Mouse Computing

Dennis Faas's picture

A mouse is a handheld pointing device for computers, involving a small object fitted with one or more buttons and shaped to sit naturally under the hand. The underside of the mouse houses a device that detects the mouse's motion relative to the flat surface on which it sits. The mouse's 2D motion is typically translated into the motion of a pointer on the display. A mouse is called a 'mouse' primarily because the cord on early models resembled the rodent's tail, and also because the motion of the pointer on the screen can be mouse-like. In popular usage, the plural can be either mice or 'mouses'.

Mouse: Common button uses

There are several methods of input using a mouse aside from the most basic moving of the device to make the pointer move. A mouse click is the action of pressing (i.e. 'clicking') a button on a mouse in order to trigger an action, usually in the context of a graphical user interface (GUI) (pressing an onscreen 'button' by 'clicking' on it) or computer game (to fire a gun in a first-person shooter). The reason for the clicking noise made is due to the specific switch technology used nearly universally in computer mice. This switch is called a micro switch or cherry switch and uses a stiff but flexible metal strip that is bent to actuate the switch. The bending of the metal makes a snapping or clicking noise in the same way as the safety button on the lids of vacuum packaged jars to indicate they have been opened. As to why the clicking sound is used, researchers have found that an audible feedback, when depressing a button, in addition to the tactile feedback, gives a better response from the user.

Mouse: Single clicking

This is the most common method of distinguishing mouse based input. On single-button mice this involves using the mouse's one button. On multiple-button mice, it involves any of the buttons and is usually characterized by which button is pushed (e.g. left-clicking, right-clicking). See point-and-click.

Mouse: Double-click

A double-click occurs when the user presses the button twice in quick succession. This usually triggers an action separate from that of a single-click. For example, in the Macintosh Finder, a user may single-click to select a file, and double-click to open that file. Usability studies have found that the double-click can be confusing and hard to use -- for example, users with poor motor skills may not perform the second click soon enough after the first, causing the action to be registered as two single clicks rather than a double click. (Ironically, the double-click was introduced because the previous solution -- separate mouse buttons for separate actions -- was also found to be confusing in user studies.) Most multiple-button mice allow setting one button to emit a double-click on a single press.

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