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How to swap left and right mouse buttons on a mac

Benj Edwards
How to swap left and right mouse buttons on a macBenj Edwards
Associate Editor

Benj Edwards is an Associate Editor for How-To Geek. For over 15 years, he has written about technology and tech history for sites such as The Atlantic, Fast Company, PCMag, PCWorld, Macworld, Ars Technica, and Wired. In 2005, he created Vintage Computing and Gaming, a blog devoted to tech history. He also created The Culture of Tech podcast and regularly contributes to the Retronauts retrogaming podcast. Read more.

How to swap left and right mouse buttons on a mac

Most mice have two main buttons: the primary button and the secondary button. The primary button is usually on the left side of the mouse, but some users prefer to swap them if they are left-handed or have a different preference. Here’s how to do that on your Mac.

First, open System Preferences by clicking on the Apple logo on the menu bar then selecting “System Preferences.”

How to swap left and right mouse buttons on a mac

In System Preferences, locate “Mouse” and click on it. This will open the mouse options.

How to swap left and right mouse buttons on a mac

In Mouse options, find the “Primary Mouse Button” section, then select either Left or Right depending on your personal preference. The default primary mouse button is Left, but some right-handed users use the Right button as primary.

The secondary button is usually used for what many people call “right-clicking,” which is another way to bring up contextual menus or other options with the mouse.

How to swap left and right mouse buttons on a mac

Now you can close System Preferences, and your option will be saved. You can always change it back at any time by visiting System Preferences > Mouse again. Happy clicking!

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How to swap left and right mouse buttons on a mac Benj Edwards
Benj Edwards is an Associate Editor for How-To Geek. For over 15 years, he has written about technology and tech history for sites such as The Atlantic, Fast Company, PCMag, PCWorld, Macworld, Ars Technica, and Wired. In 2005, he created Vintage Computing and Gaming, a blog devoted to tech history. He also created The Culture of Tech podcast and regularly contributes to the Retronauts retrogaming podcast.
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Most lefties have adapted to the righty-centric world of computing, but this isn’t necessary on a Mac. The Apple Magic Mouse, Apple wireless mouse, wired mouses, trackpad, and even most 3rd party mice have a symmetrical shape, so those that are left handed just need to adjust a few settings in Mac OS X to get the mouse on their dominant side.

We’ll show you how to change the mouse button to be left handed in Mac OS X, and also how to change the trackpad behavior to be for left handed people too.

How to Change Mouse Button Setting to be Left Handed on Mac

The main thing you want to do is change the “Primary mouse button” to be on the right button instead of the default left:

  1. Launch System Preferences from the  Apple menu of Mac OS X
  2. Click on “Mouse”, look for “Primary mouse button:” and select the bullet box next to “Right”

How to swap left and right mouse buttons on a mac

This reverses the behavior of the right-click (alternate click) so it becomes a left-click, so a lefties pointer finger becomes the primary clicker.

How to Change Trackpad Settings to be Left Handed on Mac

For the lefties using a MacBook Pro or MacBook Air, you can adjust the literal right-click to be a literal left-click instead:

  1. Go back to System Preferences and click on “Trackpad”
  2. Next to “Secondary Click” select “Bottom Left Corner”

How to swap left and right mouse buttons on a mac

The literal right and left clicks are a little less necessary for trackpad users though because, regardless of which is your dominant hand, you can always just use a two-fingered click to activate the ‘right-click’ or secondary click anyway. Nonetheless it can still be a helpful setting to adjust.

These features exist in all versions of MacOS and Mac OS X, so it doesn’t matter what version is running on the Mac.

How to swap left and right mouse buttons on a mac

Enjoy your new left handed friendly Mac experience!

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12 Comments

Why don’t you look up up “lefty cursors”? There are some for Mac but the windows ones might work as well. Do .ani work on Mac? The Mac ones are .cur and so are a lot of the Windows cursors. (Some people make them .ani even when they are not animated. Don’t know why.)

I have a well trained Apple Mouse for people who are righthanded.
I am left handed can someone please advice

The configuration does like this at all any more.

