Tuesday, August 2, 2005

Apple’s Mighty Mouse

Apple selling a multi-button mouse isn’t quite as surprising as them selling a haxie would be. Still, I’m surprised that Apple went this route, rather than coming up with something more different.

I’ve liked nearly all the mice Apple has made, and the Pro Mouse—I still use the original black-and-clear model—is the most comfortable mouse I’ve ever used. I love the idea of a multi-button mouse (as an option) in theory, but I’ve never found one that was comfortable. Having multiple buttons on the top increases tension in the hand, because I have to press one button while not pressing the other. Scroll wheels are cumbersome to use (though people only seem to admit that when they appear on MP3 players) and seem even more likely to cause repetitive strain.

The Mighty Mouse’s side buttons look good. I’ve been using their inert predecessors to pick up my Pro Mouse for years. I withhold judgement on the top shell until I actually try it, but from Apple’s description it sounds like it will feel like a regular two-button mouse; the new technology just makes it look better. The scroll ball seems like an improvement in function (two dimensions instead of one) that doesn’t address the scroll wheel’s core problems: poor ergonomics and control.

I think what I’d like better would be OS support for MaxiMice functionality. (A similar feature was built into the OS 9 Finder and Internet Explorer 5.) Rather than deal with a scroll ball, I could press the side button with my thumb to turn on “hand cursor mode.” Then I could scroll by moving the whole mouse, with the comfort and wonderful Apple acceleration curve that implies.

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If my cheap Logitech that I carry in my computer bag (I use cordless mice at home, so no Mighty Mouse there) ever fails on me, I'll likely replace it with Apple's new mouse. I am a bit concerned about those side buttons, though. I tend to squeeze mice a bit anyway when using them. I have Logitech's Cordless Mouseman Optical both at home and work, and it has a little thumb button that I programmed to deactivate since I found myself pressing it all the time.

I use a Logitech MX700 and love it. The best features are the dedicated page up/page down buttons (at least, that's what I have them assigned to) and the browse forward/back buttons. And the cordlessness rechargeable goodness.

That said, I'd buy a Mighty Mouse this minute just to try the scroll ball -- if there were a wireless version.

BTW, scroll wheels can actually benefit RSI sufferers, especially if the scroll-pixels-per-wheel-increment setting is set to high. For example, I can scroll through this page at about sixty pixels per scroll wheel increment.

This may depend on the type and severity of RSI, but the key thing I've found is that the less motion, the better, and it takes me less motion to use the (MX700) scroll wheel (set to a high setting) than it does to scroll in any other way I've found.

Does that mean there aren't better ways to scroll? No. But it helps, and it doesn't require the extra mode that the OS 9 Finder's hand-scroll uses.

I just got back from playing with it at the Bellevue Apple store.

The top surface is flat so you don't feel any buttons. If you keep two fingers on it, it acts like a regular mouse. Take one finger off and click with your middle finger to get a right click.

The 360 scroll is cool. It felt weird to use it while standing up though. It comes with software to program it although the store didn't have it installed. It might be possible to program the squeeze to act like a scroll I imagine.

How did the OS 9 Finder support MaxiMice-like functionality?

I'm surprised at the apparent uptake, at least among geeks, for the current generation of wireless peripherals. I can't stand replacing batteries in something I use so often, and I've been anticipating for a long time that Apple will produce a wireless model that can charge its batteries with USB (as the FrogPad already does). That, I'd buy.

Nat: I don't have an OS 9 machine handy at the moment, but as I recall you could hold down Command and click/drag on the window background (not on an icon).

I don't understand it, either.

I was expecting them to put the iPod click wheel on the top front of a mouse. At least they are moving on from the single button mouse (is it true that Apple holds the patent on the single button mouse).

A roller ball on the top? How does one clean that?

If the mouse cable is looped on the desk, can the cable stop clicking like it does in all of the other oval mice?

Rory Prior's Mighty Mouse arrived, and he says it's poorly designed. Russell Beattie likes his.

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