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Mousing Around the Mac Interface

The computing business requires a lot more clicking than Dorothy had to do to get back to Kansas. She used ruby slippers. You get to use a mouse.

A computer mouse is generally less frightening than that other kind of critter. In keeping with this Wizard of Oz comparison, not even the Cowardly Lion would be scared of it. And though your high-tech rodent can get finicky at times, you're unlikely to set traps to bring about its demise.

Some mice connect to the computer through cords. Some are wireless. Either way, they're called pointing devices because they're devices that sort of point.

You roll the mouse across a flat surface (typically your desk or perhaps a specialized mouse pad). As you do so, a cursor, or insertion point, on the screen miraculously apes the movement of your hand gliding the mouse. If the mouse loses touch with the surface of your desk, the cursor will no longer move.

When you place the cursor precisely where you want it, you're ready for the clicking part. Place your right index finger on the upper-left portion of the mouse, press down quickly, and let go. You'll hear a clicking sound, and in some cases, your entire body will tingle with satisfaction. You have indeed mastered the fine art of clicking.

Don't get too cocky. Now try double-clicking, an action often required to get something accomplished. You're pretty much repeating the preceding exercise, only now you're clicking twice in rapid succession while keeping the cursor in the same location. It may take a little practice, but you'll get it.

Left- and right-clicking

If you've been using a Windows computer, you're accustomed to working with a mouse that has two or more buttons. More times than not, you click or double-click using the upper-left button (assuming that you're using the mouse with your right hand). That's where the remarkably unoriginal name of left-clicking comes from. Left-clicking usually serves the purpose of selecting things on the screen. By contrast, the opposite action, right-clicking, brings up a menu of shortcut commands.

Until recently, the typical Apple mouse had just one button, the functional equivalent of the left button on a Windows mouse. (Apple's programmable Mighty Mouse, included with recent Macs, can behave like a multibutton mouse.) Having just one button on a Mac is less of a big deal than some think. That's because you can effectively right-click, or bring up a shortcut menu, with a one-button Mac mouse anyway. To accomplish this great feat, press Control while you click.

Pointing and clicking on a laptop

You can attach a regular mouse to any Mac laptop, but it is not always convenient to use one when you're on a 747 or working in tight quarters.

Fortunately, Mac portables have something called a trackpad, a smooth area just below the keyboard. You glide your finger on the trackpad to choreograph the movement of the cursor. The button just below the trackpad handles the clicking chores.

Dragging

The mouse is responsible for at least one other important bit of business: dragging. Position the cursor on top of the symbol or icon that you want to drag. Then hold down the mouse button and roll the mouse across your desk. As you do so, the icon moves to a new location on the screen.

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