Mac operating systems are made for right handers only. It’s tiring reading the same explanations time and time again of how you can make a mouse left handed when no mention is made whatsoever of how to change the pointer direction. That’s because it’s not possible on a Mac. How can you point at something with the side of an arrow? This is something I’ve taken for granted with Windows as there are numerous downloadable left handed cursor sets. I’d been looking forward to buying an iMac but fortunately spotted this problem before I got my wallet out. This is such a basic requirement for any operating system that it can’t be just an oversight on Apple’s part. Apple simply (and deliberately) doesn’t care.

Try looking up ‘Mac lefty cursors’. Windows cursors may also work and there are a lot of lefty ones out there.

I don’t own a Mac either. I use my mouse left-handed and use lefty mouse pointers. I discovered a Cursor Editor that I can use to mirror right handed pointers in order to make them left handed.

This is for Mac users who want to set their Mac mouse or trackpad to be left handed, which will switch the cursor.

You can not use Windows programs to edit cursors on the Mac, it’s a different operating system.

Thanks so much. I developed arthritis in my right hand (long time programmer) and need to switch to my left hand. Thank you!

Have you tried your trackpad left handed with Lion.No recognition of gestures involving the thumb.
There are no options

viendo los ultimos posts me pregunto si pronto veremos un post llamado “como enceder tu mac” o “como abrir tu Macbook”.

No digo que no sea información útil, pero…

[…] Read the entire article here: Set a Mac Mouse to be Left Handed. […]

I saw this option when I was setting up my system once but like James (above) most of my left-handed buddies have just adapted to the right handed mouse. 🙁

I am left handed and I long ago became accustomed to working with the right-sided world. I have changed the cursor click behavior in the past but ultimately it felt unnatural to me, old habits die hard even if it’s unnatural.

How to swap left and right mouse buttons on a mac

Source: Bryan M. Wolfe / iMore

If you’ve just switched to the Mac, you may find yourself a bit confused by how the Mac’s mice and trackpad work.

The Mac famously doesn’t come with a mouse or trackpad that has a distinct right mouse button, but that doesn’t mean you can’t right-click on the Mac. Whether you use the built-in trackpad on your Mac laptop, a Magic Trackpad, a Magic Mouse, or a third-party mouse that has a distinct right button (such as the Logitech MX Master 3), here’s how to enable right-click menus on your Mac.

How to right click on Mac

Regardless of how your Mac is set up, holding down the control key on the keyboard and pressing your primary mouse or trackpad button will open a shortcut or contextual menu, providing the same functionality that most Windows switchers are accustomed to seeing from a right-click.

If you have a third-party mouse that has a right physical button, macOS should recognize the button and map it accordingly after you plug in the mouse. If you like having a different button as your right-click, you can customize which button is primary — left or right — in the Mouse system preference pane.

You may also want to check your third-party mouse maker’s website for Mac drivers. Some of the better ones, like Logitech, offer very sophisticated tools for programming not only buttons, but other great functionality like optic tracking speed and acceleration, scroll wheel motion, chording, and more.

How to turn right click on for a Magic Trackpad or MacBook trackpad

    Launch System Preferences from the Dock or by clicking the Apple button in the top left corner and clicking System Preferences.

Click on the Trackpad icon.

How to swap left and right mouse buttons on a mac

Source: iMore

Choose the checkbox next to Secondary click.

How to swap left and right mouse buttons on a mac

Source: iMore

Once it’s activated, you’ll be able to right-click by tapping the trackpad with two fingers simultaneously. You can change the preference to click in the bottom left or right corners if you prefer.

How to turn right click on for a Magic Mouse

    Launch System Preferences from the Dock or by clicking the Apple button in the top left corner and clicking System Preferences.

Click on Mouse.

How to swap left and right mouse buttons on a mac

Source: iMore

Click the checkbox next to Secondary click, and choose either “click on the right side” or “click on the left side”, depending on your preference.

How to swap left and right mouse buttons on a mac

Source: iMore

In the market?

There are lots of awesome MacBooks available now! Check out our favorite models of the year.

Can’t live without right click on Mac?

