Question on mouse terminology: left/right? or?

Subject: Question on mouse terminology: left/right? or?
From: Chuck Martin <techwriter -at- VNET -dot- IBM -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 13 Jun 1994 11:13:32 PDT

I'm interested in finding out how my fellow tech-whirlers handle describing
the mouse buttons when writing thier documentation.

In the Macintosh world, Apple developed a one-button mouse. In the PC
world, Microsoft and IBM introduced the two-button mouse. A small minority
of rodents, mostly for PCs or workstations, have three or more. The
introduction of alternative pointing devices, pens, trackballs, and so
on, have continued to complicate things.

In the early days, when mulitple-button mice began to be used, and
virtually all were of the two-button version, and before we bacame
sensitive to the needs of minority users, terminology tended to go
along the line of "click" and "right-click." In describing the
buttons, most people would use left button and right button, as
in "click both the left and right mouse button...."

With the advent of left-handed mice, and the ability to switch the
primary button from left to right, the question of how we should describe
the buttons has arisen.

How best to describe the primary and secondary (and even tertiary and more)
mouse buttons?

Some do use primary and secondary. We seem to want to move to a "mouse
button 2" term, which to me seems awkward. And on a 3-button mouse, which
one is "mouse button 2?"

For me, I hav wanted to write instructions such as:

Click on the file you want to see, then click OK.

Right-click on the desktop icon to see the pop-up menu.

The first, of course, mean use the primary button. But trying to re-word
the second makes it significantly longer, and in my book, more convoluted.
Then you have to re-word the first to be consistent:

With the primary mouse button, click on the file you want to see, then
click OK.

With the secondary mouse button......

Use mouse button 1 and click on......

Use mouse button 2 and click on the desktop icon.....

And none of this addresses the needs of 3- or more-button mice.

I'd like to know what my fellow writers use and their rationale.
I don't expect to find a lot of consensus, so it will be especially
education to see some of the reasoning. I will summarize responses and
post here, however, please be patient, as that summary may not get
posted until after I return from my vacation on the 28th.

Chuck Martin
Information Developer, IBM
techwriter -at- vnet -dot- ibm -dot- com

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