Alternatively, why have only one mouse button when you can fit two into the same space?
This is a question that a friend asked me during one of those silly Mac vs PC arguments that still happen for some reason. I thought it was quite an interesting way of asking the question, and it got me thinking about why Windows (and Gnome and KDE) have gone down the route of having two mouse buttons, whereas Apple still stick to just one.
As far as I can tell, the advantages of a second mouse button are as follows:
- Allows more context-sensitive actions to be performed. For example, right-clicking a file in Windows Explorer opens a context menu containing actions that are specific to that file
- The ergonomics of a modern mouse lend themselves to having two fingers placed on top, so two mouse buttons is an obvious choice (of course this may be as a result of two-button mice becoming the standard and the design developing over time to facilitate this)
It seems to me that the first point is more compelling - it makes sense to have the "list of things you can do" with an object as close to the object as possible, and context menus allow this. But there must be other reasons.
I'm looking for a bit more than the usual "one mouse button is all you need, Microsoft sux" or "Apple thinks their customers are idiots" responses that seem to come up in Google, so I though I'd ask the experts!