Over There (in the UK)

August 4, 2005 at 9 PM

Here It Comes To Save The Day

We interrupt the lengthy silence to bring you this blogging!

So I was going to write something grandiose about terrorism, oil and The State of the World, but… meh. It’s summer. (Or at least it is if you don’t live in England… ba-dum cha!)

So instead I’ll write about computer toys.

In my purist Apple ways, I’ve used nothing but a plain old one-button mouse ever since I started using a Mac.

I must admit though, much as I cherish my trusty black Apple optical mouse, I’ve coveted a scroll wheel for some time now, and well — let’s be honest — having a second mouse button wouldn’t be so terrible.

Apple Mighty Mouse So it was a pleasant surprise to learn yesterday that Apple had released it’s very own scrolling, multi-button mouse. (The non-Mac-faithful among you will now be snickering — yes, I could have bought any old Logisoft or Microtech mouse, but it wouldn’t be shiny nor would it match my PowerBook. Ahem. Yes, I think aesthetics are important — I’m a designer, remember?)

The stars seem to be aligned for me, since I’d recently been trying out another mouse, but found the shape uncomfortable to the point of triggering pain. Also, the scroll wheel was too “clicky”. And the cord was about five kilometres long, which I guess is what one needs when one has a clunky PC tower sitting on the floor, but is totally irksome when one has a laptop or a USB port on one’s keyboard. (Why doesn’t every keyboard have this!)

So, Mighty Mouse it is. I think the moniker is hokey, personally, but I guess “PowerMouse” wasn’t doing it for Steve Jobs.

At any rate, I ordered one of the bad boys yesterday almost right away and to my delight it arrived today — one of the advantages of living in wee little England I suppose.

So… the verdict? Mostly delicious, with a slight dash of what-were-they-thinking?

It’s the same size and shape as the basic Apple mouse, which is a good thing. I don’t have really large hands, and I’ve always found the size just right, and the shape ergonomically comfortable. (A far cry from the puck mouse Apple foisted on us a few years back. Ouch.)

They’ve dispensed with the transparent-glass look in favour of opaque, shiny white. I’m indifferent, but it matches my keyboard and I guess it’s not so bad next to the aluminum PowerBook.

Now, the pluses: The scroll ball. It really is a ball, not a wheel like most mice. In fact, it most resembles the ball that used to be on the bottom of your mouse before this whole optical craze that’s taken the mouse world by storm. Anyway, I love the scroll ball. It rolls very smoothly. There is some very tiny clicking, but nothing to be alarmed about. It’s very accurate; it’s easy to scroll just a tiny bit, or a lot. Scrolling sideways is also easy and natural.

The scroll ball also functions as a third button if you push down on it. By default, it’s assigned to an Exposé function, which works quite well. I’ve made mine show application windows, so it’s easy to find a window in the background.

There is a fourth button on the side of the mouse, although it’s actually two buttons that function as one. And, uh, they aren’t really buttons. They’re more like plates, and if one squeezes them, it activates the fourth button, which can also be assigned to an Exposé function, or to something else. This also works well, and it’s designed smartly enough that one can’t accidentally squeeze them. If I pick the mouse up for instance, I can’t activate the button.

Some people have complained that the plates aren’t in a convenient place so one must move one’s hand to squeeze them. I find they’re in about the right spot though, so I suspect this just depends on the size of one’s hand, and the fashion in which one holds the beast.

Finally, there are the left and right mouse buttons. Except there is actually only one button. In fact, press the left, right or the scroll ball button, and you’re still pressing the same one button. What’s the deal? Well, Apple decided that instead of making individual separate buttons, they’d use pressure-detecting sensors underneath the surface to figure out which button you meant to push. One button to rule them all.

If you think this sounds like a Rube Goldberg machine, you’d be on to something. I’m sure that Apple could have built a fine mouse that had normal, separate buttons. But nooooo. They’ve got to be Different™.

Anyway, overkill design or not, it works fine. Sort of. Well. If one presses the scroll ball “button”, it always responds correctly. If one presses on the left side of the mouse, one gets a normal click. If one presses on the right side of the mouse, one gets a right click. So far so good.

Except it doesn’t work if one is in the habit of keeping two fingers on the mouse at all times. Which I am. The scroll ball button always works fine, but the right button doesn’t.

What happens is this. If I keep my left finger resting on the left side while I push down with my right finger on the right side, I get a left click. If I lift my left finger, then the right click works fine. Hmm. This is not impressive. In fact, it’s downright annoying. I’m now “learning” not to keep both fingers on the mouse when I want to right-click. Perfect. I love it when computers teach humans how they ought to think.

Clearly this is a drawback of sensing finger pressure. It doesn’t matter how lightly I rest my left finger on the mouse while right-clicking, it just plain don’t work.

Have all these years of single-button mice made Apple vindictive? Ha ha! You can right click all right, if you really _must, but we’ll be damned if we’re going to make it easy!_

Who knows. If you’re used to a “regular” two or three-button mouse, then this might be a deal-breaker for you. One shouldn’t need to “learn” how to right-click. If you’re used to a one-button mouse though, then you might never notice. Still, after using the thing all afternoon and evening, I’m gradually getting used to it. And I still love the scroll ball, and the other extra buttons work well and their placement makes sense. And heck, you could just disable the right click entirely using the mouse preferences and then it wouldn’t be a problem. You lived this long without a right-click, didn’t you?

So, I think I’ll keep the thing. If you’re an avid right-clicker though, you might want to try one before you buy.



Previously: A Study in Contrast

Subsequently: On Colour Blindness

August 2005
the Archives

In Earshot

In Frame