March 27, 2008
Despite Apple's historical insistence that the computer mouse should only have one button-- which led to the highly unfortunate convention of double-clicking-- most mice have more than one button today. In his classic book The Humane Interface, Jef Raskin revisits the earliest days of his involvement with the Mac project and realizes that the single button mouse was a mistake. Mice were meant to have multiple buttons.
What I did not see at the time is that multiple buttons on a mouse can work well if the buttons are labeled. If the Macintosh mouse had had multiple buttons, if the buttons had been permanently labeled, and if they had only been used for their intended function, a multiple mouse button might have been a better choice. A better mouse might have two buttons, marked Select and Activate, on top and on the side, a button activated by a squeezing action of the thumb. This last button would be marked Grab. Some mice at present have a scroll wheel on top that is used primarily for scrolling. Better still would be a small trackball in that location. The mouse would control the position of the cursor; the trackball could be used, for example, to manipulate objects or to make selections from menus that float with the cursor.
Doug Engelbart, the inventor of the mouse, also thinks that mice should have multiple buttons:
[Doug Engelbart] believes a mouse should have many buttons ... the only reason his original mouse design didn't have more than three was because they didn't have the technology at the time to make that possible.
Apple didn't ship a multiple button mouse until the Mighty Mouse was released in August 2005. It has four effective buttons, and even sports the trackball that Jef Raskin imagined in his book five years earlier. However, I've read a lot of complaints about the Mighty Mouse, most of which stem from the substitution of actual buttons with touch-sensitive surfaces.
I've used two-button mice as far back as I can remember on the PC. The meaning of the first two mouse buttons are very well defined in every graphical user interface by now:
|Left click||select or activate an item|
|Right click||show contextual menu for an item|
But modern mice actually have at least three buttons. Where's the third button? Right under your mouse wheel.
Mouse wheels have been commonly available since 1996. In all those years, all those millions of mice shipped, no standard convention has emerged for what it means to press the middle mouse button.
Over the last two or three years, middle click has become strongly associated with tabbed user interfaces, at least in popular web browsers. Middle-clicking over a link opens it in a new tab; middle-clicking the tab itself closes that tab. This is happening in enough applications now that I think it's fair to call opening and closing tabs with the middle button an emerging convention. Still, it's a fairly loose convention, and the behavior is only defined for links and tabs respectively, and only in certain applications. What happens the rest of the time when you middle-click?
Another odd middle-click behavior that's defined in both Internet Explorer and Firefox is the modal "autoscroll mode". Middle click once on the page to activate this mode. Notice that the cursor changes. You can now use the mouse to determine the rate of scrolling. Middle-clicking again releases this mode and reverts to the normal mouse cursor.
I personally hate this behavior. I prefer to scroll explicitly with the wheel, and I often trigger this unwanted "mode" when I've slightly missed middle-clicking on a link. It can be turned off in the advanced options of Firefox but I can find no way to turn it off in Internet Explorer.
In the UNIX and X Windows world, the middle button has also meant paste since way, way back in the 1980s. I can't find any evidence of this behavior on Windows or the Mac, however. Pasting into text areas wouldn't necessarily conflict with the tab behavior, but it's an odd hodgepodge of behaviors to attach to a single button.
I hope over the next few years Microsoft and Apple can decide on a set of standard middle mouse button behaviors. It's frustrating to me that millions and millions of mice have shipped with this button, and yet it's a total crapshoot what will happen when you press the middle mouse button in any given application under any operating system. If the first and second mouse buttons have standard, well-defined meanings today-- why can't the third button, too?
Posted by Jeff Atwood
Another thing to remember about the middle-mouse-paste is that highlight on Linux systems is also an implicit copy. That is something that would need to be addressed in Windows.
Specifically for cut/copy/paste: highlight what you want to copy/cut, middle click to store highlighted text in memory, right click to copy or middle click (again) to paste... no context menu needed.
Microsoft should just make such user interface features more configurable.There's no need to worry about predefining a set of actions for a certain button as long as the user has the option of changing it - KDE takes this route and I'm very happy with it. I can set my middle mouse button to do what I want it to do, and ignore the default settings. Those people who are power users and want to get the full functionality out of each mouse button will be technologically acclimated enough to change such settings, and those who aren't acclimated won't even think about changing such a setting. Indeed, many people I know that use Windows rarely use the right mouse button - it's almost as if they only have one mouse button anyway. The power users are the one getting the real usage out of the extra button, so why not just let them configure it?
well i have two mice, a mighty mouse which was bought for using blender on my mac laptop (single button, does the right click very well though, never worked the middle button bit out, hence a mouse) works ok but it gets used for specific jobs. the trackball is nice.
second is an intellimouse, five button. work very well and i like it, doesn't get used much now cus its a wired one and i hate the tangle on the laptop. however..
the middle button (scroll wheel) is basically pointless since its too easy to trigger it when scrolling. the two side buttons are likewise pointless, why? well i also use cmputers at work, with more basic rodents. so assigning commands to a button i don't always have seems pointless.
plus what can they actually do? application specific stuff is nice (next/previous tab is good)
I would prefer it if the middle mouse button could be used for fast scrolling.
