Why Apple ships a one-button mouse even though Mac OS X supports multi-button mice

“There are a lot of misconceptions about the Macintosh, but one misconception that has persisted is the myth that Mac’s are incapable of using multi-button mice. And those who know this myth is false still complain about Apple not shipping computers with two button mice. Gear Live cub reporter XIcarus wanted to share a bit of background on what many believe to be Apple’s stubborness to conform,” GearLive.com reads.

XIcarus writes, “Apple supports multi-button mice. Right out of the box. Furthermore, this is not a ‘new feature’ of OS X. Support for contextual menus (the primary use for the two button mouse) have been around since OS 8.6, which is now more than seven years old. Let me repeat, Apple supports multi-button mice. Even if you use a one button mouse, you can still access contextual menu through ‘control-clicking’ (Hold down the control key when you click the mouse button)… Although I can envision a day where Apple will ship with a two button mouse, they have really, really, really good reasons for sticking to a one button mouse.”

“Apple is always concerned with creating a user experience that is as intuitive as possible. Giving the average person a right mouse button is like giving a bald man a comb,” XIcarus writes. “Folks, those are the reasons Apple ships a one-button mouse. Will that change? At some point yeah. But Apple is in no hurry to ship something that they believe no one will use.”

Full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Welcome to our semiannual Apple one-button mouse article. It’s kind of ironic that when Windows users first see the currently-shipping Apple mouse, the number one question they ask is, “where are the buttons?” In effect, Apple’s one-button mouse has no buttons at all; the whole thing is a button. Of course, Apple may have solved the whole mouse button issue with their Mac mini – no mouse included, just pick your own. For the record, MDN’s favorite desktop mouse is currently a relatively inexpensive (US$39.99) Kensington StudioMouse with the multiple buttons (third button programmed for Exposé tiling (F9), of course) and a scroll wheel. The Apple mouse just can’t cut it. Mac OS X and at least a two-button mouse are a powerful combination.

Related MacDailyNews articles:
Macworld Poll: 34 percent say Apple Mac one-button mouse a mistake – April 07, 2004
Why no Apple two-button mouse? – September 17, 2003
The time has come for Apple to ship a two-button scroll mouse standard – June 09, 2003
Should Apple reconsider the one-button mouse? – October 23, 2002


  1. I have been a Mac user and fan for 20 years or so, but I have never understood their stubborness to go to a two button mouse. Ever since I used my first two button mouse on a Windows PC, I never went back. That goes for scroll wheels as well. I am one of many people I’m sure that never even knew about the control clicking option on a Mac until recently. I thought they were just way behind the times. Now that I know about the control click option, I have to use it sometimes when I am on my laptop and don’t have my non-Apple mouse with me. But control clicking is SUCH A UN-USER-FRIENDLY PAIN! If Apple is serious about wanting people to switch, maybe they should get with the times and supply a friggin user friendly mouse!

  2. I use a 2 button/scroll mouse at work, although it’s not needed with the apps my employer uses. So there are no mouse transition issues at home Lots of Windows users don’t even know what the right-click button does anyway.

    Speaking of home, I do own a Kensington Studio Wireless which is was so poorly designed for recharging that I just went to Wal-mart and bought a recharger and some extra NiMH batteries. Yet still, I usually find myself coming back to the Apple Pro Mouse. It just feels right.

    One of the reasons Windows is so convoluted is because so many buttons = so many more options for MS & Windows developers to make things more convoluted.
    Apple should stick to its guns with the one-button for application consistency.

  3. macster-
    using the keyboard with one hand, and the mouse with another is a part of normal everyday computer use (alt-click and drag to copy etc.) You do it all the time. What’s so UN-USER-FRIENDLY about control clicking? It’s the easiest keyboard key to find!

  4. For some users, just having a one button mouse is probably OK or maybe even good (my Mom for example – the simpler the better) but I think for a very very large percentage of Mac purchasers, the one button mouse is never used and so is a waste. Apple should at least offer an option – “Thank you sir, and would you like a one button or two button mouse (with a scroll wheel) with that iMac?”

    Personally I am a trackball man (talk about thinking different – I wonder what the percentage is for being a Mac User AND a Trackball User).

