Message: previous - next
Month: February 2012

Mouse buttons and terminology

From: Darrell Anderson <humanreadable@...>
Date: Wed, 8 Feb 2012 20:23:43 -0800 (PST)
I'm busy updating the TDE handbook files. Right now I'm working on the user guides. I'm progressing nicely. Revising text, submitting patches and new images to the bugzilla, repairing web links, etc. Eventually I'll post the user guides for reviews.

I'm writing notes to explain the processes used. Eventually I'll post that information too, either at the wiki or directly in a handbook help file.

As a technical writer, for many years I have grimaced every time I read the expressions "left mouse button," "right mouse button," "click," and "right-click." I frown when I read the word "click" rather than "select."

I'm not anal about language. I'm not a purist. I embrace the fact that languages and usage evolve. Yet I strive for technical correctness because communicating ideas is challenging. Skilled communicators say what they mean and mean what they say. :)

Those mouse related terms bother me from a technical correctness perspective. Why?

Because the terms are technically incorrect for people who use a mouse configured for left-handed use. That is, with the mouse button roles swapped. I should know --- I have used my mouse that way for almost two decades. I have a pretty good laugh every time people try to use a computer desktop I have configured. Swapping the buttons of the mouse confuses people like crazy because they never pay attention to the fact that my mouse is on the left side of my keyboard. :)

I have wondered through the years how such lazy street language terms translate into other languages.

The challenge most people counter is what terms to use as replacements?

The best I have conceived is "primary" and "secondary" buttons. Yet I realize some people might find those terms confusing too.

Should we talk about people who use three button mice? In the days before scroll wheels such mice existed --- I have one in my junk box. :) How about five button mice? Seven? When does "left" and "right" become meaningless? Should those terms be used at all?

I realize conventional usage often prevails but that does not mean those terms are technically correct. :)

I'd like to hear some other thoughts and opinions about the subject.