Developer: Apple Computer
Requirements: Mac OS X 10.3.8 or later, USB port
Recommended: Mac OS X 10.4.2 (to program it)
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.