I also wish my laptop had a scroll button.
How do you turn off autoscroll in Windows XP?
Nowadays it's most useful for opening and closing tabs in browsers. ;-)
So let's just add tabs to all other applications :)
When working in Windows, the thing I miss the most is to paste text using the middle button!
"I prefer to scroll explicitly with the wheel, and I often trigger this unwanted "mode" when I've slightly missed middle-clicking on a link"
For me it was always the other way round. I like the scroll-wheel-button for scrolling because it feels more fluent that than rotating the wheel. At first I hated the "Open in new Tab" that Firefox introduced. Nowadays I got used to it but still hate that it depends so much on where exactly I click.
Oh and the "Paste" behaviour of Gnome is pretty annoying ;)
I am not sure a mouse with many buttons would help so much. I think the future is touch sensitive surfaces anyway; but how would you map all those buttons to your finger actions :) Maybe that's why Apple never wanted additional mouse buttons: To make the transition to touch interfaces easier ;)
I wrote an article on similar lines a while ago.
a href="http://www.diovo.com/?p=40"Where is the new mouse?/a
After my e-mail on the subject, and having slept on it, I'm even more convinced that middle-click-to-close is really bad default behaviour, because it's so destructive: click on a tab to select it, middle-click to make it go away entirely, right-click for options. Of those three, only the middle-click causes something to happen which is outright *bad* (a pop-up menu is easily dismissed, after all), and browser tabs are the only place that this behaviour exists, increasing the chances of it being accidentally invoked.
Reading through the first few comments...it seems like we all have VERY different tastes. Might be difficult to find any standard mapping that we all like.
The old-fashioned middle mouse buttons had one big advantage; 1) they were big, and 2) required less pressure to click. Ctrl+Click is a nice alternative for this, but I still have to wean myself off the middle-click behavior.
The browsing behavior with tabs has changed; instead of following a clearly definable "trail" with milestones, we branch much more often, parallelizing information.
Clicking the middle mouse button is easy because of Fitts' Law; it takes less effort to click something that's right there with a special button than it is to drag a link to the tab bar (with a limited size and a big opportunity to hit an existing tab). Right-click to choose "Open in New Tab" also requires more actions.
The worst part of this is that existing browser-like applications (Windows Help files, Explorer) do not behave like this while they could have an advantage with this. Especially Help (of any kind) is a culprit; it does its best to act useless.
On the Mac, the middle mouse button _does_ invoke a kind of paste (paste primary selection) in one particular place: Terminal.app.
Also, you can triple-click to select an entire line of text.
my 4th and 5th mouse button is not mentioned ;-)
Standardizing the middle mouse button behavior will discontent many users because they have been trained to a certain behavior with their applications. However, this doesn't mean it is a bad idea though I believe that multi-touch is a better alternative to adding buttons to the mouse.
Keyboard shortcuts are not standardised and we get on just fine. Yes, there are some set standards (Ctrl+C, Ctrl+V, Alt+F4, etc.) but then there are also shortcuts that are specific to one application. For example, between The GIMP, OpenOffice and Firefox there are loads of keyboard shortcuts using the same key combinations but with completely different meanings.
Keyboard shortcuts are considered "advanced features" by most users as they are something you have to know and learn. I see no reason why the middle mouse button cannot be the same; if you know what it does, use it.
"If the first and second mouse buttons have standard, well-defined meanings today-- why can't the third button, too?"
Well, what function would you map to it? Selecting and context menus are used in 99.9% of applications, but what other features are universally implemented? X's choice of paste was a good one - it is a repetitive task, and is a function used in 99.9% of applications. The autoscroll comes a close second (there are lots of applications that involve some form of scrolling), but controlling tabs makes little sense. In a non-tabbed application, what would it actually do?
"I hope over the next few years Microsoft and Apple can decide on a set of standard middle mouse button behaviors."
Why just Microsoft and Apple? The open source community deserve a say too :-P
Well, I guess tabs are becoming a fundamental part of computer use these days - not just in the web browser but also in help applications and as a replacement for MDI. I think that it's a perfectly good standard use for the middle mouse button.
The missing paste behaviour of the middle mouse button is the most annoying non-feature of the windows platform. Each time I have to work with a windows machine I have to actively remember that it only supports the clipboard. This is very frustrating.
