TechWhirl (TECHWR-L) is a resource for technical writing and technical communications professionals of all experience levels and in all industries to share their experiences and acquire information.
For two decades, technical communicators have turned to TechWhirl to ask and answer questions about the always-changing world of technical communications, such as tools, skills, career paths, methodologies, and emerging industries. The TechWhirl Archives and magazine, created for, by and about technical writers, offer a wealth of knowledge to everyone with an interest in any aspect of technical communications.
We have a similar problem documenting mouse buttons in our Motif-based
applications. Mouses can have two or three buttons, and those buttons can
be logically assigned to any number of functions. It's not even always
clear what the default arrangement might be. There are even bizarre
combinations of shift-clicks, Alt-clicks, etc., that make this an even
Our software currently uses only the three non-shifted, non-Alted mouse
functions, which Motif calls Select, Menu, and Custom. Our "How to Use
ACD's User Interfaces" manual explains:
The mouse has either two or three buttons. The physical buttons are
mapped to three "virtual" buttons: select, menu, and custom. Actual
button assignment depends upon the user account's window environment
configuration (the file .mwmrc, explained in Appendix C). Table E
shows the default assignments used when the user account has no
.mwmrc. If a workstation's configuration is unknown, try using the
mouse according to these assignments.
Table E. Mouse Buttons and Their Locations
Button name On a 3-button mouse, use On a 2-button mouse, use
Select The left button The left button
Menu The middle button Both buttons simultaneously
Custom The right button The right button
The manual then explains terms which describe using the mouse. In our
case, 80% of mouse interaction uses the select button, so one term I defined
was "select (something)" to mean "point at the object and click the
select mouse button."
At this point I introduce a typographic convention for mouse buttons. Body
text is 12 point New Century Schoolbook. Mouse buttons are uppercase 10
point Helvetica. This way I can write MENU in that font to replace "the
menu mouse button".
I sorely wish the mouse buttons were fixed to their functions, for my sake.
I had a nifty convention in mind that would have avoided the whole naming
thing in the first place: a graphic which fits neatly within a line of text
that looks vaguely like:
| | | |
to represent the three button functions, with the proper button shaded. So
I could then write "click XOO" or "drag OXO" to mean click the select mouse
button or drag the menu mouse button, respectively.
jim grey |beebeebumbleandthestingersmottthehoopleraycharlessingers
jwg -at- acd4 -dot- acd -dot- com |lonniemackandtwangin'eddiehere'smyringwe'regoingsteadyta
jimgrey -at- delphi -dot- com|GO/M d p+ c++(-) l u+ e- m*@ s+/ n+ h f++ g- w+@ t+ r- y+(*)
|ACD, Terre Haute, IN -- The Silicon Cornfield