Make Sure You Are Clicking Right.

I figure there are three type of computer users:

  1. Those that know all the keyboard shortcuts and use them.
  2. Those that use the right mouse button, instead.
  3. Those that have trouble remembering all but the most basic commands.

If you are in the third category, this short article will show you a whole new world into using your computer.

I used to be in category three and tried very hard to move to category one. But as I began using more and more programs, I got more and more mixed up. Even when using different programs by the same publisher keyboard shortcuts are inconsistent. In many cases there simply were no keyboard shortcuts.

The Problem:

So there you are, you are building a presentation in PowerPoint and you just imported a great photo of your company's new headquarters. But the photo is sitting on top of your text and you need to move it to the bottom of the object stacking order. Perhaps you are like me and frequently forget where that "Send to Back" menu is located. (Mainly because by default it is located at the lower left of the screen, a place I never think of for tool bars.) Or perhaps you are overwhelmed by the zillions of choices presented by all the tool bars and menus.

The Solution:

Contextual Menus. By clicking on the photo with your right mouse button (not both left and right buttons - just the right button), a menu will pop up that includes most of the things you can do with the item you have selected. In this case, one of the menu choices is "Order >" and that has a secondary menu with "Send to Back" on it. (If you are on a Mac and you are using the mouse that came with the computer, you need to hold down the CONTROL key while clicking on the object. See the sidebar for my rant about that.)

Contextual Menus

In the beginning of mouse usage Apple standardized on a one button mouse and Microsoft standardized on a two button mouse. Apple was keeping it simple, and Microsoft generally ignored the second button. In Windows each program came up with their own use for the second mouse button. But with Windows 98, Microsoft established a requirement that programs must use the second (usually the right) mouse button for only one purpose: display a menu at the cursor giving the user relevant choices based on the context of the object and what a user might want to do with it.

Shortly after that, Apple added a method for accessing contextual menus. But in their one button mindset, they required that you press the CONTROL key while clicking.

To see a short demonstration of right-clicking in commonly used programs, click on the "I'd rather watch." button on the right.