Raise Your Windows IQ: When to Single-Click, When to Double-Click

As part of this week's series on improving your general understanding of how Windows works, you've learned the difference between files and folders and the functions of four common but confusing dialog-box icons.

Today, let's tackle an area that typically confuses the heck out of Windows novices: single-clicking versus double-clicking.

The reason this is so confusing is that there's very little rhyme or reason to it. Some functions require a single click (of the left mouse button, that is), others a double. Nowhere in Windows is it made obvious which is which.

However, it's important to learn the "rules," as double-clicking when you should be single-clicking can lead to unexpected and/or unwanted results. (Conversely, single-clicking when you need to double-click can lead to no results at all. See below.)

Rule #1: Don't double-click in a Web browser. Ever. Links, buttons, tabs, toolbar icons, and everything else you're likely to encounter in your browser require one click and one click only. If you double-click, say, an e-mail address, you'll end up with two mail windows.

Rule #2: Don't double-click the quick-launch program icons in your Windows taskbar (you know, the ones to the right of the Start button). Part of what makes these "quick" is that they require only one click. In fact, don't double-click anything in the taskbar.

Rule #3: Do double-click program icons on your desktop (when you want to run those programs, natch) and files/folders you want to open. And that's it. You'll rarely ever need to double-click anything else in Windows.

Still confused? Perhaps you'd be better off eliminating double-clicking from Windows forever, which effectively makes the entire operating system work like your browser: everything's a single click. That's how I roll, though this method does make things like file selection a little trickier.

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