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The Microsoft Manual of Style: The User Interface

Mouse terminology

This topic includes the following sections:

  • How to refer to the mouse.

  • How to refer to mouse pointers.

  • Which verbs to use to refer to mouse actions.

  • How to document mouse procedures.

How to refer to the mouse

If you need to refer to more than one mouse, use mouse devices if you can. Otherwise, use mice.

In general, use mouse button to indicate the left mouse button. Use left mouse button only to teach beginning skills or in a discussion of more than one mouse button when not referring to the left mouse button would create ambiguity.

Use right mouse button, not other terms such as mouse button 2 or secondary mouse button. Regardless of accuracy, users understand this term and users who reprogram their buttons make the mental shift.

When more than one mouse button is used within a procedure, identify only the least commonly used button.

Microsoft style

With the right mouse button, double-click the icon.

Click the Badges tab, and then use the right mouse button to double-click the badge that you want to edit.

Use wheel button to refer to the third or middle button on the mouse. Users rotate the wheel itself, and they click the wheel button.

How to refer to mouse pointers

Refer to the mouse pointer as the pointer. Use cursor only in content for a technical audience.

For pointers that have activity indicators, use busy pointer for the pointer that consists of only an activity indicator and working in background pointer for the combination pointer and activity indicator.

It is best to use a graphic to describe the various ways the mouse pointer can appear on the screen. If that is not possible, use descriptive labels for mouse pointers. However, do not use a graphic or a descriptive label as a synonym for pointer.

Microsoft style

When the pointer becomes a httpatomoreillycomsourcemspimages1831431.png, drag the pointer to move the split line.

When the pointer becomes a double-headed arrow, drag the pointer to move the split line.

Not Microsoft style

When the pointer becomes a double-headed arrow, drag the double-headed arrow to move the split line.

Which verbs to use to refer to mouse actions

In general, use point to, not move the mouse pointer to. Use the latter only in teaching beginning skills.

Microsoft style

Point to the window border.

  • Use click, not click on.

Microsoft style

Using the mouse, click the Minimize button.

Click the image to select it.

  • Use click with a file, command, or option name, as in “Click OK,” but use in to refer to clicking in a general area within a window or dialog box.

Microsoft style

To see the Control menu, right-click anywhere in the window.

Click in the window to make it active.

Not Microsoft style

To see the Control menu, right-click the window.

Click the Styles box.

Always hyphenate double-click and right-click as verbs.

Microsoft style

Double-click the Word icon.

Right-click to see the shortcut menu.

Use right-click to mean click with the right mouse button.

Microsoft style

Right-click the selected text, and then click Copy.

  • Use press and hold the mouse button only to teach beginning skills.

  • Use drag, not click and drag. Use press and drag only to teach beginning skills. The drag action includes holding down a button while moving the mouse and then releasing the button.

  • Use drag, not drag-and-drop, for the action of moving a document or folder. It is all right to use drag-and-drop as an adjective, as in “moving the folder is a drag-and-drop operation.” It is also all right to use drop by itself if drag is not precise enough. For more information, see drag, drag-and-drop.

Microsoft style

Drag the folder to the desktop.

Drop your files here.

Use rotate, not roll, to refer to rotating the wheel button.

Microsoft style

Rotate the wheel button forward to scroll up in the document.

How to document mouse procedures

Be consistent in the way that you list mouse procedures. For example, always list the mouse method before listing the keyboard method if you document both.

Do not combine keyboard and mouse actions as if they were keyboard shortcuts.

Microsoft style

Hold down Shift while clicking the right mouse button.

Not Microsoft style

Shift+click the right mouse button.