How to right-click on iPad

iPad right-click Two Finger Secondary Click tutorial

The iPad right click is now a reality and has become pretty similar in concept and execution to the long-standing right click on the Mac, thanks to the power of the iOS and iPadOS software.

About the right click

In personal computing, right click has been used for ages to bring up contextual menus which are handy popup menus that appear when the right click action is performed on an onscreen item, providing a set of useful choices that are relevant to the user’s current context.

Follow along with our guided tutorial included right ahead for step-by-step instructions on how to right-click on your iPad with a finger, mouse or trackpad.

Right click on Mac and iPad

On Mac computers, right click is also known as secondary click or Control-click.

You already know how it works. For instance, right-clicking the Mac desktop brings up quick shortcuts for changing your wallpaper, adjusting display settings, selecting icon layout modes and so forth. In another example, a right click operation performed on an image might bring up options to add the image to the Photos library, delete or copy it and more.

Mac right-click
Right-clicking usually brings up contextual menus

Right-clicking in Mac apps shows app-specific actions relevant to the selected object. If you use Photoshop, you know that right-clicking a layer opens a menu with contextual actions such as you’re blending options, layer grouping/ungrouping and more.

TUTORIAL: How to right-click on Mac

On iOS devices, right click is referred to as secondary click. It can be performed with your finger or with a compatible mouse or trackpad plugged into your iPad. Just like with your Mac, the right click on an iPad brings up the contextual menu with the key benefit being that the menu pops up immediately versus waiting for a long-press to take effect.

The ability to use an input device that sports a right-click button or another way to perform a right click arrived with the iPadOS 13.0 update which released publicly on September 24, 2019.

How to right-click on iPad

As mentioned earlier, you can right-click with your finger, mouse or trackpad. Regardless of the method used, you can expect to see the same result — if the right-clicked object supports this action, a menu will popup with options relevant to your current context.

How to right-click on iPad with your finger

Without trackpad or mouse hardware attached to your Apple tablet, the iPad right click is the familiar tap-and-hold gesture which serves the same purpose as it does on computers. Simply tap and hold with one finger on an interactive onscreen object, like an app toolbar or a Home screen icon or a piece of content like an image or video, a passage of text and more.

iPad right-click
Right-clicking a folder in the Files app on my iPad

This will bring up the contextual menu with relevant options. As an example, you can perform the tap-and-hold gesture on things like chat bubbles in the Messages app, documents in the Files app, items in Notes, emails in the Mail app and so forth.

How to right-click with iPad trackpad or mouse

If you use iPadOS, not only can you right-click with your mouse or trackpad but also assign a different action to the right click than the default contextual menu. And just like with your Mac, you can press the Control key on your external keyboard while you click the trackpad or the left mouse button to simulate the right click.

Enabling right click in iPadOS

Follow these steps to separately enable the iPad right click action for the mouse and trackpad:

  1. Open the Settings app on your iOS device.
  2. Choose General from the root list.
  3. Depending on your accessory, tap Trackpad or Trackpad & Mouse.
  4. Enable the option Two-Finger Secondary Click to turn on the right click.

A two-finger trackpad tap or click will now behave as a secondary click.

iPad right-click Two Finger Secondary Click tutorial
The name says it all — turn this on so that two-finger trackpad taps register as right clicks

In other words, you can now click the right mouse button or click with two fingers on the trackpad in order to bring up the quick actions menu for items such as icons on the Home screen, messages in a mailbox, the Camera button in Control Center and so forth.

You can also perform a secondary click by holding the Control key as you click.

iPad tap to click enabled
Spend even less time clicking by enabling the tap-to-click feature

I also suggest turning on the Tap to Click option in your trackpad settings so that tapping the trackpad with one finger is the same as clicking.

Configuring right click action in iPadOS

Follow these steps if you’d like to assign a different action to the right click on the mouse:

  1. Open the Settings app on your iOS device.
  2. Choose General from the root list.
  3. Depending on your accessory, tap Trackpad or Trackpad & Mouse.
  4. Tap the option Secondary Click underneath the heading Mouse.
  5.  Now choose whether you want a secondary click action to happen when you click on the left or right side of your mouse or not at all.
iPad mouse right click customization
The default secondary click action can be assigned to a desired mouse button

You’ll notice that there’s currently no option there to adjust what happens when you tap or click the trackpad with two fingers. Thankfully, you can work around this by enabling additional button customizations in your accessibility settings, as outlined in the next section.

Additional button customizations

You can customize button functions for pointer devices such as your mouse or trackpad in iOS’ accessibility settings, but be advised that you’ll need to enable AssistiveTouch for that.

  1. Launch Settings on your iOS device.
  2. Choose Accessibility from the root list.
  3. Tap Touch under the heading Physical and Motor.
  4. Tap AssistiveTouch at the top of the list.
  5. Now slide the button next to AssistiveTouch to the ON position.
  6. Choose Devices underneath the heading Pointer Devices.
  7. Now tap your listed mouse, trackpad or another paired pointer device.
  8. Tap a desired button for your pointer device, then choose a preferred action from the pre-populated list of all the available actions. Is your device’s button unlisted? If so, be sure to tap Customize Additional Buttons, then press a button on your pointer device to choose an action.

If I were you, I would start by first enabling the two-finger secondary click for my connected trackpad and assigning the secondary click action to my right mouse button.

iPad right-click Two Finger Secondary Click tutorial
Assigning a trackpad button action via my AssistiveTouch settings

Then, I would make sure to visit additional button customization in my AssistiveTouch settings to assign the Hold and Drag action to the third mouse button. That way, you cold simply click an item in Photos, Files or another app to instantly enter drag and drop mode instead of having to wait extra after tapping and holding in order for the selected item to become draggable.

Making AssistiveTouch less intrusive

AssistiveTouch shows a semi-transparent menu on the screen so you’re advised to also set Idle Opacity to 15 percent (the lowest possible value), as well as disable the option Always Show Menu, to have the AssistiveTouch menu hide when a pointer device is connected.

Options for the least intrusive AssistiveTouch menu
Use these two settings for the least intrusive AssistiveTouch menu

And that’s all there’s to it, girls and boys!

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