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Computer Mouse And Keyboard Basics

The computer’s mouse and keyboard is the way most of us control our computers. They are the primary input method, allowing us to interact with the PC.

On this page we’ll look at the basics of using a keyboard and mouse. We’ll pick out a few keyboard keys that you really should try to remember, and we’ll adjust the double click speed and size of the mouse pointer.

Computer Mouse Basics.

We’ll start with the humble mouse. Since the advent of the computer GUI (Graphical User Interface), it’s become the primary method of controlling your PC, with the keyboard being relegated to simply typing in passwords when required.

The mouse controls the actions of the cursor (or pointer) on the computer screen. Point and click computing. By the way, it doesn’t much matter whether you call it a cursor or a pointer, both terms are correct. Me, I prefer pointer.

Although there are many types of computer mouse available, they’re all based on the standard 2 buttons, 1 scroll wheel mouse.


Left Click Button.

The left-hand mouse button is by far the most used button. You can think of the left-hand button as the “action” button. Using the left-hand button, or left-click, tells the computer that you want to do something with whatever you’re clicking on.

You can either single left click or double left click and it does get confusing as to which you should do and when.

As a very broad rule of thumb, a single left click will select things like files and folders on your computer. While a double left click is needed to open them.

White computer mouse with left hand button highlighted.
Left-hand mouse button.
Laptop toughpad with left button highlighted
Left-hand button on touchpad.

But when you’re on the Internet, most things operate from a single left click.

I know that’s not actually that much help right now. The truth is that knowing whether to single or double left click really comes with experience. Throughout the course, I’ll point out when you should be single or double-clicking, and as you work through it, you’ll pick it up.

Right Click Button.

The right-hand mouse button only has a single click. You never double right-click on anything. The right-click generally opens what’s called an options menu, or a context menu, or sometimes to gain information about the object you’re clicking on.

On these menus will be a list of things you could do, and to choose one, you’d left-click it.

White computer mouse with right hand mouse button highlighted.
Right-hand mouse button.
Laptop touchpad with right hand button highlighted.
Right-hand button on touchpad.

A Quick Example Of Using Left & Right Clicks.

  1. To find out what options you have, or what you can do, with a folder, for example, right-click on it. The options menu will appear.
  2. To choose one of the options from the menu, you would left-click it.

So in effect, you use the right-click to ask the computer what options you have, and then left-click to choose one of the options offered.

You don’t have to get that right now, things will become much clearer as you move through the course.

Righ tclick options menu for a folder on the Windows Desktop.
Right-click to open the options menu, then left-click to select an option

The Scroll Wheel.

On a standard two-button mouse, the scroll wheel sits between the left and right-hand buttons. Moving the scroll wheel will make the page you’re currently viewing move up or down, depending on which way you spin the wheel. But scroll wheels do have other functions. They’re a bit smarter than you might have thought.

You can actually click with the scroll wheel. In effect, it’s a third button.

When you click on a page using the scroll wheel, you’ll see the normal cursor arrowhead change to the automatic scrolling symbol.

Now if you move your mouse down, the page will scroll down automatically.

Move your mouse upwards, and the page will scroll up automatically.

This effect is called auto-scrolling and can be useful for reading through very long documents and web pages.

To stop auto-scrolling, either left-click once or click the scroll wheel again.

Auto scroll is enabled. Dotted red arrows indicating direction of scroll.
With auto-scroll on, you can scroll (or move) the page in any direction simply by moving your mouse in that direction.

If You’re Using A Laptop.

If you’re on a laptop, then you might be using the touchpad instead of a mouse to control the pointer. On your touchpad, you’ll have two buttons at the bottom of the pad for left and right clicks.

Or you might have one of the newer types of touchpads that have a rocker motion, where the whole pad leans left or right to produce the clicks.

You can also tap with your finger on the touchpad for a left-click.

And double tapping for a double left-click.

On a touchpad, the right-click has to be made with either the button or rocker motion.

Touchpad with a human finger tapping surface. Left hand button is highlighted.
Double-tap touchpad for a double left-click.

When you’re using a touchpad, you don’t usually have a scroll wheel, but you can still scroll a page. On older touchpads, there’s usually an area to the right-hand side of the pad that will act as a scroll when you move your finger up or down over it.