No article about mouse buttons is complete without a reference to mouse chording, a topic not very well known outside plan9:
For more info see "Mouse chording" at wikipedia:
I'm generally a really big fan of convention in cases like this, but maybe this time I should play devil's advocate.
Wouldn't it be a logical assumption that most apps have a special need for a mouse button, and that mice should have an undefined button to fill that need?
The tab thing in firefox is a great example. Pasting into a command shell is another.
In google earth it helps panning a LOT (But that ability, critical to google earth, doesn't apply to any other apps I use)
So I guess I'd say I've argued your point before, and I do agree, but I think there is a valid, perhaps better argument for just having a little undefined, hard to learn, ugly messiness in our GUI.
PS: Right-click wasn't defined either until Microsoft did one of the best things they've ever done and made it "Open context menu". Holy Cow was that a genius breakthrough. Gotta give props where they are deserved--even if it is to MS"
Instead of [mighty mouse sucks], you should instead link to ["mighty mouse sucks"] for a more accurate barometer of feelings towards the Mighty Mouse.
The former search rather quickly loses focus and such items as Mickey Mouse -- or just mice in general -- sucking, become commonplace quite quickly.
Well, had no idea that I could middle click remove a tabpage...
The middle mouse button is just the one I use to put something on during gaming.
And having a 5 button mouse, I also use two of them for browsing: next previous page.
But my 3-button trackball doesn't have a wheel, so middle-click to scroll is a boon to me.
How strange - I've always thought the middle click scroll-lock style behaviour is much preferable to the scroll wheel! I also like middle click open/close tabs, although undo close tab is a life saver with this. UNIX middle-click paste _always_ catches me out, although not as annoying as right-click paste in PuTTY. However I suppose it's just a case of what you are used to, and some conventions for what it should do would indeed be nice.
Microsoft? Settle? Standard?
I kinda prefer mouse gestures to chording. It's the first plugin I install on a new comp.
On most mice clicking the middle mouse button is hard (it resists a lot more than the LMB and RMB), and it's too easy to accidentally roll the wheel when you just intended to click.
So I just avoid the middle mouse button altogether.
Hey Now Jeff,
While they create a standard for the middle button they might as way create standards for the 4th 5th buttons on the sides of mice.
Coding Horror Fan,
Clicking the scroller closes tabs??
Well, looky here.
That's GREAT!! :D
"In the UNIX and X Windows world, the middle button has also meant paste since way, way back in the 1980s. I can't find any evidence of this behavior on Windows or the Mac, however. "
On my OS X 10.4.11 working in terminal pastes selected text at the cursor position with the middle-click.
There is exactly one case, where I use the "modal" autoscroll mode:
When I'm at the end of a document and want to go back up to the beginning, autoscroll is faster than scrolling and easier to perform than hitting "Home" on the keyboard (provided you don't have your hand glued to the keyboard all the time)
I like defining my own meanings for the different mouse buttons and thats the way I like it. The only way it would be better is if each application allowed me to specify it's meaning to do what I want within it.
I NEED one of the buttons to be defined as back. Especially when I am hunting for something using Google or using Explorer to navigate the folder system. Moving the mouse all the way from the center of the screen,up to the tool bar and back each time I want to perform a very common action is cumbersome.
It makes perfect logical sense for me to use the thumb button for back and the ring finger button for forward. The only draw back being I hit these on accident on occasion. (accidentally hitting back after filling out a form is no good) So I use the scroll wheel for this purpose. Left mouse button clicks to open folders / follow links, middle button to go back.
Pasting into text areas wouldn't necessarily conflict with the tab behavior, but it's an odd hodgepodge of behaviors to attach to a single button.
I think we can handle it. Consider what the left button can mean:
* Deselect (when clicking in an otherwise "dead" area)
* Select many (dragging a selection box)
* Use (single click)
* Activate (double click)
I hope over the next few years Microsoft and Apple can decide on a set of standard middle mouse button behaviors.
And I hope they can go with an established behavior that's been shown to work.
"double-clicking" remembers me of the iPod/iPhone touch... took 3 days till I noticed that you actually can "double-click" the HOME Button.
I use the middle mouse button in a quasi-modal manner for autoscrolling, and the absence of this on my mac is a bit painful for me -- scrolling long pages to the top isn't quite fun. A dedicated chording key would be interesting for me...
But personally, I feel having more than three is an overload. A scroll wheel w/o button and a button near the thumb would be ideal for me; although left-handedness can be a prob..
Just to get all theoretical here, I think a multi-button standard would have trouble staying useful and orthogonal over different applications. Maybe, if all you do is websurf there may not be a big problem, but I work a fair amount in 3D apps-- and each one has a different way of moving/rotating/flying through space. I imagine that the same would be true for other kinds of more-or-less specialized applications.
It can be turned off in the advanced options of Firefox but I can find no way to turn it off in Internet Explorer.
