Wondering how to right-click on a Mac? You’re not alone. Years ago Apple famously insisted that a one-button mouse was the way to go, not the two-button mouse preferred by Windows users. The legacy of this decision has been a lot of confusion about how to right click on a Mac.
Even with a wealth of two button mice available for use with Macs, the question continues. Even if you know how to right click on a Mac, there are plenty of people who are unsure, perhaps because they have moved from a PC to a Mac and aren’t clear about the key combos such as how to cut and paste on a Mac.
There is also the fact that the most popular Macs these days are Mac laptops with a multi-touch trackpad with no obvious way of indicting a left or right button click. The Force Touch trackpad on newer Mac laptops takes multi-touch even further, but some Mac users will still be unsure of how to right click on one of these laptops.
There are actually a few ways to right click on a Mac:
One way to right click on a Mac is to press the Ctrl (or Control) key when you tap the mouse button, or the trackpad.
Press Control to right click
Don’t confuse the Ctrl key with the Alt (or Option) key. The Ctrl key on a Mac is not the one next to the space bar, it’s at the far end of the keyboard, on either the right or left side.
Use two fingers on a trackpad
If you have a trackpad and want to right click, you can use two fingers to click.
If this doesn’t work you may need to set it up in System Preferences. Open System Preferences either by clicking on the cog icon if it is in your Dock, or by clicking on the Apple icon at the top left of your screen and then System Preferences. Then click on Trackpad and in the Trackpad preferences select: ‘Click with two fingers’ beside Secondary click. There are lots more Gestures you can set up here: How to use MacBook trackpad gestures.
Tap the corner of the trackpad
Perhaps two-finger tapping isn’t the most intuitive way for you to right-click. If that is the case you can choose to click on the corner of your Trackpad when you want to right-click.
To set this preference up you need System Preferences again. This time, rather than selecting ‘Click or tap with two fingers’ select either ‘Click in bottom right corner’ or ‘Click in bottom left corner’.
Right-clicking with the Force Touch trackpad on the MacBook
The newer Force Touch trackpad on the MacBook, MacBook Pro and 2018 MacBook Air uses taptic feedback to fool you into thinking that you can use various levels of pressure to achieve clicks. There is a deeper click that opens up a contextual menu that is similar to a right-click, but that isn’t necessarily the case.
If you want to right-click, you can tap with two fingers, or set it to tap in the right or bottom corner as above, or you can press and hold the trackpad to get the equivalent of a right-click.
How to right-click with an Apple mouse
If you have an Apple Magic Mouse you may be wondering how to right-click, after all, the mouse has no buttons at all. Apple’s mouse also uses many of the same multi-touch gestures as the trackpad, but essentially, where you click on the Mouse determines the kind of click you are performing.
Right-clicking on an Apple Magic Mouse is actually pretty intuitive – you can actually click on the right of the mouse. If this doesn’t work then you may need to set it up in System Preferences.
How to right-click with any mouse
If you purchase a mouse with two buttons to use with your Mac you should be able to use the right-click as you would expect.
Why right-click on a Mac?
Right-clicks open up a new level of interaction, with extra contextual menus that aren’t available to single clickers.
For example, you could right click on a Word or Pages document and see options for cut, paste, change the font, and even find synonyms.
You can right click on an open application’s icon in the Dock and choose to quit it.
Depending on the complexity of the program you are using the right-click options are likely to add an extra layer of detail that you would be lost without.