Do you prefer using a trackpad when you’re on your MacBook, or do you opt for the Magic Mouse? Let us know in the comments below!

I have a mouse that I bought from eBay and has two buttons on the side. For some reason, these keys don’t do anything. In the modifier keys section of the keyboard settings, it called the mouse “SiliconWin mouse”, I changed all the keys to command and no command worked. I thought these keys served no purpose but I later found if I pressed an application in the dock with the key, it would do the same thing as a right-click. Again I checked and tried to use the keys as right-clicks but did not work. Is it possible to change the functionality of the key?

P.S. I tried setting keyboard up and it asked me to press the button to the right of shift, I pressed everything and did not work.

If I search up SiliconWin, it comes up with Windows driver and no mac drivers.

4 Answers 4

You have found an unfortunate fact of life living in the Mac world, a lot of hardware is Windows only. Yeah you can plug it in but without the correct drivers you will be lucky to get even minimal use out of the device.

If your SiliconWin mouse is not working out of the box with your Mac and there are not drivers provided by the manufacturer then there is little you can do in macOS to properly configure the device.

There is a “Universal USB device Driver” that has been available on the Mac for a long time, USB Overdrive.

Though I have never used it myself I have seen lots of discussions that point to that as a solution to exactly the problem you have. It’s not free, a license will cost you $20. I imagine you could download it and give it a try and see if it allows you to do what you need to do. But at twenty bucks it costs as much (or more) as a cheap mouse so the economics of the situation may not be in your favor.

How to swap left and right mouse buttons on a mac

Having spent some years coding applications for macOS we’ve created a tool that everybody can use. The all-round problem fixer for Mac.

How to swap left and right mouse buttons on a mac

So here’s a tip for you: Download CleanMyMac to quickly solve some of the issues mentioned in this article. But to help you do it all by yourself, we’ve gathered our best ideas and solutions below.

Features described in this article refer to the MacPaw site version of CleanMyMac X.

For the first 20 years or so of its life, the Mac was infamous for having only a single button on its mouse. That meant there was no way to right-click on a Mac mouse. However, you could achieve the same thing by pressing the Control key and clicking with the mouse button. The Control-click was the Mac right-click. On websites and applications that supported right-click, Control-clicking still achieves the same thing on Mac as right-clicking does on a PC mouse.

Fast forward several years and Apple mice still don’t have a right button, in fact they don’t have any buttons at all. And neither do the trackpads on the MacBook, MacBook Air or MacBook Pro. Now, however, macOS has support for right-clicking, or secondary clicking, as Apple calls it. And so if you buy a third party mouse with a right button, you’ll be able to use it to, for example, pull up a contextual menu.

How to right click on a MacBook

Apple calls the function most people understand as a ‘right click’ a ‘secondary click.’ That’s because there are a number of options for performing the action. However, it amounts to the same thing. To set up the secondary click on a MacBook, MacBook Air, or MacBook Pro, do the following:

  1. Go to the Apple menu and select System Preferences.
  2. Click on the Trackpad pane.
  3. Choose the Point & Click tab.
  4. Check the box next to secondary click.
  5. Click on the little down arrow.
  6. Choose Click with two fingers; Click in bottom right corner; or Click in bottom left corner.

If you prefer tapping to clicking on the Trackpad, check the box labelled Tap to click. You’ll notice that in the Secondary click options, ‘Click with two fingers’ has changed to ‘Click or tap with two fingers.’

While you’re in the Trackpad pane, you can also configure the Tracking Speed of the pointer, that is how quickly the pointer moves across the screen as you move your finger on the trackpad. Just move the slide right to make it go faster or left to make it go slower.

You can also configure the gestures for scrolling and zooming, as well as gestures for other features such as Mission Control, App Exposé, and Notification Center.

You might find that after you’ve configured the secondary click, the option you’ve chosen doesn’t suit you — you might invoke it accidentally, or it might be uncomfortable to use. If so, just go back to System Preferences and choose another option.