Internet Explorer does lots of lame things. Why are you using it so much that you care about the middle click behavior?
Personally, I don't want middle click to have standardized actions. My mom doesn't even know it exists and I remap it to what I want it to do application by application (if it isn't already mapped to something useful, that is, like MattF mentions). Things are just fine the way they are.
Should we also standardize 4th, 5th, 6th, etc buttons? My mouse has... let's see... 12 buttons. All but the most basic 9$ logitech/microsoft mice have more then 3 buttons. Let's just let the 'power users' who know what they're doing map them to what they like and the rest continue along oblivious as usual.
Good read. Jef Raskin's book is called "The Humane Interface" thought you might want to correct it incase people are searching for it.
You hope Apple and Microsoft will come to an agreement? What makes you think they will have anything to do with it (to say nothing of the free software world)?. I think it'll carry on just like it has been; the application developers will decide what to do with middle button clicks. They'll probably continue to be strongly associated with tabs, like you say, as developers use apps that reinforce this, and replicate similar behaviours in things they write.
The middle mouse button is something that has been in the back of my mind since I started using computers. You know it's there, it should have a use, but it can never quite get fully taken advantage of. I've tried to attach uses to it over the years but, like you, until the tabbed applications came about never really made one use for it on all of my computers.
That "mighty mouse" looks like something from 1980. For all of their wonderful advancements in design, you'd think Apple could come out with something better looking than that.
As an XP, ubuntu, and solaris user, I find I'm often annoyed with the middle button not doing the autoscroll feature for me in solaris and Ubuntu, this is even worse because at work where I use solaris my mouse does not have the scroll wheel but just a middle button.
Another feature I have not seen in Firefox on Ubuntu or Solaris is that hitting the backspace button will go back a page, instead I believe it goes to the top of the page.
I am still new to the unix environment but I have already come to enjoy the benefits of middle click pasting, it is much simpler than highlighting, pressing ctrl+c then moving mouse to new spot ctr+v, (or using the actual copy and paste buttons themselves)
I'm pretty sure somebody has mentioned this above, but they may not come to an industry standard for the buttons for all OSs, but we can only hope that maybe cross platform applications will implement the same usage of the buttons to make switching among the OSs a much smoother user friendly transition.
P.S. As soon as I read the "middle click to close a tab" part this tab was promptly closed.
This goofy problem luckily sorta has a solution already: mice that have programmable buttons and application-sensitive settings.
This is a "solution" in the same way that the infinite configurability of Linux is a good desktop "solution". There needs to be a standard default set of middle click behaviors driven from the top -- eg, the OS, or at least the web browser which is effectively the OS for most people these days.
Overriding is always a possibility: heck, you can currently override left-click if you really wanted to.
That said, I'm seeing little to no consensus in this thread.
If you middle-mouse click a tab in Konqueror for KDE4, it tries to open the URL in the clipboard instead of closing the tab. I find this strange, as all other browsers I know of closes the tab with a middle-mouse click.
And the autoscrolling feature is great if you're using a graphics tablet to browse the web!
On my computer pressing the middle mouse button opens a portal to a demonic underworld where I frolic among sinners and drink iced lattes with Beelzebub. Oh, and it's good for gaming, also.
After reading this post, I opened the mouse panel and looked in the list to find something useful. I never looked in there really, but always felt like that button was useless.
Lately I have been developing reports for some of my applications and I believe I just found the greatest use for this middle button. In the list I have an item called "Precision Booster" and you choose a percentage of your pointer speed. I am now able to move all those items at really slow and precise speed while keeping my regular pointer speed for any other use.
So we have to standardize all the mouse buttons? What's next, all of the function keys and keyboard shortcuts as well?
I find application specific functionality way too useful to give up. Not just middle click doing the best thing for the app in question, but also "hold left, click right", "hold right, click left", "hold right and scroll", and the close tab gesture all save me tons of time in Firefox with the mouse gestures add on. Navigating GUI controls constantly is highly disruptive in comparison.
"Microsoft and Apple can decide on a set of standard middle mouse button behaviors"
Huh???? Microsoft and Apple decide???? Microsoft will propose one function, Apple will automatically propose something different. Users will go to war. CNN will do a story on Microsoft's "unfair business practices". Steve Jobs will have a temper tantrum and take two handicapped parking spots at Apple HQ for 2 straight weeks in "protest". Apple lovers will label PC lovers "TROLLS" and vice-versa. And some kid will spend $200 for a 20-year-old Apple single button mouse, (STILL IN THE BOX!) take it out of the box ... and hug it. And you will run a story on it - pictures and all. :)
Jef Raskin's "better mouse" doesn't have context menus. I think they've become of great use. So my two suggestions would be:
Button 1 - Selects when clicked or grabs when hold
Button 2 - Activates
Button 3 - Opens context menu
Button 1 - Selects when clicked or opens context menu while hold
Button 2 - Activates
Button 3 - Grabs
I hate the single button mouse. I have to use one at work and it drives me crazy!!! The greatest mouse invention is the mouse wheel!
