What do you use those extra buttons on the side of your mouse for?

Razer Naga on an RGB mousepad in sumptuous "bisexual" blue and pinkish red lighting
(Image credit: Razer)

We have a surfeit of mouse buttons these days, and I found myself wondering: "I know how I deal with this cavalcade of stupid buttons, but how about everyone else?" Call me old fashioned, but I'm a three, maybe four mouse button guy tops. Give me left, click, right click, a scroll wheel, and maybe a cheeky thumb button for when I'm feeling spicy. My current mouse has nine buttons, including two set for DPI shifting right next to left click. I kept accidentally going from 1600 to 1200 to 800 while furiously clicking on heads or ordering around my party, so I defied the brain trust at Logitech and disabled them completely. I'll use a thumb button for melee or a special ability on occasion, with the other one reserved for push-to-talk on the tail end of curry night when I don't want to go burping on the Discord call.

Meanwhile, I have a dear friend who's so hopelessly hooked on those weird mice with the full number pads on the side, he wouldn't even consider anything else when shopping around for a new one recently. For this Weekend Question I turned to the PCG staff and forums to ask:

What do you use those extra buttons on the side of your mouse for? Here are our answers, as well as some from our forum.

Christopher Livingston, Features Producer: Whatever a game maps to the Left Alt key, I move to my mouse thumb button. I just find Left Alt to be too awkward to reach, a deadzone for my fingertips. Maybe in a farming game or something I'd leave it there, but an action game where it's got an important function (block/defend in Dead Island 2 is the only recent example I can really think of) I find it way easier on a mouse thumb button.

Tyler Wilde, Executive Editor: Thumb button is melee. In games which don't have a melee attack to bind to the thumb button, I just pretend. Boring dialogue? Melee it. Jump scare? Melee melee melee. Email I don't want to answer? Melee and I'm outta there.

Lauren Morton, Associate Editor: If anything, I need more mouse buttons. I currently have just two auxiliary buttons on my thumb, which I only just put to good use recently during the Diablo 4 beta. I often complain about hotbar style combat being boring but I'm ready to admit that part of my grudge is just that I'm bad at it. My left hand is a total farce of dexterity, fumbling around on the 1-4 keys and constantly losing my place. Diablo 4 puts a skill each on my left and right click by default and I added to that by putting another on my middle click and a fourth on one thumb button. Damn did it make a difference in my ability to chain skills. Clearly my left hand should only be trusted with WASD duty henceforth. I don't know if I want to map my entire hotbar to a thumb numpad but I am eyeing up the possibility of upgrading for a few more buttons.

A necromancer standing in a snowy landscape in Diablo 4.

(Image credit: Blizzard Entertainment)

Andy Chalk, News Lead: I'm of a mind with Ted on this one. I think my mouse has seven buttons, but I can only reach four of them comfortably and so that's all I use: Right-click aims, left-click shoots, middle-click interacts, and thumb button punches. (I also used Logitech's software to disable the DPI adjustment buttons because god dammit, those things are a pain in the ass.) For anything beyond that, I have a keyboard.

(I can't wait to read what Mr. "I've Been WASDing Wrong My Whole Life" has to say about this one...)

Editor's Note: Regrettably, PCG Senior Editor Wes "I've Been WASDing Wrong My Whole Life" Fenlon was unavailable for comment in time for publication. Andy's throwing of the gauntlet remains unanswered.

Robin Valentine, Senior Editor: I've long since come to accept that my caveman brain is incapable of keeping track of more than left click, right click, and a scroll wheel, so the function of the extra buttons on my gaming mouse is mostly getting hit accidentally. Honestly even beyond the struggle of remembering what they all do, my experience has been that none of these mice have figured out actually comfortable and natural positions for extra buttons—it's never felt comfortable or intuitive to me to use them, they always seem to require an awkward claw position to hit reliably. Death to extra buttons, I say. 

Sarah James, Guides Writer: World of Warcraft. I don't just play WoW, obviously, but it's the only game I've ever bothered to keybind the nine extra buttons on my mouse that I regularly use. I actually have twelve extra buttons, but I've never been able to reach the top row comfortably, so I just pretend they aren't there.

Jody Macgregor, Weekend Editor: My current mouse is a Logitech MX Anywhere 2. It's got two thumb buttons but no middle-click, which is bullshit. Clicking the scroll wheel just switches between smooth scrolling and the clicky kind, so I set one of the thumb buttons to middle-click to be able to block in Ghostwire: Tokyo, deconstruct whatever slapdash shack I tried to put together in Valheim, or whatever else a game maps to middle-click. The thumb buttons never feel right though, and thank goodness Ghostwire: Tokyo has a dodge now so I don't need to block. If I played more MMOs I'd probably get used to using them, but I'm too much of a dilettante to do that and so they feel awkward and my thumb keeps slipping off when I need it.

Robert Jones, Print Editor: Despite using the streamlined perfection of a Razer DeathAdder for what is now the best part of, literally, decades, and only using a typical three-button plus scroll wheel configuration almost always, I've still got a real soft spot for ridiculous rodents that have more buttons than an elevator in the Burj Khalifa and look like a Transformer. I'm talking about pure pwnage machines like the Mad Catz R.A.T. 8+, which offers PC gamers the idea of a gaming mouse as doodled by a bored 10-year-old in a maths lesson. The R.A.T. 8+, for example, has eleven programmable buttons, a barrel scroll wheel, a 16,000 DPI sensor, a customizable weights system, and modular body panels. And the look is a splendid mash-up of 2000s-era gaming peripheral design where less was never an option, and a mouse from the year 2077. The thing is, though, as Dirty Harry famously said, "A man's got to know his limitations", and my limit in terms of gaming mice buttons is definitely three, not eleven, and I rarely go over 3200 DPI in terms of sensor sensitivity. Razer and Mad Catz, I'll expect my cheques in the mail.

