Right-clicking gives you easy access to commands in a “contextual menu”
I know this sounds like a dumb question, especially to most Windows users. That is, until you see the mice and trackpads made by Apple: They have NO buttons!
Instead, the entire mouse or trackpad IS a button that you press down for a “click”. And that's what tends to confuse people who are used to pointing devices with actual buttons.
So, how DO you right-click on a Mac? I'll show you how to get a right-click menu on ANY Mac, regardless of what kind of mouse you have.
Then I'll show you how to do it on your Apple Mouse or Trackpad, and how to turn the right-click feature on and set it up if it's not working for you.
How to Right-Click on a Mac (ANY Mac)
Press the Control key while clicking for a “right click”
Clicking on the right mouse button, or “right-clicking” is how you get that little pop-up menu (called a “contextual menu”) wherever you are on the screen.
This allows you to quickly do things like copy & paste, make edits, or change settings without having to “mouse around” all the way up to the top of the screen for commands.
The quick and easy way to get the Contextual Menu, or the right-click capability, is to “control-click“.
That means you hold down the Control key on the keyboard while pressing the mouse button for a regular click (or left-click).
This will work with ANY mouse, including the trackpad on a laptop, as well.
How to Right-Click with a Mac Mouse
When the “Secondary Button” is turned on, you right-click as you would on any mouse.
You've probably already been teased with the dumb answer. (“You click the button on the right, right? Duh!”)
Except that, as I mentioned above, Apple's mice have no visible buttons.
Apple's mice have a special surface that can detect which side of the mouse your finger is pressing. So, just press down on the right of the little ball on the standard Apple mouse, or just right of the center on Apple's wireless Magic Mouse.
This will only work, however, if you turn the feature on as I describe below.
Of course, you can also buy and use any good USB or Wireless Mouse that actually has a right button, and use that with your Mac. There are many options online.
How to Right-Click on a Macbook Laptop or Trackpad
Unless you have a Macbook made before 2010, you'll notice that Apple's Trackpad, like their mouse, also has no visible buttons.
The entire trackpad is the button. This is convenient because you can just press down wherever your finger happens to click. No need to move or awkwardly use an extra finger to find a button.
The way to “right-click” on a trackpad is to add a second finger for a two-finger click. Simply press down with two fingers touching the trackpad instead of just one.
This two-finger click also works if you have an older trackpad that DOES have a button: touch a second finger to the trackpad, and click on the button while both fingers are resting on the trackpad simultaneously.
How to Set Up Right-Click on a Mac
It's very simple to turn on or enable the right click feature on a Mac.
First, open your System Preferences. You can do this from the Apple Menu…
Open System Preferences from the Apple Menu
… or the Dock:
Open System Preferences from the Dock
Once you are in the System Preferences window, you'll select one of two icons in the “Hardware” row:
For a Mouse:
- Click on the Mouse icon in the Hardware row.
You will see a picture of your mouse with menus connected to all the potential buttons.
- From the drop-down menu pointing to the right side of the mouse, select the “Secondary Button” option.
Your mouse is now ready for right-clicking.
For a Laptop or Trackpad:
- Click on the Trackpad icon in the Hardware row.
- You will see three tabs across the top: Point & Click, Scroll & Zoom, and More Gestures
Be sure the “Point & Click” tab is selected.
- Click the checkbox next to “Secondary click: Click with two fingers” to make sure there is a checkmark in it.
Your Trackpad is now ready for two-finger right-clicking.
Why Did Macs Only Have One Button, Anyway?
The computer mouse made for Windows has almost always had at least two buttons: left and right.
Windows users used to tease us Mac users for years. “What kind of cheap computer only has ONE button? How do you right-click on a Mac?”
Apple's approach has always been to make the personal computer as simple to use as possible, and probably felt that two buttons might be too complicated for their target market early on.
It wasn't long before Apple created a work around, and nowadays ALL Mac mice have a right-side clickability. Because of its one-button roots, however, the Mac often doesn't come with this right-clickability turned on.