PaulG is spot on...made me laugh.
The middle mouse button can paste on nix? I've always been doing the simultaneous left + right mouse click to paste.
This is all dependent on what you're used to. And further, once you discover the middle-click capabilities of your system, any other system's middle-click is likely to seem wrong.
I used Macs (one button) in the 80s, Windows 3.1 (two buttons!) in the early 90s, and Unix/Linux (three buttons!) starting in the mid-90s. The highlight-to-copy, middle-click-to-paste behavior of X was a wonderful discovery; when I don't have it available it's like I'm missing a finger.
Middle-clicking links predates tabs though; I remember middle-clicking links to open them in a new window.
One other feature now becoming common in the Unix/Linux world is middle-clicking on a non-link part of a web page to go to the URL that's in the select buffer (clipboard). This is extremely handy, and follows logically from the traditional paste behavior.
This article is the first I've heard of middle-clicking on a tab to close it; it sounds wrong to me, but of course I'm biased as I've just described. In my world you close a tab by either left-clicking on a close button at the far right of the tab bar, or left-clicking on a close button on the tab itself.
And finally, yes I too am offended at the notion that Microsoft and Apple are the only ones who should be involved in any standardizing. A duopoly is little better than a monopoly. Of course, all the currently major GUI platforms (even Java) at least partly follow the a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_User_Access"CUA/a standard, which was originally published by IBM in 1987.
I currently have a 5-button Microsoft IntelliMouse Optical. The thing I like most about it, in Windows anyway, is that the buttons can be configured for different things in different applications. So, in Visual Studio and Office apps, I have one of the side buttons copy and the other paste. And I have it set so clicking the middle button turns on Instant Viewer, an Expose-like feature under Windows.
But I do agree, a global convention needs to be established at least for the 3 default buttons, regardless of the OS/application being used.
Oh yeah, the CUA is described at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_User_Access
And I intended to mention (but probably don't need to) that I hate the middle-click scroll-lock too. But that's mainly because it pops up when I intend to paste, and I have trouble turning it off.
Yes Joe Beam, when Unix/Linux and X came to PCs that only had two buttons, the both-buttons hack was invented to substitute for the middle button. Three-button mice were prized by the Unix-at-home crowd. Then scroll wheels came along and suddenly everyone had three buttons.
Actually, only the Windows version of Firefox has this modal autoscroll mode. On Linux, the middle button opens the page whose address is copied in the clipboard, which is very cool, because one can open a page whose URL is printed e.g. on the console just by selecting it and middle-clicking on Firefox.
It's fine to me that every application defines whatever behaviour they want to the middle button, but it bothers me when the same program behaves differently across platforms.
I hate the single mouse button on my MacBook Pro, so I ended up getting a mighty mouse. The default button setup is guess what! one button. It's not touch sensitive, it's a pivot on either side. Sometimes it screws up and doesn't right click.
UNIX/X11 before/outside of gnome/kde was the best text manipulation system out there (awk, sed, sort, uniq, grep, find...). The mouse behavior reflects this. When you throw in apps that support the C-x C-c C-v things get confusing when mixing the two methods. The worst part is that sometimes there were two different past buffers, one for highlighted text and one for C-c.
I really like that the middle button starts the scroll mode. Honestly, for about 2 years I hated it, but then I decided to use it to read for a while and now I love it. Now I do use it all the time just to "look around" on a web page.
It's especially great because on badly designed pages you can look left and right too. It feels much more natural, though I still use the scrollbar when I am "forced" to.
It's all about what you are used to.
I'm totally addicted to wheel-clicking links to open them in a new tab wheel-clicking to close tabs in IE or FF. But I'm equally addicted to the 4th mouse button on my MS Intellimouse that sits under my thumb and is used for going up a folder in Explorer or back a page in browsers.
I use the modal autoscroll mode quite often too.
I almost agree with Hinek's suggestion A. However...
Since grab (move) and activate are probably the most often used mouse-button actions (can anyone find research to back this up?), I believe it would be best to map both of these to the left mouse button, since it is the most comfortable and natural one to click. Having to right-click too much would probably wreck your wrists after a while.
Thus, I would suggest the following:
Left click : Activate
Left hold: grab/drag (to MOVE, if applicable)
Right click: Select
Right hold: grab/drag (to COPY, if applicable)
Middle click: context menu
And possibly, in case middle clicking is not always available, or too difficult with the combined scroll wheel/middle button:
Right click on previously activated object: context menu.