How to right click on a Mac mouse

Apple’s Magic Mouse may not have a visible right button, but underneath that sleek white shell, it can differentiate between a left click and a right click, in the same was as the trackpad on a MacBook. Here’s how to configure the right, or secondary, click on a Mac mouse.

  1. Launch System Preferences from the Apple menu or by clicking it in the Dock.
  2. Click on the Mouse pane.
  3. Click on the Point & Click tab.
  4. Check the box next to Secondary click.
  5. Choose ‘Click on the right side’ to enable right-click on a Mac mouse.

Note: If you have an Apple mouse, you can have the left side as the secondary click and the right side as the regular click. To enable that, just select ‘Click on the left side’ instead.

While you’re in the Point & Click tab, you can use the slider to adjust the tracking speed of the mouse.

How to change the speed of double-clicking your mouse

For most of us, the default speed for double-clicking a mouse button works just fine. But for some users, with different requirements, an adjustment may be needed. You can change the length of time macOS waits for a second click in order to register a double-click, which is useful if you have difficulty moving your fingers quickly.

To adjust the double-click speed, do the following:

  1. Launch System Preferences and click the Accessibility pane.
  2. Click Mouse & Trackpad in the left hand sidebar.
  3. Drag the slider next to ‘Double-click speed’ to the left to make macOS wait longer for the second click.

While you’re in that pane, you can also change the delay that occurs when you drag a file over a folder and wait for it to spring open automatically. If you find that if you drag files over folders and the folders spring open unintentionally, you can slow down the spring load speed. Or if you find you have to wait too long when you want a folder to open, you can do the opposite. Drag the slider next to ‘Spring-loading delay’ to the left to make the folder open quickly, or to the right for a longer delay.

Pro tip: The Mac right-click function is managed using the Trackpad, Mouse, and Accessibility System Preferences panes. These are all standard macOS System Preferences. However, third party apps and plug-ins also install their own panes sometimes. Mostly, that’s fine — it’s the way you control the app or plug-in. But sometimes it can cause a problem, such as when Flash gets out of date.

In cases like that, you can use CleanMyMac X’s Extensions utility to safely uninstall it. Just click on the Extensions utility, choose Preferences panes, check the box next to the one you want to delete and click Remove. You can download CleanMyMac for free here.

How to swap left and right mouse buttons on a mac

As you can see, it’s very easy to right click on a Mac and to configure how the click works using System Preferences. And it works the same way for the Trackpad, too. Both are configured from their own panes in System Preferences. And additional options can be found in System Preferences’ Accessibility pane.

I just bought a Magic Mouse, but I find its sensitivity is not great (we obviously cannot play a shooting game with that). So I want to buy a gaming mouse.

But one thing I am worried about is how to do Swipe between full-screen apps in a gaming mouse.

Does anyone have an idea?

3 Answers 3

The first thing to know about this "swipe between full-screen apps" is that in terms of functionality, this is exactly the same as changing a Space (A little more on mission control and spaces here). Fullscreen space is just a type of space that contains just one window/application.

Some mouse software may have a built-in "action" that might be called "Move left a space" or "Move right space", but that is not guaranteed. However, pretty much any mouse software lets you set shortcuts to all or some of the buttons that trigger certain actions. Luckily, in this case, there are native shortcuts in Mac to go change spaces:

  • You can move left one space with the shortcut Ctrl + Arrow Left .
  • You can move right one space with the shortcut Ctrl + Arrow Right .

At the bottom of this answer I wrote where these can be changed or enabled if necessary. You can also go directly to a specific space. It’s the Switch to Desktop. in the screenshot at the bottom.

How you can trigger these shortcuts (or actions) will depend on the mouse and its software. Many mice, especially gaming mice, have a Mac software even if they are not advertised as Mac mice. So if the mouse software can set shortcuts, then you’re all set. There’s nothing I can say about how that works exactly without knowing which software your mouse would use, but typically those are fairly simple: Pick a button and remap it to a shortcut that changes the space.

3rd party applications may allow you to change any key, while manufacturer applications may only allow you to customize a few.

If for some weird reason your gaming mouse doesn’t come with software capable of adding a shortcut to a key or it’s just terrible, there are still many 3rd party applications that can do it.

