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Mouse Tips

The mouse is a primary way of interacting with the computer. Smooth and responsive functioning is a must. Here are some tips to help ensure trouble-free mousing.


Double-click made easier

Not everybody is adept at manipulating things with their hands and I often have students in my classes who have troubles with the computer mouse. The double-click can be especially troublesome since it involves precise timing between clicks as well as accurate and steady placement.of the mouse pointer. I often suggest replacing the double-click with one of the two following alternatives.

  • Instead of double-clicking an icon, file, or other object of interest, highlight or select the object with a single left-click. The object will turn blue or become darkened indicating that it has been selected for further action. Then press the "Enter" key on the keyboard. The net result will be the same as double-clicking. This method works for files listed in Explorer as well as for icons.
  • Another method for opening programs or folders is to use the right mouse button instead of the left. Right-click once on an icon. A menu will open, listing a group of possible actions. Click once more (right or left) on the entry in the menu that says "Open" and the net result is the equivalent of a double-click with the left mouse button.

The parameters of the double-click can also be adjusted to conform to an individual’s patterns. Open the “Mouse Properties” dialog box by going to Control Panel-Printers and Other Hardware-Mouse. Under the “Buttons “ tab (Figure 1) is a dialog box with an entry “Double-click speed” with a slider that allows the user to test different double-click parameters by clicking a trial icon. Once the desired speed is determined, click “Apply”. Depending on your mouse software, the procedure may be slightly different. Also in versions of Windows older than XP, the mouse settings are in a slightly different place. Consult your help files for the exact location.

Figure 1. Mouse button properties

For Lefties

Those who are left-handed and who wish to switch the right- and left-click buttons have the option in the Properties dialog box. In the the top portion of Figure 1 is an area "Button configuration." Putting a check by "Switch primary and secondary buttons" will reverse the usual configuration. Removing the check will return the default button assignment.

Left-handed cursors

Microsoft has also supplied a set of mouse pointers (AKA cursors) for left-handers. They can be downloaded at this Microsoft link. The download site includes a Word DOCX file with instructions on how to install the files.

Cursor files have the extension .CUR and are usually in the \Windows\Cursor\ folder. Download the desired cursor files and place them in this folder. Or, if you desire, you can create a sub-folder to hold all left-handed cursor files. If the PC has several users, you may want to create a separate left-handed pointer scheme to make switching back and forth easier.

The quickest way to access the Cursor folder is to enter "cursor" in the Run line in XP or the Start Search line in Vista. (In Windows 7, use the keyboard shortcut Windows key+R to open the Run line.) Note that you may be prompted about administrator privileges.

Turn off the double-click

It is also possible to dispense entirely with the necessity of the double-click and to configure the system to behave like a Web page. Open “My Computer” or any folder and click on the “Tools” menu and choose “Folder Options”. (For Windows 98, go to “View-Folder Options-Settings".)   In the dialog box (Figure 2) under “Click items as follows” choose the radio button by “Single-click to open an item…” You then have a choice to have icons titles appear underlined just like links on the Internet or to have the underlining appear only when the mouse pointer is over the icon. Click “Apply” for the settings to take effect.

Figure 2. Replacing the double-click

Adjust pointer speed and appearance

It is also possible to adjust a number of other characteristics of the mouse in the Mouse Properties dialog box. For example the speed at which the pointer moves can be adjusted by clicking on the "Pointer Options" tab (Figure 3). Use the slide bar in the section "Motion" to obtain the speed that you find most suitable. If, like me, you sometimes can't find the mouse pointer on the screen, put a check in the box "Show location of pointer when I press the CTRL key."

Figure 3. Pointer options

Many people do not realize that they have a choice of pointer type. Select the tab “Pointers” and you are presented with a variety of possibilities (Figure 4) in the drop-down window “Scheme”. I find that I like a larger pointer than the default and I use “Windows Standard (extra large). A larger pointer is also good for classroom use.

Figure 4. Pointer choices

Finding a lost mouse pointer

When I am using a laptop with a pointing stick or a touch pad, I sometimes lose the pointer because it goes somewhere off the screen. The pointer can also get obscured when using certain graphics programs. The Pointer Options shown in Figure 3 have a mouse locator setting that can be useful in these situations. At the bottom of Figure 3, there is an entry, "Show location of pointer when I press the CTRL key". (The wording is a little misleading. It should say "when I press and release the CTRL key".) Putting a check here will activate this feature. The only drawback is that using the CTRL key for other reasons may also flash the pointer location.

Shortcut to mouse properties

If you find yourself having to open the mouse properties dialog box on a frequent basis, here is how to create a shortcut in Windows XP. Right-click on an empty spot on the Desktop or in any other folder where you want to place the shortcut. In the context menu, choose New-Shortcut. Enter the command exactly as given below into the line under "Type the location of the item." Click "Next," choose a name, and click "Finish."

RunDLL32.EXE shell32.dll,Control_RunDLL main.cpl @0,0

Another, shorter version is to use the command

Control main.cpl @0,0

Keyboard instead of the mouse

For those who wish to avoid having to use a mouse at all, Windows has a setting that allows the pointer to be controlled from the keys on the numeric pad. These are separate keys usually on the right of the keyboard. They may be missing on laptops where one of the “Fn” keys may have to be invoked. Go to Control Panel-Accessibility Options-Mouse and check “Use MouseKeys.” There is a “Settings” button for configuring speed and acceleration.

How to exit or reboot when the mouse dies

Sometimes it can happen that the mouse stops working. I will skip over all the standard steps such as checking the cable connections or making sure that the battery in your wireless mouse still functions. First you may want to close down the computer and here is the way to use the keyboard to exit or reboot.

Bring up the Start menu by pressing the Windows key or by the combination Control+Esc.Then select "Turn off computer" by pressing the Up arrow once, followed by Enter. Next, press "r'" to reboot or "u" to shutdown. Or you can use the left or right arrow keys to navigate among the shutdown choices. Then press Enter. Use Esc if you want to cancel an action.

Sometimes a reboot is all that is needed to get the mouse to work again.

Another way to exit if the mouse doesn't work

. If there are no programs open, there is an even quicker keyboard shortcut. Press Alt+F4 (F4 is a function key) to bring up the Shutdown menu and then enter “u” (no quotes”) to turn off the computer. To reboot enter “r” instead.

If programs are open, successive applications of Alt+F4 can be used.


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