Right-click for advanced users?

LibraryTechtonics has this brief post regarding right-clicking in libraries. I found this observation interesting:

I had always thought of the right-click menu as a tool for intermediate to power users, with most other users better acquainted with the Edit menu. However, I’m noticing that the majority of our users, even at the basic computer knowledge level, are asking how to perform specific tasks because the right-click menu isn’t available, not knowing that keyboard shortcuts or the Edit menu are an option.

I would never have thought of right-clicks as “intermediate to power” usage, unless you’re a user who started on the Mac and moved to Windows. Right-clicks are powerful precisely because your set of choices appears where you are and is (in most cases) contextually appropriate for where you are.

The Edit menu is remote. As for keyboard shortcuts, they fall into the “once you’ve internalized them, they’re great” category, and are to some extent a command-line remnant.

Right-click menus give you a set of choices; keyboard shortcuts work only when you remember what they are (and assume they’ll work–for example, Ctrl-C/Ctrl-V only copy and paste if those functions are enabled in the program and document you’re working with.)

It would seem to me that learning one fairly obvious trick–“try right-clicking and see what’s available” is a great way for a beginner to make progress, where “learn which menu has your function, or learn what keyboard shortcut might do what you want” is a learning curve.

As always, your mileage may vary.

3 Responses to “Right-click for advanced users?”

  1. When I worked full time in public library, I frequently taught the “introduction to the internet” class. We had an hour and it wasn’t hands on. One of the biggest problems? Learning how to use a mouse. We take it for granted, but it actually takes some coordination to hold the mouse still and click — even more so to right click, which is generally done with a less dominant finger.

    FWIW – my local public library has the right click menus turned off “to prevent hacking.” What????? I was so busy with big battles while there, that I didn’t even approach this one.

  2. Daniel says:

    I don’t see right clicking as a beginner’s skill either. Perhaps its becoming one. Up until VERY recently, it’s been a struggle getting users to even left-click effectively. The right-hand mouse button is like a whole new world to them.

  3. Andrea says:

    In speaking with the tech support guy (who we share with the rest of the town so we only get a piece of his time) about why right-click is disabled, he did mention that it did enable users to get to parts of the network that are staff-only, even in light of all of the other security restrictions in the computer configuration. He did admit that he’s not exactly sure how he did it, but he was able to access a staff computer from a public terminal using the right-click feature. A plan is in action to set up 2 VLANs that will make the staff part of the network inaccessible by the public part of the network, and therefore allow us to free up some of the restrictions on the public computers.

    Having worked tech support myself, I can totally understand the whole security-through-disabled-features thing, but I think that when it prevents users from doing useful, everyday things (especially when instructions on a web site tell a user to right-click to do something like, say, download a picture or other file), it crosses the line into unusability.

    My experience in technical support is also my basis for my right-click usage assumptions, since right-click was something I had to teach to most of the people I helped. Granted, this was about 2 years ago, but it’s my experience all the same. Recently, I’ve met librarians, other library staff, and patrons who were unaware of the right-click feature and how flexible it is, so I do agree that it is often taken for granted by those of us who use it everyday.

    So yeah, I find it terribly interesting, especially since everyone elses experiences are so mixed.