Like we all know, one can edit a file or folder name in Windows Explorer by either right clicking and choosing "Rename" from the context menu OR by highlighting the file by left-clicking, and clicking once again to get into edit mode (although you have to wait a brief moment not to do a double-click).

This is a feature that confused me from the beginning of my Windows past and until recently, I have mostly been using the "Rename" option in the dialog box. Now I am using it more often, mostly because it needs fewer clicks and is easer to perform on a touchpad. But still, it doesn't feel intuitive to me, and I presume there are more that feel the same way.

Does anyone know where this pattern came from and what are its reasons in terms of usability?

File rename

  • 3
    I used F2 for renames, it's much faster because you don't have to wait for the second click.
    – Lie Ryan
    Feb 8, 2013 at 15:23

1 Answer 1


The concept came from Apple who introduced the single button mouse in the original mouse in 1984 and it has carried on as a way to perform an additional action. To quote this article from coding horror

It was basically forced on the industry by Apple Computer when they elected to use a single button mouse on the original Mac in 1984. Technically, double-click is an optional shortcut for clicking an object and then clicking the File, Open menu; it's how you distinguish between selection (pick this one) and action (launch this one).

The main reason for double-click is to allow two operations to be overloaded onto a single-button mouse. Designers of more recent multi-button GUIs have faithfully duplicated a weaknesses that was made necessary by limitations of an early single-button GUI: let's do better in the future. Content applets should be particularly wary of double-click since people will think of them as single-click Web content. (Former Apple human evangelist Bruce Tognazzini provides further details about how newer window systems copied acknowledged weaknesses of the Mac in his book Tog on Software Design)

So to answer your question, it was adapted from the Mac by existing Windows systems and has become a standard despite its known usability issues.

  • 1
    What a great history lesson I never knew that--great link Feb 8, 2013 at 16:23
  • Sounds pretty reasonable, thanks for the quick answer!
    – J_rgen
    Feb 8, 2013 at 21:25

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