I've been trying to understand the conceptual difference between a force-click and a secondary click (aka right click) on a Mac.

Conceptually, what is a force click supposed to do? Is there a coherent explanation from Apple (couldn't find one in the UX guidelines) about this question? In iOS, force touch seems to most commonly be used to show contextual actions. If that same meaning percolates down to OS X, how will a Mac user know which contextual actions will be available via force-click vs. secondary click?

I'm not criticizing the force-click hardware concept itself-- it's a nice, discoverable way to do something extra with a trackpad-- but I'm just confused about its intent on OS X which already seems to have a similar "do something extra with a trackpad (or a mouse)" in secondary click.

Here's an excerpt from one explanation.

It feels sort of like Apple decided right-clicking and the contents of the contextual menus it produces are too geeky, so they created a whole alternate universe of more mainstream-friendly secondary click behaviors, invoked in a new way, but left right-clicking and the behaviors that invokes in place for the nerds. I guess I see the reasoning. Still, it's rather odd that Apple, the company that for a couple of decades only believed in one sort of clicking, now supports three.

Good points. Why did Apple choose the extra complexity of a completely new kind of click instead of making secondary click more discoverable with force click hardware and adding UX guidelines for secondary click doing more than a "geeky" plain menu?

I assume there are good UX reasons explained somewhere. Anyone know what they are?


2 Answers 2


From the uses I'm familiar with on OS X, force click isn't really synonymous with secondary click at all (which pretty much always brings up a context menu), but with actions that Apple have previously mapped to (awkward, imho) three-finger gestures. That is, quick look, dictionary lookup, etc.

So your question might actually be, "conceptually, what does Apple think three-finger gestures should be used for in OS X?"


I guess Apple's designers have been thinking along these lines:

"Let's consider what we have on Mac to convey our input via the mouse pointer.

  • One button/trackpad. No two, no three, no wheels, no special areas on the trackpad. This is Apple's way of doing things. One button/trackpad is infinitely simpler than 2, nothing to say of many.
  • Now we start introducing all kinds of gestures on top of a single click, e.g. two fingers to scroll/navigate/zoom, three fingers to swipe screens and so on.
  • Then, suddenly, we have that awkward conflict: two fingers moving do some motion, but two fingers touch down + touch up do the "right click". How many times, I've been trying to do right click, but ended up making "drag" and vice versa! Not nice at all...
  • Of course, there is another option to make that "right click" - Ctrl+Click. However, I need two hands to do that. Not nice again.
  • Then, Eurika!, I can do this with one finger if I press little harder. Taking into account "right click" is not used frequently, pressing harder from time to time is not that big of a deal. BTW, in this case people may discover it without documentation, by pure accidents. Much better.

Force Touch is born!"

  • 1
    I agree that the force click gesture is a good and discoverable one. But the essence of my question is why force click wasn't mapped to the secondary click? And if it's not, then what is force click supposed to do in iOS? Jan 17, 2016 at 17:33

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