Many newer touchpads support what’s called “Gestures”. With these touchpads, you can scroll by moving two fingers up or down anywhere on the pad.

Both fingers need to be touching the pad’s surface for this to work.

The scrolling area of a laptop touchpad is marked.
Scroll area.
Two fingers used to scroll on a laptop touchpad.


A Mouse On A Laptop.

While using a laptop’s touchpad isn’t difficult, it does take a little practice. And if you find yourself struggling with it, then you’re not alone, many people do. You can plug in a normal computer mouse if you’d like to.

Obviously, it depends on how you’re using the laptop. If you’re trying to balance it on your lap, then you probably won’t have the space for a mouse. But if you’ve got it on a table, a desk, or a tray that’s wide enough to accommodate a mouse as well, then why not?

If you don’t have a spare computer mouse around your home, you can pick one up at your local store. Any USB mouse will work.

You can opt for either wired or wireless, it doesn’t really matter which you choose. Just check that it’s a USB-type connection. It’ll say so on the box.

Mouse Settings

Do you have a problem sometimes when trying to double left-click on something? You’re not quite quick enough and have to have several attempts before you get it. Well, you’re not alone.

It’s caused by having the double click speed being set too high. It’s not your fault, it’s a standard-setting on your computer. For some reason, we’re all expected to have lightning-fast reflexes.

You can change the double click speed, and a few other things, in the Mouse Settings on your computer. It’s easy to do but is slightly different depending on whether your using Windows 10 or Windows 11.

How To Change The Double Click Speed In Windows 10 & 11.

To slow down the double click speed of your mouse, you’ll need to open the Mouse Settings on your computer.

If you’re using Windows 10, left-click once on the START button and then type mouse settings.

If you’ve never done this before it can seem a little wired because there isn’t a box to type into. The box appears as soon as you start typing. So just left-click once on the START button (or press the Windows key on your keyboard) and begin typing “mouse settings”. You’ll see, it’ll work.

If you’re a Windows 11 user, left-click the START button and then type mouse settings into the search box at the top of the menu.

The Start button is indicated in Windows 10.
The Start button in Windows 10.
The Start button is indicated in Windows 11.
The Start button for Windows 11.

As you type, Windows will try to guess what you’re looking for. You’ll see the suggestions appearing and disappearing as you add more letters.

Left-click once on MOUSE SETTINGS (System Settings), which will eventually appear at the top of the list.

Mouse settings indicated on Windows 10 Start menu.
Windows 10.
Mouse settings indicated in the Windows 11 Start menu.
Windows 11.

On the MOUSE SETTINGS page, look for the Related Settings section. You might need to scroll down a little, or if you’ve got a wider screen, it might be over on the right-hand side of the screen.

When you find the Related Settings, in Windows 10 left-click ADDITIONAL MOUSE OPTIONS.

And in Windows 11, left-click ADDITIONAL MOUSE SETTINGS (Pointer Icons and Visibility)

Additional mouse option indicated.
Windows 10.
Additional mouse settings marked.
Windows 11.

In both Windows 10 & 11, the Mouse Properties window opens.

In the middle of the window, you’ll see the Double-Click Speed section.

To slow down the double click speed, put your pointer onto the slider, hold down the left mouse button and move your mouse to the left.

Personally, I’d go all the way to the left, as far as it can go.

There is absolutely no benefit in having a fast double click speed. So shove it all the way to the left (slow). When you’re done, left-click the OK button.

Double click speed section highlighted. Arrow indicates to move slider left (slower).
Drag the slider left to slow down the double click speed for your mouse.

On A Laptop

If you’re using a laptop, then the Mouse Properties box will look something like this.

No worries, it’s the same window but with additional settings for your touchpad.

Across the top of the window, you’ll see some tabs.

To change the double click speed, left-click the BUTTONS tab.

You’ll then see the exact same window as above and you can change the double click speed of your touchpad/mouse.

Buttons tab indicated.
Mouse Properties for a laptop touchpad. To reduce the double click speed, first click the Buttons tab.

How To Adjust Your Mouse Pointer Size In Windows 10 & 11.

When you close the Mouse Properties window you’ll return to the Mouse Settings page. While you’re here in the Mouse Settings, are you happy with the size of your mouse pointer? Can you find it easily enough on your screen? Or is it a little too small? It’s usually set to the smallest size but you can make it a little bigger you’d like.