A Mad Catz Rat 8 mouse pictured from isometric perspective

(Image credit: Mad Catz)

Mollie Taylor, Features Producer: I'm one of those super annoying people with a different mouse for each occasion. I always have my Razer Naga and my Razer Basilisk plugged in to swap between at any time. The former gets used when I play Final Fantasy 14 or Guild Wars 2, though I only use the top two rows because my hands are hopelessly small. Playing MMOs with a purpose-built mouse has been a game changer for me, and I don't know how I'd have coped through hundreds of hours of raiding without it! I love my chunky little numpad friend. Most of my general browsing and other games happen on my Basilisk since it's lighter and a tad more ergonomic. I usually bind those buttons to stuff like reloading or melee attacks—if an action feels super annoying or uncomfortable to perform with my left hand, to the mouse buttons it goes.

From our forum

The Mouse of the Future, complete with jets, scope, and usb ports

(Image credit: Future)

Alm: I stubbornly don't use the side buttons. I stick to l-click, r-click and mouse wheel. And I occasionally accidentally hit the sensitivity buttons too.

mainer: I've never used the side buttons on any mouse, and I prefer a heavier mouse that isn't loaded with a bunch of buttons that I'll never use. Left mouse button, right mouse button, and scroll wheel are all I need in a game. I've been using Rats for years, with my current "mouse" being a Rat 8.1. Only three left side buttons which I never use. There is one button, right behind the scroll wheel that controls DPI on the fly, and I will occasionally use that in game. All the other controls are for weight adjustment, length, and side panels; so it fits & feels perfectly in my hand.

Slasken: I use one of them for the escape key.

Excellent for a laidback time on YouTube going out of fullscreen, or in games when you can't be bothered to move your finger the three centimeters to hit the esc key.

Brian Boru: Current mouse is the original Logi MX Master, with a spare for whenever this one wanders off to double-click heaven. 8 buttons in all, of which I use 5: LC, RC & scroll on top; Side scroll for Front & Back moves, plus one of the clicky ones for Paste when I don't want to move finger to KB shortcut.

Work is my #1 priority, but this works great for my gaming also as I have the DPI fixed at 800 if I recall correctly, which keeps headshots rolling in

Zloth: I've just got a couple of thumb buttons. They mostly go unused but, when they're needed, they are very <ahem> handy! If I need more than those two buttons, it's probably time to pull out the game controller.

Pifanjr: My wife bought a mouse with a bunch of extra buttons after she started playing World of Warcraft seriously, because her guild members kept telling her she would need it. She still hasn't started using them and recently got the achievement for getting a 2000+ Mythic+ rating, so it seems to me they're overrated.

(Image credit: Fatshark)

I do occasionally use one of the side buttons. In Vermintide 2 I mapped one of them to the tag function, because otherwise I would forget to tag stuff or not be able to in the middle of combat. I've also mapped it to the melee attack, grenade throw or going prone in other games.

ZedClampet: I always use ambidextrous mice with buttons on both sides, and I remap important keys to them. For instance, I don't want to ever take my hand off the mouse, so anything that would require my right hand while typing gets put to the mouse, like "M" for map, "J" for journal, "I" for inventory, etc. Sometimes, like in V Rising, I put all my specials on the mouse buttons. They are just easier to hit for me.

Colif: Mine has 3 buttons on the left side that I have never used. Front one is actually disabled, whereas other 2 are forward/back on webpages I think.
I generally only use the left click, right click & scroll wheel. I only use the cpi toggle if I have accidentally clicked it already. The faster speed on mouse only really exists for when I am in bios.

neogunhero: I like having just two buttons on the side for my thumb, I don’t want more than two. I like using the back one for changing firing modes in FPS games, or for accessing my favorites menu in Skyrim. The front button is used for changing optics (canted iron sights or zoom level), or to quick cast a healing spell. Each button is multifunctional for different kinds of games.

Johnway: I have the razor basilisk which gives me 3 side buttons. The top button that slows down your DPS (to make super accurate shots) i never use. it doesn't do anything for me and i've never needed to use it. Plus its sort of too far for my thumb to use.

The Razer Basilisk V3 Pro side on with dock.

(Image credit: Future)

The other side buttons get a lot more use. Outside of gaming, its merely the forward and back buttons when browsing the web. When i play games the use for the keys are more varied depending on the game tbh. At a basic level its the "use" button. So i can free up the E or F key. other times i bind grenades or recovery. On some occasions, its the melee key or they are for special abilities that are the most useful or too far away from the keyboard that i have to lift my hand off to press(so generally anything in the 5 key - 0 keys)

Rolfil: I have a Steel Series Rival 300 which is a pretty standard mouse. It's right hand only (I'm actually left handed but never got on with using a mouse in my left hand.) and has two side mouse buttons.

I normally just use the side button nearest my wrist. If it's a game with a lot of jumping involved then I use it for that, I find it much easier than hitting the right spot on a massive space bar.

For Path of Exile I if I'm using a Mana Flask I have it mapped to that. If not I have it mapped to my Quicksilver Flask.

If I'm using Push to talk on Discord then I use the other side mouse button.

Associate Editor

Ted has been thinking about PC games and bothering anyone who would listen with his thoughts on them ever since he booted up his sister's copy of Neverwinter Nights on the family computer. He is obsessed with all things CRPG and CRPG-adjacent, but has also covered esports, modding, and rare game collecting. When he's not playing or writing about games, you can find Ted lifting weights on his back porch.