I tend to call it a "pointer", to distinguish it from the text cursor, and because it can be controlled without a mouse (e.g. trackpad). However, I would like to use the same kind of language Apple uses, especially when writing instructions or tutorials for others.

I looked at some settings in System Preferences and found this confusing bit, which seems like it might conflict:

A screenshot from System Preferences showing an option for "Cursor size" and "Shake mouse pointer to locate"

Is there a difference here? Or is Apple just using two terms to mean the same thing?

1 Answer 1


Apple (and the computer industry as a whole) is using the two terms to mean the same thing.

Going to the full extreme and setting the "cursor size" as large as you can, you can see that the pointer, even though it has changed to indicate I'm in a text box, is extremely large while the actual blinking cursor is still a "normal" size.

Large Pointer regular cursor

Definition of Cursor

Per Wikipedia:

In computer user interfaces, a cursor is an indicator used to show the current position for user interaction on a computer monitor or other display device that will respond to input from a text input or pointing device. The mouse cursor is also called a pointer, owing to its resemblance in usage to a pointing stick.

  • 2
    Which reminds me of my 'favourite' gripe... that they do the same with Spaces/Desktops.
    – Tetsujin
    Dec 3, 2018 at 19:22

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