Here are two 3rd party apps that you could try:

I’m pretty sure both of these have their own built-in "Move right and left a space" actions you can remap to buttons, but like I said before, It’s not necessary because as long as the application can make the button trigger a shortcut you should be all set.

Additionally, there is the "Mission Control" shortcut, which is by default in the F3 key in your keyboard. When you click it, you can pick a specific space from the top of the screen using your mouse. If that works in games, which I think it might, it might be the best way to do it.

How to swap left and right mouse buttons on a mac

The Mac uses a ‘secondary click’ in lieu of a right-click, this is largely because Macs have long kept things simple by keeping a single mouse button – or even no buttons at all on the mouse or trackpad. While the two finger tap mimics the right-click action on Mac and is very intuitive for most of longtime users, newcomers to the Mac world don’t always remember it, or it may too difficult to replicate consistently.

If you’re switching someone to the Mac from the PC world, enabling a literal right-click can be really helpful in many occasions, but there are other options too, including keeping the default two-finger tap behavior for a secondary click, using the left corner (for lefties), or disabling the click completely and instead relying on the keyboard to perform a secondary click. This article will walk through making these customizations to the Mac secondary click experience.

How to Change the Secondary Click on Mac

If you want to change the secondary click (right click) behavior on a Mac, you can do so through the Trackpad or Mouse preference panels:

  1. Launch System Preferences and click on “Trackpad” (or “Mouse” if you use a mouse)
  2. Under the “Point & Click” tab, click underneath that to pull down the menu

How to swap left and right mouse buttons on a mac

The two corner options are ideal for many longtime PC users who have gotten in the habit of the placement of a click mattering, with the Mac right-click option being in-line with most Windows PC experiences, and with the left corner a nice touch for left-handed users.

Sidenote: The vast majority of multi-button external mouses when connected to a Mac will instantly and immediately use the furthest right button as the secondary click, thereby mimicking a right click action. Note that the Mouse control panel has limited choices for generic USB mice, but it does let the left and right buttons be switched to accomodate for left handed computer users. For those with a Magic Mouse, it’s basically the same set of configurations as the Trackpad, since the Magic Mouse has a touch based surface and interaction method.

How to Disable the Secondary Click on Mac

Though it’s not recommended, you can disable the secondary click in Mac OS if desired.

Unchecking the box next to “Secondary Click” will disable the feature from the mouse or trackpad.

If you choose to disable the secondary click, users will have to hold down the Control key to perform a secondary click action.

Customizing the right-click option is great, but disabling the alternative click is generally not recommended since there are many apps and features that require a secondary click to perform and again access to certain menus and options.

With a Multi-Touch trackpad or Magic Mouse, you can tap, swipe, pinch, or spread one or more fingers to perform useful actions.

Trackpad gestures

For more information about these gestures, choose Apple menu  > System Preferences, then click Trackpad. You can turn a gesture off, change the type of gesture, and learn which gestures work with your Mac.

Trackpad gestures require a Magic Trackpad or built-in Multi-Touch trackpad. If your trackpad supports Force Touch, you can also Force click and get haptic feedback.

How to swap left and right mouse buttons on a mac

Tap to click
Tap with one finger to click.

How to swap left and right mouse buttons on a mac

Secondary click (right-click)
Click or tap with two fingers.

How to swap left and right mouse buttons on a mac

Smart zoom
Double-tap with two fingers to zoom in and back out of a webpage or PDF.

How to swap left and right mouse buttons on a mac

Scroll
Slide two fingers up or down to scroll. 1

How to swap left and right mouse buttons on a mac

Zoom in or out
Pinch with two fingers to zoom in or out.

How to swap left and right mouse buttons on a mac

Rotate
Move two fingers around each other to rotate a photo or other item.

How to swap left and right mouse buttons on a mac

Swipe between pages
Swipe left or right with two fingers to show the previous or next page.

How to swap left and right mouse buttons on a mac

Open Notification Center
Swipe left from the right edge with two fingers to show Notification Center.

