Why doesn’t double-right-click bring up the Properties dialog?


kip asks why double-right-click isn't a shortcut for Properties.

Recall the logical consequences of the way Windows converts single-clicks into double-clicks. The double-click action is an extension of the single-click action.

In the case of context menus, the proposed double-right-click action is not an extension of the single-right-click, because the single-right-click displays a menu, whereas the double-right-click would go directly to the Properties dialog. Indeed, the way context menus are positioned on the screen specifically negates the possibility of double-right-click, for the context menu positions itself (under normal conditions) so that the click point is aligned with a dead spot on the menu. That way, when people who instinctively double-click everything do their double-right-click on an item, they get a context menu on the first right-click, and the second right-click is ignored. If the context menu were positioned so that the click point was aligned with an active location on the screen, then those habitual double-clickers would be accidentally invoking some context menu command when they really wanted to call up the context menu.

Now, if you decide to ignore the extension principle (and there are certainly lots of people who do), and if you decide that habitual double-clickers deserve to lose (and you're perfectly happy telling them that they're idiots who don't deserve the privilege of using a computer when they complain, "Your operating system is hard to use"), then you have to add reaction delays to single-clicks so you can perform separate single-click and double-click actions. Seeing as using right-click to display a context menu was not widely known prior to Windows 95, it would probably be even more confusing if a right-click on Windows 95 didn't do anything... only to have a menu appear a half second later after you had given up on the click and moved on.

The Alt+double-click (and equivalently, Alt+Enter) shortcuts were added as a concession, so that people whose lives wouldn't feel complete without a shortcut for calling up properties can finally die happy.

Comments (29)
  1. OS^2 says:

    OS/2 pioneered the context menu years before w9x.

  2. Leo Davidson says:

    OS^2, I’m really happy for you and I’mma let you finish, but Windows 95 had some of the best context menus of all time.

  3. James Schend says:

    Ok, OS^2. You’ve convinced me. I’m moving to OS/2 right now. Screw this "modern OS" stuff, forget about running popular applications– what I really want in life is to support the OS that pioneered the contextual menu!

    You have changed my life. Kudos.

  4. ranter says:

    Why doesn’t Alt+Enter bring up Properties dialog in the navigation pane? Why MS wants to force us to use right pane? It’s been broken since the obnoxious Vista and its successors.

  5. ranter says:

    Edit: Ivo beat me to it.

  6. anonymous says:

    Mentioned in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_features_removed_in_Windows_Vista but apparently MS specifically ignores that list.

  7. bahbar says:

    @anonymous: What makes you think they ignore that list ? They pretty much created that list.

    It’s not like those removals happened by mistake.

  8. Koro says:

    @Ivo: This "classic shell" program you link of does every single thing that would make Raymond cringe.

    Messing with Explorer’s private controls, looking up resources by ID in SHELL32.DLL, plus it reimplements some stuff that could have been had for free when using the right API.

  9. Ivo says:

    @Raymond: I’m sorry, but what can I do, it’s THE LAW :)

    But now seriously, in your story you are talking about adding a feature for the people that want a shortcut, and I’m adding that the feature was later (partially) removed.

    @Koro. I understand that I had to do some questionable things to get the results I want. If you are aware of a better (documented) way to do some of it, please let me know, I beg you. I’ll be glad to use the right API if it exists. But lets move this to the Source Forge forums (or Code Project if you prefer: http://www.codeproject.com/KB/shell/classicshell.aspx). Raymond’s blog is not the right place for this discussion.

  10. Marquess says:

    OS/2 really had what it took to be the Windows killer, but someone (let’s call them HAL) apparently thought it would be smart to charge horrendous sums for both the OS and (worse) the developer tools. I’m sorry, but I can’t let you do that, Dave.

    [Oh, the Vista bashing’s already started? Am I too late for the DRM and driver signing flames?]

  11. Marquess says:

    OS/2 really had what it took to be the Windows killer, but someone (let’s call them HAL) apparently thought it would be smart to charge horrendous sums for both the OS and (worse) the developer tools. I’m sorry, but I can’t let you do that, Dave.

    [Oh, the Vista bashing’s already started? Am I too late for the DRM and driver signing flames?]

  12. p.jackson@adinstruments.com says:

    How could I have survived this long without knowing Alt+Enter!

    My life is complete.

    I will now spend the rest of the day looking at the properties of every file on my machine.

  13. Nick says:

    Oh wow – I’d never heard of Alt+double-click before. That’s kinda nice.

    I know it’s a good day when I learn a new shortcut in Windows :)

  14. anonymous says:

    It’s how one takes it. Evidently, everyone takes it as Vista bashing even when it’s on-topic. I see it as a way to let Microsoft know that as users we want it back and that they need to do something about it in a hotfix or service pack, especially if it’s been ignored for half a decade.

