addition to several other gestures that make the mouse more useful to an OS X user.

If right-click isn’t working for you, the feature may be turned off in settings. You can activate it pretty easily by doing the following:

  • Click the Settings icon on your Dock.
  • Select Mouse from the Hardware area of the Preferences menu.
  • Check the box next to Secondary Click in the Point and Click tab.
  • Choose whether to have the secondary click work on the right or left side of the Magic Mouse.
  • Close the menu.

At this point, you should be able to right-click anywhere on the desktop and see a menu. You may need to get used to lifting your index finger in order to activate the secondary click as it will not work if both fingers are on the mouse at the same time.

Third-Party Mouse

Any third-party mouse that works natively on Windows should work with OS X. This means the right mouse button will act as the secondary click, scroll wheels and even any extra buttons should work natively in OS X, as well.

The only big difference is the mapping for a third, fourth, and fifth button are slightly different. Where these buttons may send you forward and back in a browser on Windows, this would need to be mapped in OS X.

You might notice a strong acceleration as you adjust to using OS X. This mouse acceleration is less noticeable on Apple branded mice, though it is still present. We’ve written a guide to help you make your mouse move a bit more like it does on Windows.

Trackpad

Right-clicking on a modern Apple MacBook’s trackpad is actually fairly easy. You should be able to accomplish this by tapping with two fingers at the same time instead of just one.

In addition, you can scroll by dragging two fingers up or down while in a scrollable window. Keep in mind that in OS X Lion and Mountain Lion the scroll effect is reversed by default. This can be adjusted by going to the Mouse menu in your system preferences and toggling the checkbox next to Scroll Direction.

I hope these tips help as you become accustomed to OS X. What questions would you like us to answer about OS X in a future article?

Article Written by

Ryan Matthew Pierson has worked as a broadcaster, writer, and producer for media outlets ranging from local radio stations to internationally syndicated programs. His experience includes every aspect of media production. He has over a decade of experience in terrestrial radio, Internet multimedia, and commercial video production.

  • Paul

    I’ve been using a two-button mouse on a Mac here at work for years. I’ve also figured out as many keyboard shortcuts, and mouse/keyboard combinations as I can to speed up how I work.

  • jS

    with natural scrolling, you flick up and the page goes up, not down. it results in you seeing the lower parts of the page so you are scrolling down.
    remember, when scrolling, the page is what is moving, not you.

    so, the page scrolls up and you’re scrolling down.
    *lost*

  • jS

    with natural scrolling, you flick up and the page goes up, not down. it results in you seeing the lower parts of the page so you are scrolling down.
    remember, when scrolling, the page is what is moving, not you.

    so, the page scrolls up and you’re scrolling down.
    *lost*

  • Denis

    Question: is there any way I can use a shortcut (keyboard only) to right click at the exact point where the pointer is?