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How to Use a Multi-Button Mouse With Your Mac

You Can Assign a Primary and a Secondary Mouse Click With the System Preferences

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Enable Secondary Click on a Magic Mouse

Use the Secondary click check box to enable multiple mouse buttons.

Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.
Mighty Mouse Button Options

Use the drop-down menus to assign mouse button functions.

Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.
Enable a Right-Click on a Generic Mouse

You can assign either the left or right mouse button to be the primary button.

Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

The Mac OS has included support for multi-button mice for a long time, going all the way back to Mac OS 8. However, because Apple didn't make multi-button mice until it released the Mighty Mouse in the summer of 2005, Mac and Windows users alike didn't know that the Mac could use a mouse with more than one button.

Apple itself sort of kept this myth alive. For years, the default setting in the System Preferences was for multi-button mice to have all buttons assigned to the same primary click function. This caused any mouse connected to the Mac to essentially mimic the original single-button mouse that was included with the first release of the Macintosh. History and nostalgia have their place, but not when it comes to mice.

OS X fully supports mice of any style. You can easily enable multi-button support, as well as support for gestures, assuming you have a mouse, such as the Magic Mouse, that supports gestures.

Mouse Types

The process for enabling a multi-button mouse depends on the type of mouse that is connected to your Mac. OS X senses the type of mouse and will display slightly different configuration information based on the mouse type. In general, OS X supports gesture-based mice, such as the Magic Mouse; multi-button mice, such as Apple's Mighty Mouse; and third-party mice that don't have their own mouse drivers, but instead use the generic drivers built into OS X.

If you're using a third-party mouse that includes its own OS X mouse drivers or preference pane, you should follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer.

OS X Versions

There have been many versions of OS X, but the process for configuring the mouse has remained pretty consistent. There have been some name changes over the years, and not every version of OS X will exactly match the images or wording of our guide, but the instructions and images should help you get your multi-button mouse or gesture-based mouse working properly with OS X.

How to Enable Multi-Button Support on a Magic Mouse or Gesture-Based Mouse

The Apple Magic Mouse requires OS X 10.6.2 or later to work correctly with a Mac. Likewise, other gesture-based mice may require specific minimum versions of OS X. Be sure to check your mouse's system requirements before continuing.

  1. Launch System Preferences by clicking on the System Preferences icon in the Dock, or by selecting the System Preferences item under the Apple menu.

  2. In the System Preferences window that opens, select the Mouse preference pane.

  3. Click the Point & Click tab.

  4. Place a check mark in the Secondary Click box.

  5. Use the drop-down menu just below the Secondary Click text to select the side of the mouse surface that you want to use for the secondary click (right side or left side).

  6. Close System Preferences. Your mouse will now respond to a secondary click.

How to Enable the Second Button on a Mighty Mouse

  1. Launch System Preferences by clicking on the System Preferences icon in the Dock, or by selecting the System Preferences item under the Apple menu.

  2. In the System Preferences window, click the Keyboard & Mouse preference pane or the Mouse preference pane, depending on which version of OS X you're using.

  3. In the preference pane window that opens, click the Mouse. You will see a pictorial representation of your Mighty Mouse.

  4. Each button on the Mighty Mouse has a drop-down menu that you can use to assign its function. The default configuration has both the left-hand button and the right-hand button assigned to Primary Click.

  5. Use the drop-down menu associated with the button you wish to change, and select Secondary Click.

  6. Close System Preferences. Your Mighty Mouse will now be able to use the secondary mouse button.

How to Enable the Secondary Mouse Button Function on a Generic Mouse

  1. Launch System Preferences by clicking its Dock icon or selecting the System Preferences item from the Apple menu.

  2. In the System Preferences window, click the Keyboard & Mouse preference pane or the Mouse preference pane, depending on which version of OS X you're using.

  3. If needed, click the Mouse tab.

  4. The Primary Click mouse button can be assigned to either the Left or Right mouse button. Once you make your selection, the secondary click function is assigned to the remaining mouse button.

  5. You can close System Preferences. You now have a mouse that will support both primary and secondary mouse clicks.

If you use a single-button mouse, press and hold the control key on the keyboard while clicking the mouse on an item to create the equivalent of a secondary click.

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