Of course, all of this discussion is moot, since most people are already accustomed to the various mappings in use today.
Now, the keyboard, then, is of course another thing that is REALLY in need of a re-thinking.
I find the macbook pro's track-pad functionality to be the next best thing to a mouse, sometimes better.
The 'two finger' scroll conversion beats the mouse wheel by a mile, and two finger-click to right click is decent. When I use a windows track-pad, I always find myself accidentally right clicking, in this usage the single button is much better. The track-pad is easy to use with either hand depending on which side of the keyboard I might want to use with the other.
As more people move to laptops, use of trackpads will become more and more common; and I think Apple's success in the laptop business is due in part to their usability advantage there.
I've used it when my scroll wasn't functioning to well, but compared to the other buttons, it redundant in my mouse usage.
However on a FPS game once, I did bind it to a grenade throw. :)
Shame on me : I discover the "please browser, open this link in a tab" third-button behavior with this post !!! Maybe because I use it mainly for copy/paste, in such an intensive way that with Windows I miss it quickly, making me angry.
""In the UNIX and X Windows world, the middle button has also meant paste since way, way back in the 1980s. I can't find any evidence of this behavior on Windows or the Mac, however. "
On my OS X 10.4.11 working in terminal pastes selected text at the cursor position with the middle-click."
This is because OSX *is* Unix ....
And thank you I have now turned *off* autoscroll .... I learn something useful from reading this blog quite often ....
This goofy problem luckily sorta has a solution already: mice that have programmable buttons and application-sensitive settings.
Blender uses the middle button for several things.
Using Vista x64 and the Microsoft Intellipoint software, my middle mouse button brings up the task switcher. I love it. No matter what app I am in or what the mouse is on, it does it.
I would suggest middle-click for edit/enter/open.
These concepts are much needed and often used but have no clear standard, except for the badly designed double-click or sometimes the enter key.
•Browser: Middle-click to open the link in a new tab (already used so).
•Spreadsheet: Middle-click to edit the cell.
•File explorer: Middle-click to open the file/folder (already used so sometimes).
•Layout designer: Middle-click to edit the inside of an object.
It could also be considered as "Forward" and complement another navigation feature: "back/exit".
Left-click could them focus more on use/activate.
Right-click stays on select/properties.
I agree that mouses would be better with a trackball for scrolling or sub-selection actions.
I somehow never got to use Middle-click to scroll, be it holding it or switching mode... yet I don't know what is wrong with it.
As for copy/cut/paste, these definitely need fast access.... but I don't think a dedicated mouse button is correct.
My middle click is set to the app switcher in OSX. It is probably the single most frequently used button other that left click that I use all day. My other button is set to expose, and with the option and control and command keys, I use expose all windows, desktop and spaces. Also, option middle click is set to dashboard.
At this point, the 'additional' buttons have been left unstandardized for so long, I think the only way to go is to make them fully customizable. Just try to take away my middle-click app switch. I dare you. :)
I like auto scroll, I was even using it as I scrolled past that graphic of yours. :P
I mostly use it on my laptop to scroll at reading pace - using L+R middle click emulation works fine - so I don't have to keep touching the pad. (although the scroll strip is fine)
I think middle mouse should just keep doing what it's doing - standardised enough.
Mice with hard to press middle buttons are annoying.
My current mouse doesn't have middle click actually. Clicking the scroll wheel switches the wheel from a "geared" mode to frictionless...
Plenty of other buttons though...
Try A4 tech SWOP 80 and iOfficeWorks software. I use 1,2 buttons in standard mode; 3,4 copypaste; 5,6 backforward in internet browser mode; middle button mean alt+F4; 7 - iOfficeWorks button run menu with most useful functions like cutcopy, zoom+-, pageuppagedown for button 3,4. Sometimes when I use chat window my thumb travel from mouse to numeric enter for sending messenges and "Next" buttons :D
how about leaving the middle as it is?
a button that is free for developers to implement functionality that is useful for their specific app.
I love the mid button. I love it for its multiple uses such as pen/close tabs, autoscroll and transform 3d spaces (maya, 3d studio etc).
I love the forward/back button under my thumb on my Logitech. I hate browsing the web without it. I think this should be a new standard as well.
As a person who configures computers for a wide variety of people, about 75% of the Windows users are simply unaware of the Context Menu that the left button provides. As far as these users are concerned, there's only a single button on the mouse.
In fact, the second button is actually confusing to them, especially when they switch the mouse from one side of the computer to the other. So, maybe Apple had a point of creating a single button mouse. You don't have to keep telling users "No, press the *other* button!".
Personally, I am in the minority. I can't stand a single button mouse, but that might be the real genius of the Apple Mighty Mouse: In standard configuration, it is a single button mouse, but if you know what you're doing, you can configure it to be a two, three, or five button mouse. For my wife, the Mighty Mouse is a single button mouse, for me, it is a multi-button mouse with a scroll wheel.
