Submit Hint Search The Forums LinksStatsPollsHeadlinesRSS
14,000 hints and counting!

Right-click background apps without switching Apps
I noticed as per this forum post that it is possible to induce a contextual menu in a non-active program without actually activating that program, assuming the following qualifications are met:
  1. You use a two-button mouse to right-click. For whatever reason, control-clicking doesn't work.
  2. The program you are right-clicking into is Cocoa. That means that this won't work with Finder or iTunes. But it will work with Safari, Mail, Preview, etc. It doesn't seem to matter what kind of program you are clicking from, only what kind you want a menu in.
  3. This seems to work regardless of whether you have an Apple or third-party two-button mouse, and it works in 10.5 and at least 10.4.11.
This has many useful applications, because you don't necessarily have to switch applications when you can right-click to get something. For example, I was copying links in Safari via the Copy Link contextual menu item, and putting those links in iTunes comments. I was much faster when I didn't have to wait the few milliseconds (or seconds for me, when I have 20 programs open at once) for the programs to switch back and forth. I also didn't have to find each program in the program switcher or Exposť, because I never left iTunes.

I'm not sure why this doesn't work with Carbon apps, or why it requires a literal right-click, but if you find yourself switching back and forth between applications, see if you can't do what you need in one of them by right-clicking from the other.
  • Currently 1.00 / 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  (1 vote cast)

Right-click background apps without switching | 8 comments | Create New Account
Click here to return to the 'Right-click background apps without switching' hint
The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Right-click background apps without switching
Authored by: delventhalz on Dec 27, '07 09:14:55AM

This is nothing new. I have been showing customers at the Apple store how useful it is to be able to do this for years. You can also do it by control-clicking or clicking and holding down an extra second. Welcome to the world.

[ Reply to This | # ]
Right-click background apps without switching
Authored by: wordsofwisedumb on Dec 27, '07 07:26:49PM

I'm not sure you understood him correctly. Ctrl+clicking and clicking and holding does not produce the results he is explaining. Either of the two bring the background application into focus. If you have a trick to keep the background application being clicked on in the background, please share it.

[ Reply to This | # ]
Right-click background apps without switching
Authored by: asmeurer on Jan 03, '08 03:28:24PM

I got the Control-hold to work with Mail, but only in the list of messages, not the actual message viewer. It didn't work at all in Safari or Finder.

[ Reply to This | # ]
depends on the application
Authored by: lsloan on Sep 26, '08 08:15:04AM

Right-clicking some background applications doesn't work. For example, if I have Mozilla Thunderbird 2 (email client) in the background, right-clicking on it doesn't bring up a context-sensitive menu. It brings the entire application to the foreground. Right-clicking on this now foreground application does bring up the CSM. In this case, I think it happens because Thunderbird uses its own UI widgets instead of the ones provided by the OS. That's why the CSM under most applications in Mac OS X 10.5 have the new rounded look, those in Thunderbird have an old rectangular look. The same goes for Mozilla Firefox 2.

OT: Hate that these apps don't use the standard UI widgets. I'm not able to use MOSX text services with them and some pull-down menus ignore keyboard input for jumping through long lists.

Lance E Sloan

[ Reply to This | # ]
Right-click background apps without switching
Authored by: zkarj on Dec 27, '07 11:55:11AM

Welcome to the 1980s! Why shouldn't any visible control on the screen be functional? Acorn Computers realised this when they produced the original RISC OS in the late 80s.

The only requirement for the concept of an "active" application, and possibly the reason CTRL-click doesn't work, is for the keyboard because it does not have a spatial context like the mouse.

Once this is implemented properly then all that needs to happen is get rid of the menu bar and provide a real Fitts's law solution by having the main menu as a context sensitive pop-up. But that requires a THREE button mouse. Apple still aren't willing to admit to two yet. Sigh.

[ Reply to This | # ]
Right-click background apps without switching
Authored by: babaloo on Dec 27, '07 03:13:37PM

I'm completely lost here. Right-clicking what? From where? Can anyone please post an example (probably best in the "treat me like a five year old kid" form), as I don't even know what you guys are talking about.

[ Reply to This | # ]
Right-click background apps without switching
Authored by: zkarj on Dec 27, '07 04:14:59PM

1) Open iTunes (non Cocoa)
2) Open Safari (Cocoa)
3) Open Finder - or anything else for that matter
4) Layer your windows so you have Finder active but can still see the left side of the iTunes window.
5) Right-click on "Music" under the "Library" heading in iTunes. All that happens is iTunes becomes active and you need a second (and annoying) right click to bring up the "Export song list..." menu.
6) Re-layer with Finder over the Safari window leaving some of Safari visible.
7) Right click anywhere in the main part of th Safari window (i.e. where it shows your web page). The context menu pops up offering Reload etc but Safari does NOT become the active application.

This also extends to scrolling. If you position your mouse pointer over the main part of the Safari window again (still behind Finder and still not active) you can use your scroll ball to scroll the Safari content.

Irritatingly, and inconsistently, clicking something like a link on that Safari window gives behaviour like iTunes did. The first click only activates the application.

[ Reply to This | # ]
Right-click background apps without switching
Authored by: asmeurer on Jul 19, '10 04:12:04PM

Now that the Finder is Cocoa in Snow Leopard, it works there too, much adding to the power of this hint.

[ Reply to This | # ]