Mouse button

Updated: 08/02/2020 by Computer Hope
Mouse button clicking a button

A mouse button is one or more buttons found on the front portion of a computer mouse that allows a computer user to perform an action. For example, a user may be required to click the mouse button to open a file, or hold the mouse button down to highlight text.

Mouse button actions

Today, every mouse has at least two mouse buttons, and may have additional buttons on the side of the mouse.

Left mouse button

  • Default mouse button on most operating systems and programs.
  • Used to click, select, or open an object on the computer. For example, you would left-click to open a link in a browser or double left-click (double-click) to open a program on a Microsoft Windows operating system.
  • Pressing the button while dragging the mouse highlights text.
  • In a spreadsheet, clicking a cell with the left mouse button makes it the active cell.
  • In a game, the left button is used as the action button. For example, in a shooter game, the left button is used to shoot a gun.

Right mouse button

The right mouse button is used to give additional information, or the properties of a right-clicked item. For example, if you right-click anything highlighted, you are given a menu that lets you copy the highlighted text or another object.

Middle mouse button or wheel button

Many computer mice with wheels can also use the wheel as a button. Pressing down on the mouse wheel acts as a button and its action depends on the software installed with the mouse. By default, the middle button opens a link in a browser in a new tab.

Thumb buttons

For mice with thumb buttons, these buttons can be programmed to perform any action. By default, these buttons move backward or forward in an Internet browser.

Other buttons

There are also some computer mice that have more than the buttons listed above. For example, a gaming mouse can have different buttons that can be programmed to perform any number of actions in a game.


See our click definition for further examples of the type of clicking that can be done with the mouse buttons.

Button, Click, Mouse, Mouse terms