Computer Mouse

Updated: 08/03/2018 by Computer Hope

Computer MouseA computer mouse is a handheld hardware input device that controls a cursor in a GUI and can move and select text, icons, files, and folders. For desktop computers, the mouse is placed on a flat surface such as a mouse pad or a desk and is placed in front of your computer. The picture to the right is an example of a desktop computer mouse with two buttons and a wheel.

Who invented the mouse?

The mouse was originally known as the X-Y Position Indicator for a Display System and was invented by Douglas Engelbart in 1963 while working at Xerox PARC. However, due to Alto's lack of success, the first widely used application of the mouse was with the Apple Lisa computer. Today, this pointing device is on virtually every computer.

What are the uses of a mouse?

Below is a list of each of the computer mouse functions that help a user use their computer and gives you an idea of all of the things a mouse is capable of doing.

  1. Move the mouse cursor - The primary function is to move the mouse pointer on the screen.
  2. Open or execute a program - Once you've moved the pointer to an icon, folder, or other object clicking or double clicking that object opens the document or executes the program.
  3. Select - A mouse also allows you to select text or a file or highlight and select multiple files at once.
  4. Drag-and-drop - Once something is selected it can also be moved using the drag-and-drop method.
  5. Hover - Moving the mouse cursor over objects with additional hover information can help discover the function of each object on the screen. For example, hover the mouse over the hover link to see an example.
  6. Scroll - When working with a long document or viewing a long web page you may need to scroll up or down which can be done using the mouse wheel or clicking and dragging the scroll bar.
  7. Perform other functions - Many desktop mice also have additional buttons that can be programmed to perform any function. For example, many mice have two side buttons on the thumb portion of the mouse the button closest to the palm can be programmed to go back on web pages.

Tip: Steps and help with using the mouse and performing all of the above functions can be found on our how to use a mouse page.

How has the mouse increased computer usability?

By using a computer mouse, the user doesn't have to memorize commands, such as those utilized in a text-based command line environment like MS-DOS. For example, in MS-DOS a user would have to know the cd command and dir command and type the commands on the keyboard to navigate to a directory (folder) and view the files inside. Whereas a Windows user only has to double-click to open a folder and see its contents.

Types of computer mice

Logitech Cordless Trackman Optical Trackball mouseBelow is a listing of all of the types of computer mice and pointing devices used with a computer. Today, for a desktop computer the most common type of mouse is an optical mouse that connects to the USB port and known as a USB mouse. For laptop computers, the most common type of mouse is the touchpad.

Computer mouse ports

Today, most computer mice connect to a computer using a USB port. Below is a listing of all of the type of ports and wireless connections that a mouse is capable of using or has used in the past.

What are the parts of a computer mouse?

The parts of a computer mouse can vary by the type of computer mouse. Below is a general overview of the parts found on most computer mice.


Today, almost all computer mice have at least two buttons, a left button and right button for clicking and manipulating objects and text. In the past, there have been mice with only one button. For example, many of the early Apple computer mice only had one button.

Bottom of optical-mechanical and optical computer mouseBall, Laser, or LED

A desktop mouse may contain a ball and rollers if it is a mechanical mouse or a laser or LED if it is an optical mouse. Each of these components are used to track the movement and move the mouse cursor on the screen.

Mouse wheel

Today's desktop computer mice also usually include a mouse wheel that allows you to scroll up and down on a page.

Tip: Instead of rolling the wheel if you push in on the wheel it can be used as a third button.

Circuit board

To take all the signal information, clicks, and other information being created by the mouse and input it to the computer it must also have a circuit board with integrated circuits.

Cable or wireless receiver

For a corded mouse, it also includes a cable with a plug that connects to the computer. Today, most corded mice connect to the USB port. If your computer has a wireless mouse, it needs a USB wireless receiver to receive the wireless signal and input it into the computer.

Other parts

If you're using a laptop, some of the above components mentioned earlier are not required. For example, a touchpad does not use a ball, laser, or LED to control movement it uses your finger on the touchpad. Other parts include a ball for trackball mice, extra buttons that may be on the thumb side of the mouse, and nubs that may be used with other laptop mice.

What does a laptop use for a mouse?

Laptop touchpadBecause a laptop is designed for portability almost all laptops today use a touchpad as the mouse, and some Lenovo laptops still use a TrackPoint. Also, all laptop computers can have a USB corded or wireless mouse also attached to them.

What does a smartphone or tablet use for a mouse?

Smartphones and tablets use a touch screen as their primary input device, and therefore your finger is the mouse on these devices. With most tablets, you also have the option to connect a computer mouse and use it on the tablet.

What hand should I use to control the mouse?

By default, a computer mouse is setup to be used with your right-hand. However, if you are left-handed, it can be setup to be used with your left-hand.

Note: Although any mouse can be setup to be used with your left-hand keep in mind that some mice are molded to fit a right-hand and may feel uncomfortable with your left-hand.

How can I use or practice using the mouse?

Below is a page we've created that explains all of the basics of the mouse, how it's held, how to connect it, and how to use it on your computer. Included in the page is interactive examples that can be used to help practice with additional information about each of the mouse features.

How do I change my mouse's batteries?

To change the batteries in your mouse, you slide back the cover on the bottom, switch out the old batteries, and then replace the cover.

Mouse vs. mice or mouses

When talking about one (singular) you refer to a computer mouse as a "mouse." When talking about two or more (plural), you refer to them as "mice" or "mouses" although "mice" is more standard.

Note: To help prevent confusion, some companies and writers avoid using either plural form of a mouse by referring to multiple mice as "mouse devices."

Is "mouse" an acronym?

No. Some believe that mouse is short for "manually-operated user-select equipment." However, when Douglas Engelbart helped invent the mouse, he called it a mouse because the device resembled the rodent.

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