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In the context of computers or websites, when should one use click or click on?

  1. Click (on) the right mouse button
  2. Click (on) the word 'Download'
  3. Click (on) the Start button
  4. Click (on) here for more information
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In the SE USA, you can also "mash" a button. –  JeffSahol Jan 5 '12 at 21:23
    
And "click here" goes against every User Experience best pracices as well as against SEO. –  rds Jan 6 '12 at 11:15

3 Answers 3

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Generally speaking, click on is used for something virtual. You wouldn't say click on with your first example. Click on is used when you want to instruct someone to use a physical object (i.e. the mouse) to select a virtual object.

However, you can use click with virtual objects as well, it's just not as precise. "Click the link" would be OK, you are assuming that it is understood the mouse will be used to click the link, and are thus extending the property of the mouse (i.e. clicking behavior) to the link.

These aren't hard and fast rules however, at least to my knowledge.

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It is a shame that the convention has become that “click a button” is understood to refer to mouse use. If I navigate to and activate a link using the keyboard, exactly the same behaviour results, and indeed the same JavaScript event is triggered despite being called onclick. The same is true in all other GUI frameworks I’ve ever used. I think there needs to be a campaign to redefine “click a button” to mean “activate by any means”, which would particularly benefit disabled users that cannot use a mouse. –  Timwi Jan 6 '12 at 0:55
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To my ear, "click the link" sounds wrong. I don't claim to have any prescriptive authority on my side, but I would warn the OP that Brendon's opinion that it's OK may not be universal. I think "click on the link" is the usual usage, and nobody will object to it. There is at least some logical justification for the distinction between "click the mouse button" and "click on the link." Clicking means making a sound. The mouse makes a sound. The link doesn't. Similarly, "I scratch on the street" suggests that my nose itched while I was walking, but "I scratch the street" means something different. –  Ben Crowell Jan 6 '12 at 14:10

In the first 3 sentences both 'click' and 'click on' are ok, but why use the word 'on' when it is not necessary?

In the 4th sentence 'click on here' sounds strange. Preferable is: "Click here ..".

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For the first sentence, which is supposed to say to press, click, push, or push on some mouse button, "click on" doesn't work -- although people may say it. –  jwpat7 Jan 5 '12 at 18:51
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@jwPat7. Agreed that strictly speaking the "on" in "click on the right mouse button" does not make sense for the reason Brendon explains. But it is common usage. In fact Google returns 70 million hits for "click on the right mouse button" and only 4.5 million for "click the right mouse button". –  Shoe Jan 5 '12 at 19:08
    
@Brendon, Interesting. I assumed that enclosing the two strings in speech marks would result in fairly accurate results. Having just clicked through the first twelve pages of "click on the right mouse button" all of the hits do include the word "on", but this is the limit of my willingness to pursue the issue. My point was simply that both are permissble, but you have persuaded me that without 'on' is preferable. –  Shoe Jan 5 '12 at 19:29
    
Fair enough, I'll retract my comment because I used quotes this time and I reproduced your results, to a degree. I maintain that there is not likely such a large disparity between the two. –  Brendon Jan 5 '12 at 19:32
    
@Shoe: I totally agree your answer, but those google hits are misleading. Even if you put it in quotes, google just "guesses" total hits based on the relative frequencies of the individual words. The written instances are indexed more accurately, where this shows that "on" is comparatively rare here (it does occur, but it ain't the norm by any stretch of the imagination). –  FumbleFingers Jan 5 '12 at 22:18

The NOAD reports that, in computing contexts, click means "press one of the buttons on a mouse to select a function or item on the screen."

The examples shown from that dictionary are the following ones:

Click on the illustration for a larger version.
Click the left mouse button twice.

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