There was a time when the mouse was weird. It was an expensive peripheral that few professional users could justify. Today, you can get a basic mouse for five bucks, and virtually every computer operating system is built on this ubiquitous pointing device.
So, if something happened to your mouse today, how would you right-click? Heck, how would you left-click? Scary thought, isn’t it? But by the end of this article, you will know exactly how to operate your mouse with your keyboard in any emergency and right click on your keyboard like a pro.
Why do you right-click with the keyboard instead of the mouse?
There are two main reasons for working with a graphical user interface with a keyboard and without a mouse. The first is the issue of accessibility. There are many people who lack the mobility or limbs to easily operate the mouse, but still have the ability to operate the keyboard.
The second is a hardware failure. Your trackpad or mouse might just stop working for one reason or another, and you may have to work on your computer until a replacement or fix arrives.
In some cases, using keyboard shortcuts to control your computer can also be faster and more efficient than using a mouse. Professional computer users already know this as keyboard shortcuts are mostly required for professional workflows.
Thus, you may find that you prefer some of these keyboard shortcuts to the mouse. There is nothing wrong with developing a computer management style that suits your needs.
Using Windows 10 Mouse Keys
Windows 10 offers a feature known as mouse keys that allows users to control the mouse cursor from the keyboard. To activate mouse keys in Windows 10:
- Click Start.
- Enter mouse keys.
- Click Turn Mouse Keys On or Off.
You can also get a more advanced set of mouse key customizations by going to Control Panel> Ease of Access> Ease of Access Center> Ease Mouse Use> Customize Mouse Keys
After activating the mouse keys, you can move the cursor using the numeric keypad buttons. Now “/”, “*” and “-” act as mouse buttons. “-” acts like the right mouse button. In the advanced settings of the control panel for mouse keys, you can fine-tune the behavior of the pointer and right-click on the keyboard if you like.
Using Mouse Keys in macOS Catalina
Keep in mind that macOS also has an accessibility feature that allows you to use the pointer using keyboard keys. As you might expect, it doesn’t work the way it does on Windows, but it works well.
To activate this feature:
- Click the Apple menu button.
- Select System Preferences.
- Select Accessibility.
- Click Manage Pointer now.
- Click Alternative Controls.
- Activate the mouse keys.
You can quickly and easily activate mouse keys with Option-Command-F5, or, if you have a Mac with a Touch ID button, press it three times in a row.
Since many Magic Keyboards and MacBooks do not have numeric keyboards, you can also use these alternative right-click keyboards. As shown in this official Apple chart.
The “I” and the numeric keypad “5” act like a mouse click here. “M” and “0” will press and hold the button. In any scheme, the full stop button (dot) releases the mouse.
If you are a Mac user, you probably already know that the so-called “alternate click” is not configured by default. So if you try to right-click on the keyboard out of the box on a Mac, nothing happens.
You need to customize the right-click behavior in System Preferences under Mouse and Trackpad options. Then your Magic Trackpad or Mouse will right-click when you click with two fingers (on the trackpad) or right-click (with the Magic Mouse).
However, by default, you must use a mouse and keyboard to create a right-click. Just hold down the control button and then left click. Don’t confuse it with the Options button.
If you hold it down instead, in many cases the pop-up menu will still appear, but not the right-click menu. For example, holding the options and clicking on the Wi-Fi icon opens up additional Wi-Fi options.
Use Right-Click Shortcut
On Windows, you can select items using Tab and arrow keys. Then you can use Enter to activate the item. Taken together, this more or less gives you the same functionality as left clicking or double clicking on items.
Most people don’t know that you can also use a keyboard shortcut to right-click. Some Windows keyboards have this button.
However, many modern keyboards do not. Fortunately, Windows has a universal shortcut Shift + F10 that does the same. It will right click on the highlighted item or place where the cursor is in software such as Word or Excel.
Who needs a mouse?
Ok, maybe this is an exaggeration. However, if your pointing device stops working or you find it too difficult to use your mouse, these keyboard workarounds can prove invaluable.
If you are forced to use something other than a mouse to operate the pointer due to a disability, you should consider purchasing a different type of pointing device.
There are many specialized controllers available for people with different mobility problems. For example, eye tracking cameras or voice control. You can even use software like Keysticks to use a standard serial game controller to control your mouse pointer.
While the mouse pointer is still an essential part of most desktop operating systems today, you have many options when it comes to moving that pointer.