Skip to Content
Skip to Table of Contents

← Previous Article Next Article →

ATPM 11.09
September 2005




Download ATPM 11.09

Choose a format:

Hardware Review

by Tom Bridge,

Mighty Mouse


Developer: Apple Computer

Price: $49

Requirements: Mac OS X 10.3.8 or later, USB port

Recommended: Mac OS X 10.4.2 (to program it)

Trial: None

When I found out Apple had released a two-button mouse, I had to check the calendar to make sure it wasn’t April. After fighting the two-button trend for more than 20 years, Apple gave in this summer and introduced the Mighty Mouse, which is a two-button, no-button mouse. Featuring touch-sensitive areas, a scroll ball, and a pair of “squeeze” buttons, it’s Apple’s first attempt at making a mouse with more than one button.

With any luck, it won’t be its last.


Apple’s first attempt at a two-button mouse, though, is far from perfect. In my two weeks with the Mightiest of Mice that Apple could send me, I’ve questioned the design engineer’s sanity, skills, and drug-use patterns. Most traditional two-button mice, such as the Kensington Pocket Mouse Pro Wireless that adorned my desk before the Mighty Mouse, have little buttons, or at least some form of touch feedback that lets you know if your index finger is straying too close to the middle finger. That little raised line reinforces proper hand position and is sorely lacking from the new Mighty Mouse, with unfortunate occasional results, such as a right-click when you meant a left-, or even the infrequent center-click.


But it’s not all bad news. The Mighty Mouse does have one feature that no other mouse on the market has: the scroll ball. For so long, the scroll wheel has been a feature on my mice—a crucial part of my day as I page through e-mails, Web browsers, and Word docs—that mice without a scroll wheel weren’t a purchase option for me. The new scroll ball changes that entirely. Any mouse without its own scroll wheel is completely a waste. The purely frictionless scroll ball that sits nearly hidden at the head of the mouse is the Mighty Mouse’s single finest feature. With dual-axis tracking control as part of the software component, and itself a clickable button, Apple has found a winning function combination. This is where the Mighty Mouse shines.

The third set of buttons, a squeezable set of studs along the side, proves to be an interesting choice, and I’m not convinced one way or the other that this is a winning feature. Time will tell. There’s a good chance this might put me over the top on the mouse as an overall experience.

Apple also bundled software to make the Mighty Mouse work the way it is does, but it is for Tiger only (10.4.2 or later), so Panther users won’t get the functionality described here. Sorry kids, but it’s time to upgrade. Each of the buttons is fully programmable: left click (Primary Button in Apple parlance), right click (Secondary Button), and a whole host of other functions from Spotlight to the Application Switcher, to any script or application you’ve got handy. The software might actually be one of the mouse’s redeeming features; with full tracking control, scrolling control, and button control, it’s a full-feature preference pane. So far, I’ve been loving using the application switcher in the squeeze position, and Exposé in the scroll-button position. It makes my workflow so much better. Apple’s forté continues to be in the software market, while their hardware needs improvement.


What’s the bottom line? It’s an Apple-produced two-button mouse. This is something so revolutionary that it’s become a sign of the apocalypse and a massive joke all over the world. Apple gives in, it says, to the two-button paradigm. I think it had been coming since 2000, and I’m a bit frustrated that this was all Apple could manage. Overall, it’s a mouse with two buttons and a grand scroll wheel, but I think Apple could do much better, and I hope it does.

Reader Comments (6)

Duncan Macdonald · September 1, 2005 - 11:34 EST #1
Unfortunately the occasional uncertainty about the effects of a right or left click is due to a fundamental design flaw. The designers did not take account of the difference in length of human fingers - especially that the middle finger is always longer than the index.

Many right handed people use the middle for right clicking and the index for left. Because the two sensors in MM, that are used to determine the effects of a left or right click, are equal in size, if users move their fingers back towards the middle there will be a band, located roughly between the two side buttons and equal in depth to the difference between the user's index and middle finger, over which the index finger has moved off the left sensor, while the middle finger is still over the right sensor. This leads to a left click being interpreted as a right - because it is the same as if a right click had been made with the left finger lifted off the left sensor. The overall effect is as follows:

1. Left clicking over mouse forwards of side buttons results in a left click, so long as left finger is over the left sensor.
2. Right clicking over front of mouse also produces a left click if the left finger is over the left sensor.
3. Right clicking over the front of the mouse produces a right click only if the left finger is lifted, or otherwise moved off the left sensor.
4. Right or left clicking over the rear of the mouse, behind the side buttons, results in a left click (as in the original single button design).


5. In a band across the mouse between the buttons a left click is interpreted as a right. The area over which this happens will vary according to the difference in length between the index and middle fingers, but will also depend on the angle the mouse is held and the degree that the fingers are flexed in use. These variables make it very difficult to be sure the extent of the area of unexpected effects. The effect is mechanically consistent and predictable, but very unintuitive. As if, when driving, the functions of brake and accelerator pedals swapped over between 20 and 30 mph.

In summary:

Left clicking over front of mouse => left click
Left clicking over middle of mouse => RIGHT click
Left clicking over rear of mouse => left click

An example of the nuisance this can cause is that in Safari Address Bar there is a contextual menu for each of the icons whose first option is remove from bar - is this feature really useful? I have lost track of how many times an intended left click on the back arrow has brought up the menu with the 'remove' option highlighted and the next click to the disappearance of the icon.

A possible solution would be to make the left sensor longer than the right, or to make the sensors in two parts, the rearmost being switchable to meet the needs of right and left handers. This would compensate for the difference in finger size and reduce the depth of the band; though it would not eliminate it in all cases.

I agree that the scroll wheel is excellent and have always preferred the feel of the Apple mouse to that of better endowed rivals such as MS and Logitech. Mighty Mouse has great potential but is flawed because of an oversight.
Poli · March 15, 2007 - 22:03 EST #2
still not ergonomic..
Psylens · July 3, 2007 - 12:25 EST #3
Wow, thanks for the explanation, Duncan. I've had my bluetooth mighty mouse for 6 months now, and never figured out why sometimes (about half the time) a right click would come thru as a left click. Now i know it is because i have the left finger touching when i right click - now i'm going to get in the habit of lifting my left finger when i right-click, and all should be well.

I love this mouse.
mark · July 31, 2007 - 05:03 EST #4
the sensor on the left button is really annoying.. having to raise your left finger completely off the mouse when pressing the right button is a stupid design flaw - apple has favoured stylish design at the cost of functionality.
Mike · January 7, 2008 - 16:01 EST #5
Couldn't agree with Mark more. Like most Apple hardware, I find that it has some absolutely to-die for features and some absolutely to-kill-over annoyances. If Apple put half the emphasis on usability that it does on design, they could have some great hardware.
anonymous · August 4, 2008 - 13:37 EST #6
I switched to an imac in nov. so have the might mouse. I like the scroll. I can't even claim to be successful at getting any right click.

I have an annoyance that I sometimes do not even successfully get a left click- but get the result of squeezing both side buttons. This is aggravated if i am pressing the front of the mouse down. There are times when I get disgusted enough with this that I do my click on another unit which is a touch pad and left and right click unit.

I do not believe i have ever succeeded in getting a right click except off the separate touch pad unit.I originally bought this because i was very used to using touchpads on the notebooks i had used and a mouse i tried before going to the imac seemed very hard on my hand- the MM is better in that respect.

I have encountered times when it was absolutely frustrating when I get this wrong angle or whatever and fail to negotiate a simple left click.

I have entertained the thought of trying a different mouse.

Add A Comment

 E-mail me new comments on this article