Middle click on the new MacBooks?
November 11, 2008 11:05 PM   Subscribe

I find myself unexpectedly in the market for a new laptop, and I'm considering switching to a Mac. I know the new MacBooks can finally do a proper right-click, but can they also do a middle-click without some awkward key combo? On my current laptop I just tap in one corner of the trackpad to middle click, and I can't imagine browsing the web without middle clicking.

Bonus question: My current computer is a Dell Latitude X1, which is essentially a rebadged Samsung. If I don't go with the Mac, are there any similar ultraportables? It looks like Samsung finally started selling their own computers in the US, but they're all bigger than what I've got now. The X1 is about an inch thick, weighs 2.8 pounds (less than the MacBook Air!) and has a 12" screen. I don't want to give up the portability I love about this computer but it seems like the ultraportable category has disappeared in the last few years, leaving a hole between too-big 13.3" screen computers and too-small netbooks.
posted by stopgap to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
In firefox and safari, command-click will open a link in a new tab.

I don't know how off the top of my head, but there are several ways (either in Leopard or with third party freeware) to map a corner of the trackpad to a middle click. So there are many ways to skin this cat.
posted by rossination at 11:15 PM on November 11, 2008

Go play around with a MacBook at an Apple store because--and I say this as someone who switched to a Mac 18 months ago and was forced (by IT) to switch back to a Windows machine six months ago--I MISS BROWSING ON THE MAC.

I found that with the multi-touch pad I was browsing in a totally different and fluid way, using the two finger scroll and tapping . . . it took very little time to adjust.

My point: I do not know fo the middle click about which you speak, but I think the browsing experience is good enough and significantly different enough to warrant a test drive regardless . . .
posted by donovan at 11:15 PM on November 11, 2008

No idea about middle clicks on the new Macbooks, but on my previous-gen Macbook, you middle-click by holding down the command-key and then clicking. Since the command key is directly above and slightly to the left/right of the trackpad, this is pretty easy to do. I do it by pressing the key with my little finger and then clicking with my thumb, and I use it ALL the time in Firefox to open new tabs, so it can't be that painful.

Oh, and also, the Macbooks have had right-click with two fingers since the very beginning, as well as two-finger scrolling, which is SO useful that it drives me batty when I use a windows laptop that doesn't have it! I'd imagine the new gestures are even more useful.
posted by ranglin at 11:16 PM on November 11, 2008

The only middle click function on a track pad is two finger drag = scrolling, otherwise you need to do control-click.

The two finger drag isn't a default so they may not have it set up like that in the Apple store, but it is a matter of clicking one checkmark and you'll get it.
posted by arnicae at 12:21 AM on November 12, 2008

Control-click is the same as right clicking. Command-click is not the middle mouse button, it's command-click. Very few apps use the middle mouse button – FireFox on mac does it, though. There are various utilities that will allow you to map stuff to the middle mouse button, if you like it. But you won't need it, as the middle-click-scroll is superfluous on a trackpad with multi-touch.
posted by tumult at 2:30 AM on November 12, 2008

which is SO useful that it drives me batty when I use a windows laptop that doesn't have it

I've seen this mentioned twice so I just thought I would point out that most Windows laptops with touchpads have one-touch scrolling--just drag your finger up or down on the far right of the pad and the current window will scroll up or down.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 2:56 AM on November 12, 2008

the scroll on the mac is more useful, at least for me in that you can go up/down and side/side without having to move to a different edge. don't have to look to find the edge either.

two finger click replaces control-click. works very well.

command-click is one i use ALL the time, many times i have 50 tabs open at the same time.

if middle click does something very useful, you could configure it. the new trackpads are terrific, fwir, haven't tried them but the 'old' one i have is really nice. i never use the button anymore, just tap.
posted by KenManiac at 4:28 AM on November 12, 2008

Response by poster: Just to clarify, I'm not at all concerned about scrolling. I have one-finger scrolling on my current computer (come on, that's been standard for like ten years), and I don't think I would even miss it if it were gone. The only thing I'm wondering about is middle-clicking for opening and closing new tabs. I've had a computer (Sony Vaio) where simple commands like Home/End/PgUp/PgDn were replaced with a Fn key combo and it drove me nuts for four years. I'd really rather not have to do something similar like Command-clicking. Is there anything like SideTrack that works with the current MacBooks? I just want to be able to map a corner-tap to a middle click.
posted by stopgap at 5:58 AM on November 12, 2008

My MacBook Pro keyboard, like all of the Mac laptops, has [Home]/[End]/[PgUp]/[PgDn] stuck on the arrow keys, so you need to hit Fn to make them work. It isn't so much of a pain really, but I do get tired of not being able to quickly go Home in Firefox without using both hands ([Fn]+[Alt]+[Home]). When I'm at home on my Windows box it's easy to hit with one hand. It's a bit frustrating bu that's how Apple does it.

As far as middle-click I just use an external mouse at my desk. When I'm working elsewhere I use the equivalent keyboard commands ([Cmd]+click to open in new tab, [Cmd]+[W] to close current tab).

What you're running in to here is partly Apple's design and UI ideas. Safari for example won't return to your home page using [Alt]+[Home] (it uses [Cmd]+[Shift]+[H] instead). It also won't close tabs on middle-click. Why? Who knows. Apple somehow decided to make their UI inconsistent with essentially every other tabbed browser in existence. Safari does happily respond to the open-in-tab and close-tab keyboard commands, though.

Personally I prefer the Firefox interface, so I understand your potential frustration, but it isn't really a big deal at all, even with no external mouse: I rarely find myself missing the middle-click. They keyboard shortcuts for the same tasks are fast and easy. It took me just a few days of using the Mac to start remapping my Windows-trained key command mindset, and now after using my Mac for just over a year I constantly find myself futilely trying to invoke Expose when working on my Windows box at home...
posted by caution live frogs at 6:44 AM on November 12, 2008

Ultraportables arent really that hard to find. The netbooks get all the press, but they are still being made.

The Dell D430 is a 12" 3lbs ultraportable. $1299.

HP 2510p. $1499.
posted by damn dirty ape at 6:56 AM on November 12, 2008

Get yourself an external, Bluetooth mouse - while touchpads are great for occasional use, I personally find nothing beats a mouse. It doesnt have to be an Apple mouse, you can use any Logitech/Microsoft mouse and get multi-buttons, wheel scrolling, etc...
posted by jkaczor at 9:58 AM on November 12, 2008

I've wrote some code to enable middleclick on my macbook with a triple tap. Get 3-tap Middleclick for MacBook!
posted by cl3m at 3:00 AM on July 11, 2009 [2 favorites]

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