The double-click time tells the window manager how good your reflexes are


The double-click time is sort of the dialog unit of time. It’s used as the basis for many user interface time values that don’t have their own custom setting. Here are just a few examples, along with the values you get if you leave the double-click time at its default of 500ms:

  • The default tooltip timeouts are based on the double-click time. (Initial: 0.5s, autopop: 5s, reshow: 0.1s.)
  • Incremental searching in list boxes resets after 4 times the double click time (2s).
  • When you click and hold over a scroll bar arrow, autorepeat begins after 4/5 of the double-click time has elapsed (.4s), and autorepeat occurs at one tenth of the double-click time (0.05s = 20 repeats per second).
  • The menu speed used to be 4/5 of the double click speed (0.4s), but now it has its own setting (SPI_SETMENUSHOWDELAY).

If you go into the mouse control panel and speed up your double-click speed, then you’ll find that other user interface operations tend to speed up as well. The double-click time is a sort of barometer for how good the user’s reaction time is. If you set it too low, you may find that things just happen too fast.

Comments (37)
  1. steven says:

    Very interesting. To me, the scrollbar is the odd one out, though. Wouldn’t it make more sense to couple that with the keyboard repeat rate instead, seeing as there is now a discrepancy in the scroll rate when using the arrow keys or the mouse?

  2. tim says:

    In the face of all the criticism people volley at Microsoft, it’s gems like this which point to the care taken to make a good product.

    Nice one Microsoft!

  3. This is really neat to know!  Especially listbox searching… I’ve always wondered how it decided when a new search had started…

  4. Peop G'burt says:

    I wonder why sometimes tooltips just won’t reappear.

  5. Mats Lindh says:

    Raymond Chen’s blog "The Old New Thing" is an invaluable source of interesting theories and histories about the inner workings of Windows. If you haven’t read his book "The Old New Thing: Practical Development Throughout the Evolution of Windows" yet,

  6. anonymous says:

    WTF is menu speed good for anyway? If I want a menu, then I want it ASAP and don’t want to wait. It has even been until Windows XP that the minimum menu speed was 1 ms, and 0 meant "wait forever".

    But a question: Is there a way to tune the time of the minimize/maximize animation? Unlike the menu stuff, entire windows appearing on or disappearing from the screen can be a quite dramatic flash, and it’s also good to get a quick notification of the taskbar button it’s assigned to.

  7. Glenn says:

    Unfortunately, for me, at least, they’re not related.  I tend to double click casually, around the default delay.  I want repeats fast–they should really follow the keyboard repeat rate (mine is 30hz and the smallest delay, maybe 250ms).  I type fast, but regardless I want a slow search reset (if I want to reset it I’ll do it manually by moving the cursor).  And I never want tooltips.

    it’s gems like this which point to the care taken to make a good product.

    Only if this just happens to match what you want.  Otherwise, it just means you can’t adjust any of these timings without making the double click time uncomfortable.

  8. MadQ says:

    anonymous: The menu show delay prevents sub-menus from popping up when the cursor moves over the menu item with the arrow on it. I find it very useful, especially when using terminal services.

  9. Hans says:

    Funny, after reading the title I thought finally windows can identify the casual (click-wait for something-click) or the power user (click-click).

    It could not ask stupid questions for the power user then.

    But I see the setting and not the actual time is used.

  10. Christopher says:

    > If the sub menu shows, and you click its parent, it disappears (until the timeout runs out again…)

    I can’t replicate this on Vista, assuming you mean clicking the sub-menu’s item on the parent menu? Of course, if you click a different item on the parent menu it will close, so I guess you don’t mean that.

    If I click the sub-menu’s item on the parent while the sub-menu is open, nothing happens – the sub-menu stays open.

  11. Daev says:

    @Hans

    If Windows actually calculated your reaction time based on how fast it thinks you double-clicked, then the fact that I’ve set up my mouse to fake an instantaneous double-click when I press the scroll-wheel button would cause my entire user experience to be relativistically red-shifted.

  12. JAM says:

    "If Windows actually calculated your reaction time based on how fast it thinks you double-clicked, then the fact that I’ve set up my mouse to fake an instantaneous double-click when I press the scroll-wheel button would cause my entire user experience to be relativistically red-shifted."

    Wouldn’t that be blueshifted?

