Do you know why you make the extra effort to double-click instead of single-clicking on your computer? Double-clicking has been one of the primary ways to navigate on desktop computers for ages, but it’s no longer relevant in today’s world. Whether you’re using a Mac or a PC, you need to double-click (instead of single-clicking) to open a folder, navigate or launch a program.
Every day, this adds up to hundreds of useless clicks. It’s inefficient, confusing, cumbersome and not accessible to many users. It’s time to change this!
Why are we double-clicking?
Double-click was introduced at Apple in 1984 on their first commercial mouse. This mouse was a brilliant new way of interacting with a computer by pointing at objects (files, folders, programs, etc.).
But Apple’s mouse had only one button, which is what allowed us to select and initiate actions on an object. Apple decided that a single click would select the object, and double-clicking would execute the main action for this object (open a folder, launch a program, etc.).
More than 30 years later, things have changed. Let me tell you why double-clicking has to disappear on desktop computers and then present a few potential solutions.
Double-clicking slows you down and is unnecessarily demanding
Single-clicking allows you to navigate faster. Every day, it would save us time and effort.
Double-clicking is inconsistent within an operating system
The confusion starts with web links. These requires only a single click to open, which is different from what you’re used to doing on your desktop.
As you can see, the cursor will change into a pointer, allowing you to understand that you will follow this link.
However, things start to go wrong in many places (Mac dock, Windows start menu) where you have absolutely no visual cues to help you see the difference.
As a result, some people get confused and double-click on web links and buttons, which leads to errors like duplicate orders: http://baymard.com/blog/users-double-click-online (PS: don’t double-click it).
Double-clicking is inconsistent with our mobile devices
A single tap on a touchscreen has always been the primary way to open something or launch an app. Because we spend so much time on our phones, tablets and other touch devices, it’s becoming even more confusing to switch back to our Macs or PCs.
Double-clicking is inconsistent with our physical world
Double-pressing or tapping to make something happen… This doesn’t exist in our physical world (except maybe when you knock on the door). Seriously, the double-click is not intuitive. It is a specific gesture you have to learn exclusively for using a computer.
Double-clicking is not accessible
Double-clicking is demanding. You need precise timing and fine motor skills to perform it. Elderly and novice users often struggle with it — this is why there’s a way to change the speed required to perform it. But this is a Band-Aid solution that doesn’t solve the real issue:
A few solutions for action and selection.
The easiest interaction (a single click) should be used for the most commonly used cases (opening files, launching things). With a single click, you can still grab and drag icons without releasing the click. And what about selection? Simply having a select button (much like iOS) would do the trick:
We might also consider a few shortcuts with gestures or specific key combinations to select a file. CMD+click (ctrl + click on windows) is already used to add an object to the current selection, so it could be used to start the selection as well.
So let’s say farewell to double-clicking!
There are a few interactions where double-clicking is handy and consistent across devices (like text selection). But it should no longer be used for opening and launching files on computers.
People don’t like change, even if it’s for the better in the long run. But there is a way to implement it gradually.
A good first step for Mac would be to give you the choice between double- and single-click in the settings. This is already something Windows users can do.
Windows people, here’s is how to do it:
- Click Start, and then click My Computer.
- In the Tools menu, click Folder Options.
- On the General tab, click Single-click to open an item (point to select), and then click OK.
As a second step to encourage people to use a single click, a set-up screen might ask users to choose the interaction they prefer the first time they use their computer.
Single-clicking can have a large impact for computer users everywhere. Less clicks, more saved time (and maybe even a reduced chance of carpal-tunnel syndrome)!
Next Mac OS maybe?