How to swap left and right mouse buttons on a mac

Three finger drag
Use three fingers to drag items on your screen, then click or tap to drop. Turn on this feature in Accessibility preferences.

How to swap left and right mouse buttons on a mac

Look up and data detectors
Tap with three fingers to look up a word or take actions with dates, addresses, phone numbers, and other data.

How to swap left and right mouse buttons on a mac

Show desktop
Spread your thumb and three fingers apart to show your desktop.

How to swap left and right mouse buttons on a mac

Launchpad
Pinch your thumb and three fingers together to display Launchpad.

How to swap left and right mouse buttons on a mac

Mission Control
Swipe up with four fingers 2 to open Mission Control.

How to swap left and right mouse buttons on a mac

App Exposé
Swipe down with four fingers 2 to see all windows of the app you’re using.

How to swap left and right mouse buttons on a mac

Swipe between full-screen apps
Swipe left or right with four fingers 2 to move between desktops and full-screen apps.

Mouse gestures

For more information about these gestures, choose Apple menu  > System Preferences, then click Mouse. There you can turn a gesture off, change the type of gesture, and learn which gestures work with your Mac. Mouse gestures require a Magic Mouse.

How to swap left and right mouse buttons on a mac

Secondary click (right-click)
Click the right side of the mouse.

How to swap left and right mouse buttons on a mac

Scroll
Slide one finger up or down to scroll. 1

How to swap left and right mouse buttons on a mac

Smart zoom
Double-tap with one finger to zoom in and back out of a webpage or PDF.

How to swap left and right mouse buttons on a mac

Mission Control
Double-tap with two fingers to open Mission Control.

How to swap left and right mouse buttons on a mac

Swipe between full-screen apps
Swipe left or right with two fingers to move between desktops and full-screen apps.

How to swap left and right mouse buttons on a mac

Swipe between pages
Swipe left or right with one finger to show the previous or next page.

1. You can turn off trackpad scrolling in Accessibility preferences.

2. In some versions of macOS, this gesture uses three fingers instead of four.

The Mac Mail app has added inbox swiping gestures to OS X that allow you to quickly delete or archive an email message with a simple left swipe. While this helps to sort through tons of emails rather quickly, it can also lead to some unintentional removal of emails that you may want to keep, as it’s pretty easy to accidentally swipe over an email message when navigating in the Mail app of OS X.

Fortunately, it’s easy to change the swipe left gesture in Mail app to either Trash or Archive emails.

How to Change the Swipe Left Gesture in Mail for Mac OS X to Archive or Trash

This pertains to Mail app in OS X 10.11 and later versions only:

  1. Open the Mail app and pull down the Mail menu, going to “Preferences”
  2. Go to the “Viewing” tab
  3. Look for “Swipe Left To:” and change “Trash” to “Archive” (or vice versa, depending on your desired action)
  4. Close out of Mail Preferences and return to the inbox, swipe left over an email message to see the newly changed swipe left action

How to swap left and right mouse buttons on a mac

Now the swipe left function will either Archive or Trash a message, depending on what you picked. In the screenshot example, the swipe left gesture now attempts to archive a message rather than delete it:

How to swap left and right mouse buttons on a mac

If you find yourself accidentally deleting email messages with the Swipe Left gesture in Mail for Mac, consider changing the setting to “Archive” rather than the default “Trash”.

A good number of Mail users have found the swipe left feature to be challenging in OS X, leading to unintended results. But for now the only two options available for the swipe gesture are Trash and Archive. Perhaps a future release of OS X Mail will allow users to turn off the left swipe actions complete, thereby preventing any accidental mail sorting or deletion.

This feature is borrowed from Mail in iOS which allows left swipes to delete and archive as well, but for many users (myself included) the gesture tends to work better on a touchscreen than it does with a trackpad or Magic Mouse, since it’s easier to accidentally activate on the Mac.

While these are the only options available in Mail app natively, the BetterTouchTool app can modify things further, even setting the swipe left feature to do nothing, thereby disabling the feature. Whether or not you want to use a third party utility to achieve that effect is really up to you, but BetterTouchTool has some other handy uses too, like changing the green maximize button behavior.