It’s been around, probably, since the dawn of the mouse. The double-click has become synonymous with “open”. The purpose of the double-click is to allow one to do two things with the same button. So far this has meant that single-click selects, double-click opens. It’s worked so well and has become so prevalent that it’s been a while since anyone thought it could be different. Even so, I’ll bet my mouse that we won’t be double-clicking in 5 years.
The last serious attempt at an alternative was Internet Explorer 4. When installed, it changed the entire Windows interface into something akin to a web-browser. That meant underlining filenames and adding single click opening. Files were selected by hovering over them for a second or two. While it worked as intended, it was just a little bit slower than the double-click method—enough for people to turn it off. That said, the ability to switch on single-click remains in Windows today1.
With the advent of mobile computing, the mouse is on the way out. Touch screen interfaces such as those seen in Microsoft’s Surface, Apple’s iPhone and countless PDAs have demonstrated that we can do without the mouse. Additionally, the double click was really only invented to allow single-click to select. In the future, managing files will just not be a common computer task. Clicking twice in rapid succession while holding the cursor still is just not that intuitive.
In time, gestures will take over. Smart interfaces will eliminate the tedious tasks that made double-click useful. Count on it.
This is my interface design time capsule. What’s yours?
Click Tools > Folder Options > Single-click ↩