Right-click menu?

Subject: Right-click menu?
From: "Hart, Geoff" <Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 8 Jan 2001 16:03:53 -0500

Megan Rock mouses around <<... with my left hand and have my mouse buttons
reversed. I recently went through several tutorials in a manual that kept
telling me to right-click. I'll admit that even though I'm quite competent
with a
computer, I still had to think twice to figure out that for me,
"right-clicking" really meant "left-clicking.">>

Whereas I also mouse around with my left hand, but left the buttons in their
right configuration. <gdr> Still poses an interesting problem in explaining

<<Is anyone out there using neutral terms for instances like this? If so,
what terms do you use?>>

I've seen "primary" and "secondary" or "main" and "secondary" used, and that
works for me. (The center button remains the center button no matter what
you do to the mouse.) However:

<<Or do you just assume your readers will figure it out? "If they're smart
enough to figure out how to swap mouse buttons, they must be smart enough to
figure out which button to use for what regardless of what the manual

I have a lot of sympathy for that notion. Those who (like me) haven't
reassigned the buttons know what's up. Those who have reassigned them are
probably so accustomed to seeing "right button"--at least for standard
Windows behaviors--that they don't think twice about it. Or when they do,
like you, they figure it out quickly. If you're anticipating a fairly naive
audience, it might well pay to have a mouse tutorial at the beginning of the
manual to explain your mousing conventions.

--Geoff Hart, FERIC, Pointe-Claire, Quebec
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
"User's advocate" online monthly at

"Technical writing... requires understanding the audience, understanding
what activities the user wants to accomplish, and translating the often
idiosyncratic and unplanned design into something that appears to make
sense."--Donald Norman, The Invisible Computer

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