    I am on a Kensington Turbomouse Pro Trackball which has 11 buttons and 13 different clicks with “chords”. Its great. I guess I am the antithesis of the quicksilver keyboard short cutter. Except for typing, of course, 80 percent of what I do can be handled from the mouse.

    So personally I don’t think I would use even a two button mouse from Apple much. Maybe for when I go on the road. I would probably buy an Apple wireless mouse if it had two buttons and a scroll wheel – for road trips.

    Altho I don’t expect Apple to come up with one, it would be cool if they had trackballs. My first powerbook (a 170) had a trackball rather than a touchpad. If that was an option, I would definitely go for that even if it cost more. Trackpads suck.

  5. Macster, I don’t know if you realize this but you can also access many right click functions by left clicking and holding over an object (or one clicking and holding) try it over stuff in your dock.

  6. Well .. I could think-different with a one button + clickable scrollwheel.
    I have seen older, 60 ± newbies to computers, people with a multi mouse getting confused with the R-click.
    To press -LH control- they did not forget, the scroll function they understood as well. So, Apple is even eldery and newbies user friendly.

  7. Count me in as a one-button fan. Wouldn’t know what to do with a second button and don’t want to learn or be confused, just like the article says. (Mac user for 16 years.) I can count on one hand the number of times per month I do a control-click.

  8. Stringbean- Maybe you have very long fingers and are used to the old fashioned pre-two mouse ways of doing things. Or maybe you are one of those geeks who thinks the mouse is for sissies and in your day you could control everything with the keyboard commands and the arrow keys. Ya, crank starting cars were cool once too.

    No matter how you look at it, it is a hell of a lot easier for me to press ONE buton on my mouse and have my right click options available at the press of ONE button — all without ever having to touch the keyboard. For example, if i wanted to “view source” on this page on a Mac with one button, I would have to press the Control button using my left hand and with my right (mouse) hand, scroll down and click on “Print Page”. Or move the mouse up to the View menu, scroll down and then hit view source.

    OR, with a two button mouse, all i have to do press the right click button with the same hand that is already on the mouse, and then press print. No mouse movement involved, and no unneccesary old school keyboard keyboard commands.

    So if your old school ways work for you, thats cool. But I think it is about time Apple got with the program and added clickable scroll wheels and right click buttons.

  9. I use Photoshop, Quark. Illustrator, Acrobat, Office and I use them for a living. I use all the iLife apps. And I use any number of other pro and consumer apps as they come and go. I may not be the greatest operator in the world, but I’m not bad. And I’ve used a Mac for 16 years. And I have always used a one button mouse. A two button mouse is strictly for amateurs.

  10. Maybe they should take away iDVD, because the very basic user who can’t use the right mouse button certainly couldn’t figure out iDVD either. We should also nix Exposé, because that’s dealing with function keys, and those can be INTIMIDATING!

    It’s such a stupid argument to keep the one button mouse. Right-clicking is certainly no harder than Ctrl-clicking, and a scroll wheel is so much more efficient than grabbing the scroll bar.

    My father is computer-phobic. He can use a two-button mouse. He loves the scroll wheel. If he can use it, than anyone can.

  11. Been using multibutton mice for years with trackball and scroll wheel. Works perfect for high end music apps, particularly for zooming in and out for editing. Oddly enough, many of these programs still don’t support scrolling ie SampleTank which has a gazillion sample choices in its’ menu where scrolling would be a life saver.

    My magic word is distance and I’m not going to be cute with it today.

  12. I’m using a microsoft Intelli-Mouse with 5 buttons. I really liked MDN’s suggestion of using (programming) the middle button under the scroll wheel for expose’ but it won’t let me. When I try to enter F9 in the setup it just does it instead. Any suggestion how to program this?

  13. KISS

    Keep It Simple Supid

    In my sister’s all windows office (she’s a nurse), no one of the 20 odd nurses knows what the heck the second button is for.

    The other day at the university, the department director’s wife fed a floppy disk (she’s a windows person) in the slot loading imac cd drivet. Scrapped the drive. And you want people to use a 2 button mouse?

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