  13. David Walker says:

    I find that if I turn off menu animation, turn off smooth-scroll list boxes, turn off slide open combo boxes, and the like, people think that I have done something to make their whole computer run SO MUCH FASTER.

    It’s just appearance, but I like things to "snap" into place instead of sliding around as if there was water everywhere.

  14. David Walker says:

    Edit: I meant that when make these changes for other people on their computers, they think I have magically sped up their computers.

  15. RRL says:

    Since I prefer single click to open, I’ve never really looked into this setting.  It seems kind of inconsistent to offer the single click option and then tying various settings to the double click.

  16. chrismcb says:

    @Peop G’burt:

    Tooltips disappeared for a reason. To get out of your way. Generally you can make a tooltip reappear my moving the mouse out of range back in range. But if a tooltip just reappeared it would defeat the purpose of it disappearing in the first place.

    @RRL

    Double click is just an action. It doesn’t do anything specific. Windows Explorer uses double click to open a file. But in other context double click does other things. Most editors double click a word selects the word. So while Explorer offers a single click option, double click still has a meaning (and a use)

    I’m curious why 4/5ths.

  17. peterchen says:

    >> WTF is menu speed good for anyway?

    As I understand, the delay until a sub menu shows while *hovering* over the parent item.

    There is one annoying thing, though:

    If the sub menu shows, and you click its parent, it disappears (until the timeout runs out again…)

    For me the sub menu often appears automatically (due to hovering) in the gap between deciding to click and actual response of the meaty appendage. Due to the click, the sub menu disappears immediately, and takes the timeout agian to reappear.

    *grrrrrrr*

  18. AK Wong says:

    @David Walker,

    That’s exactly what I do on all my XP and Vista machines. It does make the GUI "so much faster". I don’t mind shadows and translucent selection rectangles, but all that fading, sliding and animating has to go!

  19. MadQ says:

    For this here ADD boy, all the fading, sliding, and animating makes it much easier to find things on the screen. I hate it when I have to work on a PC that has it all turned off, because it takes me forever to find what I’m looking for.

  20. Joe Butler says:

    I agree with Glenn and like a lazy double-click but not sure I want other things based on that timing.

    Also peterchen’s description of the sub-menu is spot on; that is soooo annoying – I always wish it was like Windows 95 where the menus were instant – no waiting for icons to show, just BANG BANG BANG as one hovers past eash sub-menu and it’s on the screen.

  21. Dan says:

    anonymous: I’ve experimented with no-delay menus and I’ve found the reason why…. with dynamically generated menus, they will usually choose to build the menus on demand.  This means when a sub menu pop up event occurs, the menu is built then, and usually during this time the menu will not respond to interactions until the sub menu is built and appears.  Depending on the data needed to build the menu this could take a few seconds, and the sub menu delay prevents that event from firing unnecessarily and accidentally and wasting your time.

    The example I found is the Start Menu > All Programs list in XP, where explorer apparently uses the UI thread to fetch program icons when you open a sub menu.  If you didn’t mean to open a particular sub menu it can be a very annoying delay.

  22. Mr Q says:

    http://www.theeldergeek.com/faster_start_menu.htm

    Banish sluggish Start Menu delays. :)

    Tested okay on Windows XP SP2.

    [I like how my article goes the documented, supported way of changing the menu delay, and yet people link to a page that describes the undocumented, unsupported way. -Raymond]
  23. Aaargh! says:

    Isn’t this breaking Curly’s Law ?

    A variable should mean 1 thing and 1 thing only. Now, changing the doubleclick rate can have all kinds of side effects the user can’t possibly predict.

  24. Tepsifüles says:

    I find the linking of tooltip timeout to the double-click time limit somewhat weird. Does it really come from a usability study that those who double-click faster also process tooltip information faster?

    On a tangent to what Dan said: how come that something like the Explorer’s File->New submenu or the Add/Remove Programs window are not generated faster/cached (XP SP2, and no hope of running Vista, so maybe it got better there)? It feels like the system is mining the data from the entirety of the registry instead of dumping a relatively short list which is only in need of updating at very rare occasions.

  25. SuperKoko says:

    "It’s just appearance"

    No, it isn’t.

    1) To scroll the same amount, with smooth scrolling enabled, you’ve to wait longer. Really.

