In most every "modern" desktop application I've used, the right mouse click brings up some sort of context menu. In some though, especially high end engineering applications, right click is used to cancel. AutoCAD for example has a knowledge base article telling users how to get this behavior back.

Is (or was) UI behavior dependent on the type of application being used?. If so, should this behavior be brought forward or should all desktop applications update their behavior to use current conventions?

2 Answers 2


As a rule fo thumb, users expect UI behavior to follow whatever they have used before. Therefore they would expect the right-click to show contact menu since that's what happens in the browser, in Photoshop, in the OS, etc.

That said, if you have a niche user type (Engineers) who are accustomed to certain UI behaviors only found on specialized applications (Rhino, SolidWorks, AutoCAD, etc...), then there is a good chance the expected behavior matches those of the same application family (e.g. Ctrl + Scrolling to zoom).

You could introduce new behaviors but the user will have to be educated first. And for every new behavior introduced, a new barrier is added on the user preventing them to freely use your application.

Think about the first time you use any type of software. First you use your current mental model of how these type software should behave. If your mental model matches to what the software does, then great, you can start using it right away. If your behavior expectation keeps clashing with how the software behaves, then you'll have to first relearn the new interactions (building a new mental model) before being able to do actual work.

See Problem #5 in this article: https://blog.prototypr.io/how-adobe-is-giving-design-a-bad-name-6c1d18360f77


i agree with @nicolas hung so please read his answer first, i want to add on it.

You can sometimes break these rules so when to break the rules depends on some factors, consider those:

1. Are your users willing to learn?

to answer this you need to consider aspects such as how experts are your users? how much do they value/need your product? and whatever is relevant to your users that would drive their willingness to learn - you should know your users better.

2. Do you have a good reason?

Is context menu not important? do you have something more valuable? have you invented a better context menu?

3. How often do they use your app? How often do they right-click?

If they are infrequent users, even if they have learned what your new right-click does, they are likely to forget and fall to the mistake, here are your probable scenarios

User Frequency | Right Click Frequency | Break the rules? | Why?
High             High                    Yes                User got used to it
High             Low                     Fine               User will take time but is likely to get used to it
Low              High                    No                 This is where the user smashes his head to the desk and wonders how many times does he need to remind himself
Low              Low                     No                 Just don't do it

This does not necessarily capture all of the factors, but it can guide the approach before deciding to break the rules.

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