I also decided to settle once and for all whether the Mighty Mouse sucks or rules the correct way: A Google Fight. At first, I simply did "Mighty Mouse Sucks" and "Mighty Mouse Rules", but ended up with a lot of hits to Mighty Mouse cartoons. So, I added the word Apple to the query. "Apple Mighty Mouse Sucks" brings up about 64,200 hits while "Apple Mighty Mouse Rules" brings up 78,200 hits: http://snipurl.com/22ulc [www_googlefight_com].
Would the people that complain about Jeff's self-linking please shut the hell up about it? No one gives a damn - it's what he's always done, and many enjoy it. If you don't like it, then bugger off and find another blog to read.
I've always set my mouse to task switching functions. In OSX Leopard it is set to spaces(with all apps i use locked into a space), KDE it is set to switch to the next desktop in the loop (in kde4 it will be set to launch the desktop manager), in tiger it was set to expose and in windows i just had it change to the next running program. If i were to design my own desktop environment though it would certainly bring up a pie menu arround the mouse with all the programs running going arround it.
I apologize in advance for such a long vertical post.
g'lxr wrote "Microsoft should just make such user interface features more configurable.":
Actually, that's exactly what Intellipoint does. Not only can I change what the middle button does... I can change the left and right buttons as well.
The catch is that I'm not sure if it checks what hardware you have or not.
Here's the list of actions Intellipoint allows me to assign to the middle button:
Digital Ink (On/Off)
Instant Viewer (default)
The lists for the left and right button also include a "Click" option, which is the default for the left button. The right button has the default Right-click.
Why can't you just install the driver that came with the mouse? Most decent meeses include customization of the buttons, especially MS and Logitech products. Regardless, I don't use the middle button - I find it difficult to use anyway...
More buttons are good in games too, I used my fourth button in Counter Strike as my talk button (k is the default). Also, clicking with the middle button on a link in Opera opens it in a new background tab, wich is better behavior I think.
Whereas creating a standard for middle-click would be nice, it won't solve the more fundamental problem: the severe overloading of the left click with different conflicting meanings. What we really need to do is go back to Jef Raskin’s suggestion: Left is Activate, Side (is there a standard name for this button?) is Grab, and Right is Select. Middle would be reserved for navigation, that is, panning and zooming. Yes, scrolling would be gone, but scrolling would have become more and more useless as interfaces become more ZUI-like (let’s hope). Instead, one would pan, just like with autoscroll today – but only quasimodally. Yeah, I totally despise the modal autoscroll as well.
The issue of context menus was brought up. What I think needs to be remembered is that context menus hide information. You never know if there’s some useful piece of functionality hiding behind a right-click. And they end up serving as a cop-out way of adding functionality without proper design. Finally, having to search for functionality in context menus also, on top of menus and toolbars, is too much. Thus, it would be better if they were truly contextual, without the need to bring them up manually. We’ve already seen this on the Web, where useful items pop up contextually without right-clicking. This forces application designers to design these contextual objects to appear only when needed, such as when focusing, hovering over, or selecting certain objects. The items that do not belong in those contextual objects would be added directly into the application, forcing good design.
Let me just point out, reluctantly, that right-click for context menus and right-click for Select are still not mutually exclusive. So, even if my suggestion to eliminate standard context menus were ignored, moving Select to right-click would still be feasible. More importantly, it would unburden left-click, and would remove the need for double-click. No more double dysclicksia!
First: the mouse-inventor is called Engelbart -- you misspelled his name twice!
Second, I love the paste active selection behaviour of the middle mouse button, but I don't think using the middle mouse buttons to close tabs is so great. It's pretty unintuitive and somewhat dangerous (closing a tab with a document you intended to read is at least annoying and AFAIK it cannot be undone) and the alternative, clicking the close button of the tab, is not much harder.
My middle mouse button is set to activate expose for application windows on mac. I find it very useful. This also prevents any weird tab-link behaviour in FF.
middle click pasting in X is a wonderful time saver. The multiple clipboards not so much. Write now for example, middle clicking and ctrl-V give me two different pieces of text. That's more than I want to keep track of.
The person that figured out we could have a middle mouse button and a scroll wheel is a hero. Getting an ergonomic trackball without sacrificing comfort or function anywhere else on the mouse is worth a Nobel Prize to me - even though Dia is the only program I use that would benefit from it right away.
Would you believe I never noticed the mclick-Tab behavior? I knew about the scrolling stuff (logic extension of the mouse wheel, but not the tabs.
I was always just r-click "new tabbing".
Huh... What does it do in IE6?
You have phalanges, why not 5 buttons? I have been trying to find one for a long time.