    2) Because we cannot read invisible things, animated menus imply waiting (300 or 400 milliseconds) between the menu pop up and the actual user action. In other words: The same people will be more productive (achieving more work in less time) on a system with animations disabled.

    Animated unrolling menus (as in Windows 98) are even worst: Moving text isn’t only impossible to read. It’s also exhausting for your eyes and your brain. Even if you don’t feel it immediately, after several hours, you’ll feel that you’re exhausted. Even if you don’t try to read it, your brain do.

    3) Many half-second delays disturb the normal flow of thoughts. Human people have a sort of very-volatile memory (equivalent of CPU L1 cache) that longs only a few seconds. Repetitive delays in your work will result in mental ashenia.

    "they think I have magically sped up their computers."

    Yeah. The reality is that animations magically slows down their computer and their brains.

    I feel animations are there only for the "Wow, how pretty!" factor that may attract some users. They’re impractical in everyday work.

  26. Xavi says:

    Nice internas

    And…you throw the bone, we fight for it!

    Your blog will increase global warming.

    I bet that you knew in advance that it will cause lots of voters for and against it, going into arguments.

    You must be enjoying this, aren’t you :-)

  27. anonymous says:

    "and yet people link to a page that describes the undocumented, unsupported way."

    Well, unless you consider the full documentation on Technet…

  28. David Walker says:

    @AK Wong, MadQ, and SuperKoko:  That’s why it’s good that these are preferences, even though 90% of users don’t know they exist.

    I’m probably biased, but I predict that the number of ADD people who really need the fading, sliding, and scrolling are far outnumbered by those who prefer things in the UI to happen instantly.  If only they were truly given the choice (such as an easy way to use each set of settings, instant or animated, for a day or a week).  I think the defaults are wrong IMHO.

    Oh look!  We can slide task-bar buttons!  We can also make animated flaming fonts on our Web site!

    Smooth-scrolling Web pages, for example, make me dizzy.

  29. SuperKoko says:

    @David Walker:

    Now that I think of it, in Windows XP, animated effects are controlled by the advanced panel of system settings, so, they’re not supposed to be set by noobs.

    Disabling animated effects by default, would be good for 90% of people, but, on the other hand, for marketing reasons, the OS would look less attractive at first.

    For most noobs, the ONLY differences between Windows 95 and Windows XP are in the GUI effects and in Explorer.

    How would you sell a new OS that looks the same as the previous one? Arguing that it’s better "inside" won’t convince many users.

    That’s sad to say, but marketing may not always serve users the best.

  30. steveg says:

    ""If Windows actually calculated your reaction time based on how fast it thinks you double-clicked, then the fact that I’ve set up my mouse to fake an instantaneous double-click when I press the scroll-wheel button would cause my entire user experience to be relativistically red-shifted."

    Wouldn’t that be blueshifted?"

    It’d be neither as the user wouldn’t be moving relative to the user interface.

    OTH if instant double-click speed led to a division by zero error, there might be bluescreenshift out the window.

  31. Quick Fix Deluxe says:

    The menu delay is there because Windows menu expansion isn’t multithreaded, it can’t be aborted. And to expand a submenu can take forever because not a single item on windows start menu isn’t cached beyond what the filesystem do. How hard would it be to:

    1. Implement precaching of some start menu items? This would make *millions* of people more productive.

    2. Implement multithread support for windows menus? Or windows gui in general? Raymond has written numerous articles how windows user gui is incapable of handling the simplest multithreading workflow. Maybe ms should rewrite it from scrath to make the gui to support multithreading. The current level of multithread support in windows gui is pathetic. Look at COM implementation for example. Last millennium technology.

  32. Tanveer Badar says:

    [I like how my article goes the documented, supported way of changing the menu delay, and yet people link to a page that describes the undocumented, unsupported way. -Raymond]

    But I always do exactly that on every new user account.

  33. Transcontinental says:

    Double-clicking is not a contest, neither is a web session. Why always speed-up everything ? Life is not a race … nor a snails journey, I agree. Just suit parameters from your comfort, not for anything but your own good old comfort! Smile, relax, enjoy!

  34. So you don’t lose a big menu because you lost a mouse dexterity game.

  35. Delay's Blog says:

    I first came across the notion of automatic mouse button clicking some time ago. The basic idea can be

Comments are closed.