red-colored computer mouse with two buttons and scroll wheelI find mice to be a controversial subject.

Some people think they’re cute; other people hop onto the nearest elevated surface (while shrieking).

Today, our subject is all about the mouse in your house.

Hint: It’s the one with the tail that’s plugged into your computer.

The computer mouse is the input device that, when moved across a flat surface, moves the cursor on your screen in the corresponding direction.

It allows you to point at things, click on things, scroll through things, and generally interact with your computer’s graphical interface to perform tasks.

A Brief History of the Mouse

In the 1960’s, when a man named Douglas Engelbart first introduced the computer mouse, it was in the form of a tall, square wooden box. The box had two metal wheels that made contact with a flat surface, to determine its movements.

The mouse did, indeed, earn its name due to the cord’s similarity to a mouse tail.

Over the years, the mouse design slimmed down and changed, first into the mechanical version, with a heavy, rubber-coated metal ball in its belly.

Raise your hand if you remember using a mechanical mouse. I won’t tell anyone how old you are.

I, too, remember using a mechanical mouse, and more specifically, I remember scraping accumulated dust off the inside rollers when it inevitably began to perform badly.

Now-a-days, the standard mouse is optical, employing a small laser or LED light to track its movement across a surface.

While some mice can still be found with a PS/2 plug (characterized by its round shape and green color), most mice these days have USB plugs (characterized by their flat, rectangular shape).

It’s important to know which plug you need, before buying a new mouse, because some computers (especially laptops) no longer have PS/2 ports.

Mouse Buttons

The average modern mouse has two buttons, with a scroll wheel in-between.

The left mouse button is used for the purpose of selecting things and/or carrying out actions.

The scroll wheel is most often used for scrolling, but can be used as a third mouse button, usually on a program-by-program basis.

(No, if you turn your mouse sideways and roll the wheel back and forth from left to right, it does not mean your window will scroll sideways. Don’t ask me how I know. How many of you just tested that out?!)

The right mouse button is primarily used for the purpose of displaying a menu of possible actions.

To some degree, there are standards in regards to how the mouse works, but in other cases, the functions a mouse performs will depend on both the operating system and the program being used.

Unless otherwise specified, anytime you see instructions to “click” on something, with no distinction of which button to use, you can safely assume that means for you to use the left mouse button. Unless you’re left-handed. But we’ll get to that.


When a mouse button is pressed, it is called a click.

On most mice, you will hear the “click” sound that the action causes.

(My favorite mouse doesn’t make any noise, and that drives my dad crazy!)

1. A “single click” happens when you press down on a single mouse button one time, and immediately let it go.

2. A “double click” happens when you press down on a single mouse button twice in quick succession, and immediately let it go.

3. To “left click” is to press the mouse button on the left.

4. To “right click” is to press the mouse button on the right.

5. To “drag” and to “highlight” are both to press down on a mouse button once, and to continue holding that button down while moving the mouse. (Usually, dragging is used to move objects, and highlighting is used to select text.)

How to Hold a Mouse

To use the mouse, simply drape your hand over the device and place your index and middle fingers on each of the two buttons.

Wrap your thumb and remaining fingers lightly over the mouse to grip it, so they help to control its movement and do not get dragged around.

Do not squeeze the mouse. Not only is it unnecessary and taxing to your hand and arm, but your mouse will also find it hard to breath.

Whether or not you rest your palm on the mouse, or hover it just over the mouse, will depend on what you find most comfortable. I do a bit of both.

Your index and middle fingers will do all the clicking, as they will already be resting on the buttons.

When you find it necessary to use the scroll wheel/button, simply move your middle finger (or index finger, if that is more comfortable) over to it temporarily.


Now, all of this has been assuming that you’re right-handed.

Due to the fact that the majority of the world’s population is right-handed, defaults are set to accommodate right-handed users.

However, if you’re left-handed, you don’t have to use your right hand to wield a mouse.

There are mice specifically designed for left-handed use, but many mice are symmetrical, and thus comfortable for either hand.

The default operating system settings can be changed, on both Windows and Linux, to accommodate left-handed users.

To change the button configurations on Windows 7, follow these steps: Start > Control Panel > View by “Large Icons” > Mouse > “Switch primary and secondary buttons” > Ok

To change the button configurations on Linux (Fedora/KDE), follow these steps: Application Launcher > Run Command > type in “mouse” and when “Mouse Settings” is highlighted, press the enter key > Left Handed > Ok

After changing the button configurations, go back and read the section about Mouse Buttons again, substituting left for right, and right for left.

Or, in other words, the scroll bar will act the same, but your right mouse button will now select things and carry out actions, while your left mouse button will display a menu of possible actions.


Now that we have some basic mouse facts and terms under our belt, we’ll move on to the fun stuff.

Coming up next week, we’ll explore some interesting mouse settings.

For the week after that, I’m working on a list that will detail a few of the multitude of ways that a mouse can be used, especially together with the keyboard.

Stay tuned!