What is a mouse?


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What is a mouse?

A close up of hands on a mouse and keyboard

What's coming up?

In this activity, we're going to look at another important tool for helping control what you do on a desktop computer: the mouse.

You'll learn how to hold a mouse, move a pointer, or cursor and how to use the left and right mouse buttons to click.

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What is a mouse?

The mouse is a small, movable device that lets you control a range of things on a computer.

Most types of mouse have two buttons, and some will have a wheel in between the buttons.

A typical computer mouse
A view of a screen, keyboard and a cabled mouse

Most types of mouse connect to the computer with a cable, and use the computer's power to work.

Some types of mouse are wireless. That means they do not permanently connect to a computer with a cable. These types of mouse either need batteries to run or require a recharging cable.

A view of a screen, keyboard and wireless mouse
A keyboard with a mouse next to the right hand side

Where does the mouse go?

The mouse usually sits on the desk to the left or right of the keyboard. If you write with your left hand, you should have the mouse to the left of the keyboard. If you write with your right hand, have the mouse to the right of the keyboard.

What a mouse does

A mouse is used to point at objects you see on the screen. By pointing at an object, you tell the computer that you want to do something with that object.

For example, say you wanted to start a program. There's a small picture, called an icon, on the computer screen that represents that program. You would use the mouse to point at the icon and then click a button on the mouse. This tells the computer to launch the program.

A diagram with a computer showing how the cursor moves in the same direction as the mouse

What is a cursor?

The mouse pointer, or cursor, represents the mouse on the computer screen. When you move the mouse across the top of a table, the cursor moves on the computer screen in the same direction.

The cursor usually looks like an arrow, but it can change shape depending on what it's pointing at. It's good to note that it's the very tip of the arrow that is the sensitive part when clicking something on the screen.

An enlargement of a cursor when it appears as an arrow
An enlargement of a cursor when it appears as a hand

The cursor may look like a hand when you point at a link to a web page. It's the tip of the finger that is the sensitive, or important, part when clicking something on the screen.

Or it may look like a capital letter i (I) when you are over text, or a place where text can be inserted. This cursor shape is often called the i-beam cursor.

If the i-beam cursor is over a place that you can insert text, then you first have to click the mouse once so that a single vertical bar appears to allow typing. The vertical bar will flash to let you know that you can begin typing.

An enlargement of a cursor when it looks like a capital i or vertical line
A close up of a hand holding a computer mouse in a natural position

Holding a mouse

You hold the mouse under the palm of your hand, with the mouse flat on the desk or on a mouse pad. A mouse pad is a mat that can improve how the mouse works. Try resting your palm lightly on the desk or mouse pad with the rest of your hand over the mouse.

There are usually two buttons at the front of the mouse and these are called the mouse buttons. If your mouse has no physical buttons, the front left and right corners will be sensitive to pressure from your fingers, and it will behave in the same way as a mouse with buttons.

You can lightly rest your index finger on the left mouse button, and your middle finger on the right button.

How to move the mouse

To move the mouse, gently glide it across the desk or mouse pad. It needs to stay in contact with the surface so that the sensors on the bottom of the mouse can detect its movements.

On the screen, you'll see that the cursor moves in the same direction that you move the mouse.

A demonstration of how the cursor moves across the screen when you glide the mouse across the desk
A computer mouse with the left mouse button highlighted in blue

How to click with a mouse

Most computer mouses have two buttons, and many also have a wheel in between the buttons. These help you control a range of things on your computer.

The left mouse button is the main mouse control. It makes a click sound when you press it. When you need to click something, move the mouse pointer to the object you need to click, and then press the left mouse button. Whenever you read, or someone says, click the mouse, it always means the left mouse button.

The right mouse button has a special purpose. What it does depends on what you’re clicking on. For example, pressing the right mouse button on an icon (a small image that represents something on a computer screen) may bring up a menu of options. These options always relate to whatever item you have right clicked on. For example, right clicking on an icon will normally bring up a menu of options you can do to that icon and what that icon represents.

A computer mouse with the right mouse button highlighted in blue
A computer mouse showing a double click

There's a special action called the double click. It's often used to a start program or open a file, such as a photo, video or document. Double click means to click on the left button twice, quickly.

The scroll wheel between the buttons is used for scrolling. If you're looking at a document that doesn't fit on the screen, then moving the scroll wheel forward or backward with your finger will move the document up and down. Some computer mouses don't have a physical wheel, but are touch sensitive, meaning you can drag your finger forward and back over the mouse (as if you were operating a wheel), and you will see the screen scroll up and down.

A computer mouse with a scroll wheel

Using a mouse

On the next slide is a short video to watch about the different types of mouse you can use, and how they control the cursor on the screen. Select the Continue button below to move to the next panel where you can play the video.

Launching a program

Now that you know how to move and click the mouse, lets see how a mouse can be used to start, or launch a computer program.

Click continue to watch the video on the next screen.

Launching a program

This video is approximately 58 seconds in duration. It is a demonstration on how to launch, or open, a program on a Windows 10 computer.

Once the video starts, the intro panel fades and we see the screen is split into two parts. On the left-hand side is a close up of a Windows 10 computer screen. On the right-hand side, there is text displayed, which is the script for the voiceover track.

Voiceover: "Programs on the computer are represented by small pictures on the screen, called icons."

The left-hand panel updates to zoom in on the Microsoft Edge icon.

Voiceover: "To start the program, you move the cursor to it and double click. That means to click twice, quickly, on the left mouse button."

The left-hand panel updates to see the mouse cursor double-click the Microsoft Edge icon, then we zoom back out and see Microsoft Edge launch on the screen.

Voiceover: "The program will start. If it doesn't, try another quick double-click."

Voiceover: "There's another way to start a program as well. Many of the apps in your computer might be placed in the Windows folder."

The left-hand panel updates to zoom in and down to the bottom, left-hand corner of the computer screen where the Windows folder icon, or button, is displayed.

Voiceover: "Click on the Windows button on the bottom left of the screen to see a menu of those programs."

The left-hand panel updates to show the mouse clicking on the Windows button, and the menu of programs display showing all the apps on the computer.

Voiceover: "Find the name of the program you want to open, and click on it. The program will open. Easy!"

The left-hand panel updates to show the mouse clicking on the Microsoft Edge menu icon, which launces Microsoft Edge on the screen.

Video ends.

A close up of a hand on a computer mouse


You've completed the What is a mouse? activity.

In this activity we have talked about:

  • what a mouse does, and how it connects to a desktop computer
  • how to hold and move a mouse
  • how to click the mouse buttons.

If you have registered and are logged into the Be Connected website, you'll now be able to take a short quiz to finish the What is a computer? course.