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 connect to a computer with a cable. These types of mouse need batteries to run.

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 '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.

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 mice 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 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 (a small image that represents something) 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 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.

A computer mouse with a scroll wheel

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.

Starting a program

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

To start the program, you move the cursor to it and double-click. That means to click twice quickly on the left button. The mouse is now double clicking the "microsoft edge" icon on an example desktop.

The program will start and we can asee this as Microsoft edge starts up on the screen.

There’s another way to start a program as well. Many of the apps on your computer might be placed in the Windows folder. We can now see the mouse cursor on the screen moving to the bottom left corner and clicking on the "Windows" icon.

You can now find the name of the program you want and just click on it.

A close up of a hand on a computer mouse


Well done, you've reached the end of the activity on What is a mouse?.

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 course.