Thoughts on mouse buttons

Matt Zimmerman mdz at
Sun Sep 19 04:27:23 UTC 2004

On Sun, Sep 19, 2004 at 06:10:25AM +0200, Daniel Borgmann wrote:

> The first is emulating the third mouse button. This is currently default
> in Ubuntu, but it breaks games. For example in Quake, you can't press the
> left and right mouse at the same time and have both actions executed.
> That's a deal breaker. :) This is really too bad, because Ubuntu is
> shaping up to become a great distribution for geek gamers.  I think the
> ideal solution would be to make emulating the third mouse button a
> userland feature of GNOME, making it possible to enable it from the GNOME
> mouse settings and disabling it by default (on X, it does no harm on the
> console). But I'm not sure... Of course another solution would be to ask
> this at the installation like most other distributions do, but this just
> feels wrong to me (just like running dpkg-reconfigure feels wrong to me).

I've thought about this myself.  The middle mouse button isn't needed for
any critical actions in our desktop UI as far as I know, so even if the user
had a two-button mouse, they would be OK without emulation.  If middle mouse
button actions are important to someone, they're likely to have a three
button mouse.

Of course, this is configurable, and it's only a matter of what to choose by
default.  The question is, which is more common among (potential) users?
Games of this type, or two-button mice?  And which group should have the
burden of changing the default?

> My second worry is, that no Linux distribution managed to correctly set
> up mouses with more than three buttons and a wheel yet. This is really
> frustrating, because it's impossible to get right without excessive
> googling, editing some obscure config lines and sometimes running an
> obscure X command. I can do that, but it's no fun and I wouldn't want to
> recommend it to anyone.
> Maybe the extra buttons don't seem so valuable to most people, but they
> are very important for gamers and they could also be a very valuable
> addition to the desktop if it would be possible to map them to certain
> shortcut functions or simply to other keys. It just sucks, that every
> modern mouse seems to downgrade to a simple three button mouse on
> Linux. :/

My mouse has a fourth button, but I've never configured it to do anything.
However, I don't see any reason why it shouldn't be set up to generate an
event by default, so that the user can assign it an action if they want.
Please file a severity: enhancement bug report about this and we'll see what
can be done.  If you can include some of the information and references
you've collected, that's even better.

 - mdz

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