Of course, you could get one of those cool 8 dimensional control devices with lean, push, pull, twist axis and 27 buttons on them.
But all I want is a mouse that won't give me carpal tunnel and ulnar tunnel nerve damage. I have been mousing for close to 25 years now and it is taking it's toll at the end of a busy programming day.
Back in the late '80's, my very first mouse had 3 buttons. I was running DESQview (text mode multitasking/windowing system, "almost an OS") under DOS, and the middle mouse button was reserved for calling up the system menu (so that you could switch apps, open apps, etc. Basically the equiv. of the XP "start" button).
Since then I've been in Unix and had the 3rd button be used for paste, but never really adapted. The 3rd button should be reserved for OS/System level things!
Also, can I just say as a lefty, that I'm glad that the Mac UI designer DIDN'T decide to put the second mouse button on the side.
I'd have to r-click with my pinky finger.
I wasted about $30 buying from an online-vendor a wireless mouse and keyboard, only to discover that the mouse was one of those contured jobs with the groves for a righty (I will not use a mouse in my right hand - It just sucks.)
Gimme the old basic oval any day of the week.
Why not let the user choose his own definitions of what the buttons should do. That is, custom mappings. I've seen software do this in the past and it would be great for power users.
Paste. The middle button is for paste. None of the alternatives are as compelling as what the X Consortium set down a quarter century ago and without a more compelling reason to change one shouldn't violate a long-standing cultural convention.
X is by no means perfect and I wouldn't suggest doing something stupid since it's always been done that way. However, for reasons others have noted (e.g. the popularity of the operation), middle button paste has been an accepted convention in one of the top three GUIs. Frankly, I don't care what Redmond or Cupertino does with the middle mouse button as long as a) it's supported across their entire UI, and b) the user is given the option of setting the behavior to X behavior. I don't hold much hope for that since Microsoft tends to define "dark" as the standard rather than changing lightbulbs (er, fixing code, playing well with others, etc.), and Apple tends to be different simply because they can. Commercial entities have to believe their own hype, I guess.
Note to developers: Respect cultural conventions (not just your own) and give the user control. And please, please, please think these sorts of changes through before implementing them. It's likely you're not as smart as you think you are.
Very compelling. And you only linked back to yourself 3 times now.
Actually, the idea of a trackball on top of a mouse is much older than that. Two patents for that were filed in the eighties, as I discovered when I tried to patent it myself around 1989.
Softimage has got this right:
The middle mouse button is used to repeat commands on buttons and menus. For example, MMB on the File menu, and it fires the last command that you clicked in that menu.
Like tear-off menus, it's a speedup for more advanced users without the necessity for the user to customize the UI temporarily.
No need for buttons on toolbar for every command imaginable, just MMB to repeat the last command in that menu. It adapts to what's a 'frequent command' for a user.
some 2D graphic apps use MMB to pan the view, so you can manipulate with the LMB and pan around with MMB.
Absolutely no GUI user needs 'paste' to be bound to a button permanently, unix fanboys. :P
For some odd reason, Windows XP doesn't have an option to assign an action to the middle mouse button... unless you have Microsoft Intellipoint installed.
The bad thing about Intellipoint is that, over time, it has changed the default for the middle mouse button. Up until version 3.x or 4.x, it was autoscroll. Either 4.x or 5.x changed it to Next Window. 6.x changed it to Instant Viewer, which presents a preview of all your open windows... probably a cheap copy of Apple's Expose.
@Bill: Microsoft didn't come up with the right-click context menu.
The first Windows application I recall doing it was Quattro Pro from Borland. The next release of Excel promptly included the same functionality (it also borrowed tabbed worksheets from Quattro Pro).
In “Keyboard and Mouse” preferences, you can switch on one or two-finger taps on the touchpad for left and right mouse clicks (respectively).
I always get annoyed when I use a non-Apple laptop and can't two-finger-tap for right click :\
This is another reason why I don't use Macs. Their mouse is very uninviting. I like mouses with complexity, give me more options!
Middle button rules! It's had a place since as far back as I can remember.... so that's, what 12 years?
I dislike the Window's auto-scroll too, but in Linux this problem is null. That said, straight out of the box I find the middle button more functional and important in Linux than in Windows.
Something else I've done, as with most folks that know better, is to remove the double clicking of the mouse- let's face it, it's annoying. Single clicking in my experience costs less.
The Smaky computer, developed by Prof. Nicoud, the father of the first Logitech mouse, has always had a three button mouse.
Here are a few pictures of various mice developed by Prof. Nicoud :
The middle mouse button on the Smaky computer brings up the application menu, whereas the left button is used to click and the right mouse button produces what is now known as a contextual menu.
If you want to play with a Smaky emulator ("tlcharger"), one is available for free here (in French only):