  15. Steve says:

    If it’s been ignored for half a decade you can bet it will continue to be ignored.

  16. jeremy says:

    Yes, damn that Microsoft up in their Ivory Towers!  Ignoring what us common people actually need in our operating systems!  Not spending a penny on research, usability, testing, or any backwards compatibility!  Booo!  BOOOO!

  17. David says:

    Double click is an abomination and everyone that encourages it should be shot

  18. Ivo says:

    Alt+double-click (and since Vista, Alt+Enter) don’t work in the Navigation Pane. Microsoft *, please fix this some day, so we don’t have to write shell extensions to support it: http://classicshell.sourceforge.net/#alt_enter

    * I understand Raymond is not Microsoft, but I hope Microsoft is reading his blog :P

    [I think we found another corollary to Godwin’s law: In any discussion about Windows, somebody will mention that Windows Vista sucks. -Raymond]
  19. steveg says:

    At the risk of sounding [more] stupid, is there anywhere in Win7 where Alt+Dbl Right Click is implemented? (I even did some Googling for info).

  20. Ivo says:

    steveg: It is Alt+Dbl Left Click.

  21. Another one says:

    > [I think we found another corollary to Godwin’s law: In any discussion about Windows, somebody will mention that Windows Vista sucks. -Raymond]

    Erm… because it does?

    [Whether it does or not, it does nothing to further the discussion. -Raymond]
  22. Lawrence says:

    The title of the post is "Why doesn’t double-right-click bring up the Properties dialog?".

    Exactly HOW is the fact that Vista doesn’t support Alt+Enter shortcuts ‘on-topic’ for that title?

    I thought that a firm grasp of logic was a prerequisite for becoming a developer. Seems not!

  23. Another one says:

    Two people pointed out the Alt+Enter inconsistency (and therefore lack of logic, in my logic). Although it was sligthly off topic (if every discussion is required to be pinpoint on topic, there wouldn’t be any discussion, again, in my logic), the response was (kind of) invokement of Goodwin’s law (see the first sentence of the last paragraph of "Usage and corollaries" section in Wikipedia article).

    I’ll stop here because this is getting offtopic, but my opinion is that not every Vistabashing is undeserved.

  24. Ivo says:

    Lawrence – it is not "on-topic" for the title, but is "on-topic" for the contents of the article, particularly the last paragraph.

    As an old-school DOS user, keyboard support (or lack of) is a pet peeve of mine. Historically Windows has had a very good track record of catering to keyboard users. There is simply no good reason why Alt+Enter should be broken in Vista. There is no way there was a usability study or a research that proved that this feature should be removed. Most likely some code got rewritten, the feature got broken, and nobody bothered to fix it. I wanted to have a constructive discussion about the problem but instead Raymond accused me of Vista-bashing, which brought in the real "Vista sucks" and "you suck for saying Vista sucks" crowds. Constructive discussion – what was I thinking!

  25. Grumpy says:

    I thought that a firm grasp of logic was a prerequisite for becoming a developer. Seems not!

    LOL, no! If you were to see the crap that us poor maintenance dudes have to clean up to keep stuff running, you’d cry for the fate of humanity. TheDailyWTF doesn’t even start to capture the badness inside.

    Eppur si muove – at least it hasn’t fallen down yet.

  26. anonymous says:

    "I think we found another corollary to Godwin’s law: In any discussion about Windows, somebody will mention that Windows Vista sucks."

    With such an attitude, I don’t think Windows 7 will see the success XP sees. Sure millions of copies are being sold but how does that translate into market share? How many users actually keep running Windows 7? It will be forever before any OS eclipses XP’s market share because of this very attitude to ignore little annoyances that result in feature loss.

  27. kip says:

    Thanks, Raymond! I forgot about that comment. I didn’t realize I had been reading this blog for at least 3.5 years already.

  28. David Moisan says:

    To the person that wanted Alt-Enter:  Start/Powershell and type in:

    get-childitem | foreach | format-table *

    Happy?

    [rimshot]

  29. Anonymous Coward says:

    a) Habitual double clickers can’t use Windows as it is. I tried it for a full five minutes and even the taskbar and shell act weird if you use your computer that way. And I don’t see why we should make special concessions to a small fraction of people who do such bizarre things. Although at this point it might be fun to mention that Windows 3.1 included a mouse tutorial. I’ve ran it on XP and several things go wrong, and it’s completable, but pretty much useless, too much water under the bridge and all that rot.

    b) You could make the dead spot in the context menu react appropriately to the second click to hide itself and display the properties window. Also, if you receive two clicks within the double click time and within double click distance, you can be sure that a double click was intended. Sending them as two single clicks to different windows is certain to be a mistake. Maybe a slight redesign is in order.

Comments are closed.

Skip to main content