There are many types of mouse pointers on your computer.
Each one has a different meaning and is trying to communicate messages to you.
Here are the most common mouse pointers and what they mean.
Types of Mouse Pointers
1. Text Pointer
A text pointer, which resembles a capital “I” in certain fonts, is one of the most common pointers you will see when working on a computer.
The text pointer is used when you need to edit text.
You will see it used most often when you are working in a word processing program like Word.
When you see the text pointer come up, it can mean your mouse pointer is in an area that can be edited.
When you don’t see the text pointer, chances are you cannot edit the document by adding text.
When you are surfing the internet and want to type in a new website, you will see the mouse pointer switch to a text pointer.
Another time to look for the text pointer is when you are trying to fill out a form.
Some forms need to be printed in order to be filled out while others can be edited on the computer.
If you are attempting to fill in a form and you don’t see the text pointer, chances are the box cannot be edited.
Paying attention to the text pointer is a great way to help make the editing process easier when you are working on a computer.
2. Busy Pointer
A busy pointer looks like an hourglass.
The busy pointer lets you know there are other things going on in the background while you are trying to complete another task.
Usually, the hourglass means your computer has several things going on, and it can’t help you until one of these processes is complete.
If you see this mouse pointer, you must give your computer a chance to work.
It will need some time to catch up and be able to help you with your current task.
Sometimes you will see this busy pointer when your computer is restarting or when your computer freezes.
Computers freezing are never a great thing, and that is why it is essential to back-up your documents quite often.
The busy pointer can be a bit of a frustrating mouse pointer, but it should clear up quickly if you are patient with your computer.
3. Link Pointer
The link pointer looks like a hand with a pointing finger.
The link pointer will only show up when there is a link to follow.
If you click on the link when this pointer is showing, it will direct you to another website.
Many times, text that is bold or blue or underlined will contain a link.
You can test if something is a link by placing your mouse pointer over it and seeing if it changes to the pointing finger.
Sometimes with the link pointer, the link won’t always take you to another page, but it will open a menu.
For instance, when you are working inside a word processing program, depending on which one you are using, your mouse pointer will change to the link pointer when you hover over File, Edit, View, etc.
This is because, if you click on any of these, you are going to see a drop-down menu that will allow you to make other choices.
That drop-down menu will then show the link pointer again as each of those is considered a link that can take you to another screen or section.
4. Precision Pointer
The precision pointer looks like a cross.
You will really only see this pointer when you are trying to draw something.
The precision pointer does not work well for free hand drawing as it is more of a solution for drawing straight lines or boxes.
If you want to add a box or a rectangle around the text or you want to select a section of the text, the precision pointer will show up.
When the precision pointer is on the screen, you will usually hold down the mouse button and use it to draw the box or the shape.
The precision pointer can also help you select a section of text or a large image to copy and paste.
5. Standard Pointer
The standard pointer is the one that looks like an arrow.
When you see the arrow, it means your computer is ready to complete a task and that you will be able to click on a variety of things.
You may notice that, as your pointer moves across the screen, it does not always remain as the arrow pointer as it will adjust to other things it is capable of clicking on.
You may see the standard pointer change to the text pointer or the link pointer as it moves across the screen.
6. Help Pointer
A help pointer looks like a question mark.
The question mark indicates there is some helpful information to be shared with the user.
When using a help pointer, you will often have links to show you other areas of useful information.
You may see this when you are inside an application or working with a program for the first time.
Many applications have a help section which lets users become accustomed to the website or the application before starting.
Sometimes you won’t have to click on anything to get the pointer to show the help information.
The help text should just pop up and show the information directly on the screen.
7. Background Busy Pointer
The background busy pointer is going to show an arrow and an hourglass.
This is different than just a regular hourglass pointer.
The background busy pointer lets the user know there is an application running in the background, but things can still be done on the computer.
Sometimes you will notice this when there is something printing or an update going on in the background.
The background busy pointer will go away as soon as the process that was running in the background is complete.
8. Diagonal Resize
When you have to change the size of the image or the shape, the diagonal resize pointer will come up.
The diagonal resize pointer helps to make an image bigger by expanding both the horizontal and the vertical at the same size.
The nice thing about the diagonal resize is that it will keep the image’s properties the same.
Your image will not get distorted, as it will just get smaller or larger with the same proportions.
9. Horizontal Resize
A horizontal resize allows an object to expand side to side.
You can move part of an image or a shape further out to the left or right by using the horizontal resize.
You will see these resize options quite often when you are working with video editing software.
10. Vertical Resize
When you need to resize an object by making it taller or shorter, the vertical resize pointer will show up.
If you don’t have the ability to resize an object, the pointer will not change to show the vertical resize arrows.
11. Unavailable Pointer
The unavailable pointer looks like a circle with a line through the center of it.
This shows that whatever it is you are trying to click on or do with your pointer is not available at the moment, and it may not be available at all.
This is the computer’s way of essentially telling you no.
You cannot accomplish whatever it is you were trying to do.
12. Move Pointer
The moving pointer looks like a cross with four arrows around it.
The arrows show that you can move an entire object either up, down, or side to side.
When you are working on resizing images, it’s essential to see if the move pointer is in place or the resize pointers are in place.
With the move pointer, your image or object will remain the same size.
You can move it around without changing the size of the object.
Why Are There Different Types of Mouse Pointers?
There are different types of mouse pointers because they are used to help people understand what their computer is doing.
The different types of mouse pointers are very easy to understand and have almost become universal for people to understand.
After spending a day or so using a computer, most people will understand what the pointers mean and what they are trying to communicate.
The different mouse pointers become especially useful when you are trying to work with images or copy and paste things.
These will help users to understand what their computer is capable of and what is forbidden.
Can I Customize My Mouse Pointer?
You can customize a mouse pointer on most computers.
This does not mean you will always be able to avoid seeing all the alternative mouse pointers.
Instead, it will mean that the standard pointer can represent another image or design.
Customizing your mouse pointer is just another way to make your computer more custom fit to your needs.
Why Does a Mouse Pointer Disappear at Times?
Sometimes when a computer goes into sleep mode, you won’t be able to see the mouse pointer.
Usually, when you try and move the mouse, the pointer will show back up again.
Moving the mouse is the best way to find the pointer when you are not sure where it has gone.
Most of the time, it will pop back up again in a matter of seconds.
If you are having a hard time finding the pointer, try pressing “ESC” to see if there was just something blocking it.
If the pointer truly seems to be gone, attempt to safely restart your computer and see if it shows back up when it starts up again.
Most of the time, this should do the trick, and you should be back to seeing your mouse pointer again.
Why Is My Cursor a Black Box?
If you are working with a word processing application and you notice that your pointer changes from a text pointer to a black box, you have somehow implemented overstrike mode.
This is something people will use when writing, but it will copy over the work you have done instead of pushing text forward or backward.
If you write a sentence and then want to go back and fix something, overstrike mode is not the way you want to have your computer set up.
Luckily, this is not hard to fix, and because of that helpful mouse pointer change, you will know that overstrike mode is on.
You can try hitting the insert key, and you will most likely see the cursor change immediately back to the text pointer.
If this does not work, see if there is a setting that can be changed in the writing program you are using.
Hopefully, our guide to the different mouse pointers on a computer has helped you understand your system a little better.
The mouse pointers are designed to help you understand and use your computer.
Spend some time seeing how the pointers change as you move the mouse around your computer’s screen.