Click, select, tap or touch?

One “pressing” issue often hotly debated by semi-geeks like me: the use of click, select, taptouch and other words that mean “do this to get that.” Long ago, I documented commands that involved the simultaneous use of usually three-key depressions to effect an operation. That’s how early word processing applications such WordStar did their magic. Ctrl+K+P, (or Ctrl-K-P), for instance, printed your file.*

Then along came the mouse, a point and click device now with lots of  bells and whistles. Left-click and right-click are still the most familiar and most used mousing operations, along with pointing of course. And so we technical writers, took up the click command (left-click quickly became redundant), along with right-click, scroll, mouse-over  and other things you can do with a mouse. If you’re a Lenovo user, well, good luck with that “efficient” magenta (not red, they insist) pointer nub, which goes by many names, most suitable only for mature audiences.

The proliferation of touchpads and touchscreens (now both mostly one word) does make clicknever click on—seem archaic, but select means to choose from two or more options. So, we’re left with “Select OK”, which is bad usage (I’ve never documented a NOT OK button), and Hit OK, which may prompt a loop-trapped user to do just that. Even with the prevalence of the touchpad, I think I’ll stick with clicking on a menu and selecting menu options—for now. If I’m writing for a phone (pads run a lot of desktop stuff), then touch and select. Eventually, I think tap may win the day for touchpads and phones because good writers will not use two words when one will do. I expect click and select will be with us for the foreseeable future  because tap will not do for people whose job is to use desktops and laptops to do whatever.

By the way, I do realize that “Cancel” is usually the option paired with “OK”. But it’s not a parallel choice, and I’ve never seen “Cancel” promoted as an application feature (marketing and documentation must align). It’s more of an “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here” or “Oops” admission on the part of both the machine and the person. (Users are people, too!)

*When I worked at IBM, I attended a talk by the guy (Dave Bradley) who “invented” Control+Alt+Delete (+ used to indicate simultaneous depression in so many ways). He said “I may have invented it, but Bill [Gates] made it famous.”

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