To adjust the size of your mouse pointer, go to the Related Settings section again. In Windows 10, click ADJUST MOUSE & CURSOR SIZE. In Windows 11 click MOUSE POINTER (Pointer Size and Colour)

Adjust mouse and cursor size is marked in Windows 10.
In Windows 10, click ADJUST MOUSE & CURSOR SIZE.
Mouse pointer size option is marked in Windows 11.
In Windows 11, click MOUSE POINTER (Pointer Size and Colour).

You can change the size of your mouse pointer by dragging the slider left or right. Put your pointer onto the slider, hold down the left-hand mouse button and move your mouse left or right. The slider will follow.

When your pointer is the right size, release the mouse button. I think size 2 or 3 is about right, but it’s entirely your choice. When you’re happy with both the double click speed (you’ve set it to the slowest) and happy with the pointer (cursor) size, left-click the Close button (the X) in the top right-hand corner to close the window.

Arrows indicating direction to drag pointer size slider in Windows 10.
Windows 10.
Arrows indicate dragging slider left or right in Windows 11.
Windows 11.

The Computer Keyboard Basics.

Throughout the At Home Computer Course, whenever I show a Keyboard image, it’ll be a standard UK layout “qwerty” keyboard. The actual layout of your keyboard may be different depending on where in the world you are, but the actual keys should be there, somewhere, on your keyboard.

Also, if you’re using a laptop, then you may find some of the keys are in slightly different places, even if you’re in the UK.

With that said, there are a few useful keys that you should find on your keyboard. Finding them now and making a mental note of where they are.

Keys indicated by call outs. Tab, Shift, Control (CTRL), Windows, Alt, Enter/Return, Arrows and Backspace.

Starting from the top left and moving around anti-clockwise –

  • The Tab key – often marked with two opposing arrows but sometimes has Tab written on it.
  • The Shift key – an upward-facing arrow or the word Shift.
  • Control Key – often marked as CTRL.
  • The Windows key – marked with the Windows logo, but that has changed over the years. See below.
  • The Alt key – always marked Alt.
  • Enter or Return key – could be marked with either a crooked arrow, Enter or Return or a combination of the three.
  • Arrow keys – marked with the direction arrows.
  • The Backspace key – marked with an arrow pointing left or the word Backspace.

Notable Keys.

Whilst the majority of these keys are generally used when typing and are pretty much understood by everyone, there are 3 keys that you really should find and note, namely the CTRL (Control) key, Windows key, and ALT key.

Although you may never have used these 3 keys at all, they are incredibly useful. They’re positioned in the bottom left-hand corner of the keyboard for a reason, and that is to make it easy to use them with your left hand, whilst your right-hand remains on the mouse.

As you move through the At Home Computer Course, I’ll introduce you to how and when to use these 3 keys, and you’ll see just how good they are.

Finding The Windows Key On Your Keyboard.

The Windows key usually has the Windows logo on it, but if you’re using an older keyboard, the logo might be different from the one shown here. If you’re not sure about the Windows key, you can test it.

In both Windows 10 & 11, pressing the Windows key opens the Start menu. So press the key you think is the Windows key and if the Start menu opens, you’re good to go. Press it again to close the Start menu.

Windows 10 start menu has opened. Keyboard is shown with a finger pressing down the Windows key.
Windows 10 Start menu opens when the Windows key is pressed.
Windows 11 start menu has opened. Keyboard is shown with a finger pressing down the Windows key.
Windows 11 Start menu opens when the Windows key is pressed.


Keyboard And Mouse Basics – Summary.

I’m sure that for many people, changing the mouse settings will seem like a bit of a challenge, maybe a bit scary, but that’s why you’re here. To learn how to use your computer and to get the most from it. You can only do that if you can control the computer properly. And for most of us, the mouse is the main way that we control the computer. So it just has to work.

Remember that you can always change your mouse settings again. If you make the pointer size a little too big, or you want to go a little bigger, do it. Follow the guides above and get it right for you.

As for the keyboard, most of the keys you’ll already know, but if there’s a couple you didn’t, try to make a note of them. Find them on your own keyboard, it will make life a little easier going forward.

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