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More and more desktop websites these days use javascript to offer specific website functionality which is available when you right-click on something. Often the developers create something that looks like a menu, but could be anything.

If I'm browsing desktop websites on iOS Safari (mainly iPad, but sometimes iPhone), how do I perform a right-click to display this functionality?

For a simple example, visit https://swisnl.github.io/jQuery-contextMenu/demo.html and try to display the menu under the box which states "right click me". On a desktop it's pretty obvious, but I cannot work out how to trigger it on an iPhone or iPad.

I've tried tapping and holding but this either brings up the browser menu or the text selection tool. I've also tried double-tapping but that tends to zoom the page in and out.


Side note: If you do a Google search for this, you'll find many posts from people assuming that you want to right-click to access functionality that desktop browsers typically offer (such as back, forwards, reload, save as, view page source and inspect element). This is not the functionality I'm interested in accessing.

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  • Can you add an example (URL) of such a website?
    – nohillside
    Feb 12, 2019 at 12:33
  • To be honest I tried to avoid giving a URL to prevent people from answering it purely for that website - however when you right-click in Google Maps you get a pop-up menu with the options: directions from here, directions to here, whats here?, search nearby, print, add a missing place, report a data problem and measure distance. There are lots of other sites which have specific right-click functionality.
    – Richard
    Feb 12, 2019 at 12:35
  • When using iOS Safari you usually get presented a page optimized for mobile usage, and the functionality which is on a right-click menu on the desktop is accessible by other means (if at all). For Google Maps there is even an app with dedicated functionality (and UI). So in a way a site which requires right-click functionality if accessed from a mobile browser is primarily a site done wrong...
    – nohillside
    Feb 12, 2019 at 12:48
  • @nohillside Maybe it's the websites I go to, but if I'm browsing on iOS Safari on my iPad then I usually get presented with the desktop page - and no way to access the right-click functionality, hence the question.
    – Richard
    Feb 12, 2019 at 13:01
  • That's why it would be helpful to have some sample URLs so others can check whether they have the same problem. And as mentioned: Google Maps is not an ideal example as "there is an app for that". .-)
    – nohillside
    Feb 12, 2019 at 13:18

1 Answer 1

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Since the original iPhone, mobile safari and iOS in general has multitouch and there is no concept of a cursor. The iOS idiom is direct manipulation of objects and not to have a floating object that exists to move content up when you drag something else down in the case of a scroll bar and thumb. The multitasking idiot is also shattered on iOS / iPadOS which also weakens the need for a cursor and window managers.

Recent iOS and iPad OS do have all the cursor control you expect. Use a Magic Keyboard, Bluetooth trackpad, Bluetooth mouse or USB device and you get your cursor that meets your right click needs.

For most people, the initial concept of multitouch on the original iPhone explicitly chose to eliminate entirely the concept of a cursor: for which many people still will not forgive Apple. Macintosh was all about cursors, mice and contextual menus despite sticking to one button mice (for which many will never “forgive Apple” either.)

Without a pointing device, the OS still uses multitouch to forego “right click” emulation and instead recognize other gestures that use the up to 11 different point interactions that track surface area change in time as well as two-dimensional motion.

The core problem is that web sites not designed for touch fail to deliver a good experience. Whether we blame Apple for this or the web developers for this or the groups that design software tools for this is open to debate amongst even good intentioned professionals.

  1. There is no hover if you don’t have one pointer - so all the hover to show details falls flat
  2. There is no control / right shift / option / mofifier click to map to a pointer that doesn’t exist - so your use case simply fails to exist.

Some things do translate well:

  1. Mouse down event can be processed when multitouch shows a tap (finger down and no large movement)
  2. Mouse up event can be processed when multitouch shows a finger up (no more contact in the region of the initial touch or tracked moving touch)
  3. Multiple finger touch can sometimes map as option click.

Sorry to say there simply isn’t a mouse or pointer on iOS, but that’s kind of the summary. I’m not saying anyone here is wrong, just explaining what happened and that there may be two or more sides with differing goals that can yield to really bad implementations of a web design.

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    The point of this answer is to invalidate the OP’s question and avoid having to say that, yes, tap-and-hold would be a logical place to do it, and no, Safari does not allow you to but does text select or nothing instead, even when the web developer has set user-select:none on the element that is being pressed. And that they have provided no alternative, which given the stated intent of the web developer is either sabotage or incompetency. But conveniently fits in a trend of general lacklustre attitude Apple has towards features that allow the web to be more competitive (with their App Store). Jan 29 at 8:13
  • @DavidDuwaer Thanks for the ping to update this. I would be interested in your take on how Apple needs to be more competitive in Ask Different Chat. I voted up OP question when no one else that viewed it 10k times even cared enough to vote, so perhaps I’m investing more energy in an answer here than is warranted…
    – bmike
    Jan 29 at 15:02

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