How to Right-Click on a Mac

How to Right-Click on a Mac

by | Jan 15, 2020 | Mac

Wondering how you can right-click without a right mouse button—or a mouse? Find out here how to right click on a Mac with mouse, trackpad or keyboard alone.

First, a Butter Dish on Wheels

or, to be more precise, on one wheel: Dean Hovey built the prototype for Apple’s first mouse from a butter dish and a roll-on deodorant’s ball.

Neither was controversial, of course. The big question was what to put on the dish: the mouse Steve Jobs had seen at Xerox had three buttons; Jobs wanted simplicity—and got it with one button.

That is why you today have either one or no button at all to right-click. Let’s find out how you still can (to, say, open a logo so you can resize it for use in your Gmail signature)!

How to Right-Click on a Mac Laptop (Using a Trackpad)

Time needed: 1 minute.

To employ the right mouse button (yes, even if you have neither a mouse nor buttons) in macOS using a trackpad:

  1. Enable the 2-finger-tap gesture. (See below.)

  2. Tap with 2 fingers on the trackpad.

How to Right-Click on a Mac (Using a Mouse)

As an alternative, with either a trackpad or a mouse that has only one button:

  1. Hold down the Control key while tapping with one finger or clicking the sole (or left) mouse button.

As an alternative with Apple Magic Mouse, Apple Mouse or just about any other two- or more-button mouse:

  1. Click (or tap with Magic Mouse) on the mouse’s right side.

How to Right-Click on a Mac: FAQ

How can I make sure two-finger tapping works for a right click using a trackpad?

Right-clicking Mouse. Heinz Tschabitscher
This mouse is clicking right, presumably on an imaginary Mac.

To set up a trackpad (Magic Trackpad or the trackpad on a laptop) so tapping or clicking with two fingers will work like right-clicking:

  1. Select the Apple () menu.
  2. Choose System Preferences… from the menu that has appeared.
  3. Select Trackpad.
    Tip: You can also click Search in the System Preferences window and type “Trackpad” to find the Trackpad settings.
  4. Go to the Point & Click tab.
  5. Check Secondary click.
    Check "Secondary click"
  6. To change what counts as a secondary (right) click:
    1. Click the downward-pointed caret () under Secondary click.
    2. For 2-finger tapping to right click, make sure Click or tap with two fingers is selected.
    3. You can also choose tapping or clicking in one of the lower corners, of course.
  7. Close the System Preferences window.

Can I right-click with the keyboard alone (without a mouse even)?

Yes, you can set up a key or key combination to produce a right click with the mouse:

  1. Open System Preferences.
  2. Now open the Accessibility category.
  3. Go to the Pointer Control section.
  4. Open the Alternative Control Methods tab.
  5. Check Enable Alternative Pointer Actions.
    Optional: Click Options… to change which key to press for right-clicking (and left-clicking).
    Tip: By default, the F12 key right-clicks (and the F11 key produces a normal click).
  6. Optionally, check Enable Mouse Keys as well.
    Note: This lets you move the mouse cursor using the keyboard alone and without a mouse or trackpad.
    Important: You cannot type text using the keys used for Mouse Keys while it is enabled. Click Options… to enable a shortcut for switching between Mouse Keys and normal keyboard function.
    Tip: The keys to move the mouse are:
    7: ↖︎ 8: ↑ 9: ↗︎
    u: ←    o: →
    j: ↙︎ k: ↓ l: ↘︎

Can I turn off the “Control” Right-Click on a Mac?

No, there is no universal way to disable Control-clicking for a right click on a Mac.

Using a tool like Karabiner-Elements and its Ctrl Click modification, you can remap Control-left click, however.

To disable Control right-clicking, map Control plus a left click to a mere left click, for example.

How can I choose between right and left clicking for a right click?

To set up your mouse so either a using the right or the left button produces a right (secondary) click:

  1. Select the Apple button () in the menu.
  2. Now choose System Preferences… from the menu.
  3. Open the Mouse category.
  4. Go to the Point & Click tab.
  5. Now make sure Secondary click is checked.
  6. To choose the side:
    1. Click the downward-pointed caret () or the highlighted text.
    2. Select Click on the right side for the right or Click on the left side for the left side.
  7. Close the System Preferences window.

(How to right click on a Mac tested with macOS Catalina 10.15; updated January 2020; title image: StockUnlimited)

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