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ATPM 7.06
June 2001


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Review: Turbo Mouse Pro

by Eric Blair,


Developer: Kensington (product page)

Price: $109.99 (list)

Requirements: Mac with USB

Trial: None

Kensington’s Turbo Mouse Pro trackball is the latest in a long line of Mac-compatible input devices from the company. Unlike some of the major peripheral companies, Kensington produced Mac-compatible versions of nearly every mouse and trackball they sold. Therefore, it should be no surprise that, along with supporting the Classic Mac OS, Kensington is the first company to release a mouse driver for OS X. As impressive as that is, it should not overshadow the other features of the Turbo Mouse Pro.

The Hardware

As the name suggests, the Turbo Mouse Pro is the latest addition to the venerable Turbo Mouse family. In the past, this meant four buttons surrounding the central trackball.

If four buttons were all this trackball offered, it would not deserve the Pro moniker. First, there are six DirectLaunch buttons on the top of the unit. These buttons can be used to launch programs and files or to go to Web sites. Second, there is a scroll wheel between the DirectLaunch buttons and the trackball.

Also, the Turbo Mouse Pro is more stylish than its predecessors. The off-white color scheme is gone, replaced by a graphite base. The trackball, DirectLaunch buttons, and scroll wheel are bluish-gray. On its own, it looks impressive. Place it next to a Power Mac G4 and you’ll think the two were made for each other.

All in all, the Turbo Mouse Pro is a very well-built unit. I have small hands, but I can comfortably reach the four mouse buttons and the scroll wheel while still keeping my hand on the trackball. I need to move my hand a bit to reach the DirectLaunch buttons, but it is not a problem—I’m usually not wanting to move the trackball and use the DirectLaunch buttons at the same time.

In the time I’ve been using this trackball, I’ve only had one problem with the hardware: one of the rubber feet fell off the bottom of the trackball. As a result, the trackball wobbles a bit, like a chair with one leg shorter than the rest. I may have put more strain on the trackball than the average user, though—I carried the trackball in a bag to and from work so I could test it with both OS 9 and OS X. I don’t know if the lost pad was a result of everyday use or the extra travel. I’m guessing it was the travel, since the trackball is stationary the vast majority of the time.

MouseWorks for OS 9

The Kensington MouseWorks software for the Classic Mac OS has had years to mature and has gained a rich feature set. Support for the obvious stuff has always been there—assignable buttons, scroll wheel support, adjustable cursor speed, and DirectLaunch buttons in the case of the Turbo Mouse Pro. What pushed the software over the top were the thoughtful add-ons. These add-ons are the kind of things that power users love. At the same time, they’re unobtrusive, so beginners don’t need to worry about them.

For starters, you can have one of the buttons represent keystrokes instead of a mouse click. In the past, I’ve used this technique to essentially script a short sequence of keystrokes.

Probably the best known of these add-ons is the ability to chord two mouse buttons to simulate another button. In the current version of the MouseWorks software, you can chord both the top two buttons and the bottom two buttons. Along with ability to click the scroll wheel, this essentially gives you a total of seven mouse buttons.

Another of the well known features are Application Sets. An application set is a group of actions that apply to a single button. One possible use for an application set would be defining the top two buttons as Forward and Back for your Web browser. Another possibility would be assigning certain buttons to activate specific tools in Photoshop. The possibilities are nearly endless.


Kensington MouseWorks for the Classic Mac OS

There are other smaller features that make the Kensington products more enjoyable to use. For instance, you can choose to have the pointer automatically jump to the default button in a dialog. Also, you can set up hot spots on your monitor and have the cursor jump to them when you desire.

Mouse buttons can also display two different types of menus. One is the EasyLaunch menu. This contains a list of applications, files, and Web sites that you can jump to by selecting the appropriate entry from the menu—very similar to the DirectLaunch buttons. The other menu is the Application Menu. This shows a list of running applications, allowing you to switch without moving the mouse to the menu bar’s application menu.

MouseWorks for OS X

Moving from the Classic version of MouseWorks to the OS X version can be a bit of a shock at first. Looking at the interface, you can tell right away that some things are missing—there are only three tabs across the top. The Classic Mac version has two tabs at the top and each of these tabs has its own subtabs.


Kensington MouseWorks for OS X

Right now, the Kensington MouseWorks software for OS X is at version 1.0, and it shows. Only the basic functionality is included—you can choose from a variety of click types, set the cursor speed, set the DirectLaunch buttons, and have a mouse button open Web site or file. That’s it. Chording, Application Sets, jumping to the default button—they’re all missing.

Kensington has said that they’ll try to add features to the software at a later date. On the one hand, it’s disappointing that the features aren’t there. On the other hand, no other company has even released a basic mouse or trackball driver for using their products under OS X.

One of the great things about Kensington products is that they gain functionality over time. Typically, new Kensington drivers support most of the existing hardware (although one-button mice and two-button Turbo Mouse models are not supported under OS X) and new features become available to older hardware. Before using the Turbo Mouse Pro, I bought a Thinking Mouse. This is a four-button mouse that supported chording of the top two buttons. As a result of a later driver update, the mouse gained chording of the bottom two buttons. By installing a software update, I essentially gained a sixth mouse button. I would imagine that the Kensington experience under OS X will be similar to the experience under the Classic Mac OS.

Sharp eyed readers may have noticed the lack of a scrolling tab in the OS X version of the MouseWorks software (it’s the middle subtab in the Classic Mac OS version). Don’t worry, scrolling is still there. Under OS X, scroll wheel support is built into the operating system, to a degree. A Cocoa application, like OmniWeb, gets this support for free. Carbon applications need to have the functionality added. Some, like the Internet Explorer 5.1 Preview, have this feature. Others, like the Finder, do not.

Although it’s not universal, I personally like the scroll wheel behavior in OS X better than its Classic Mac counterpart. Scrolling with the Kensington software tends to be somewhat jerky. At one point, it was so bad that I would scroll one position on the wheel and have to wait a second or two for the application to finish scrolling. Since a restart fixed this behavior, I’m assuming it was an result of some random quirk in the system. On OS X, scrolling seems much smoother. Since I spend most of my non-work time in OS X, I look forward to the day when more applications support the scroll wheel feature.

I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that the OS X MouseWorks driver plays reasonably well when using Classic applications. Since I don’t have the Kensington driver in the system folder I use for running Classic applications, I wasn’t expecting much of anything. In fact, it seems that mouse clicks with key combinations are passed to the Classic applications. The only exception seems to be the Right-Click setting. In OS X, this brings up the contextual menu. To get contextual menu support in Classic applications, you need to use Control-Click instead of Right-Click. This works for both Classic and OS X applications. The scroll wheel is not supported in Classic applications, but this is to be expected.


Kensington has always produced quality hardware and the software to support it. The Turbo Mouse Pro is no exception to this. It’s a worthy successor to the Turbo Mouse name and, essentially, marks Kensington’s entrance into the world of OS X. The fact that said entrance is more of a quiet “Hello” as opposed to a booming “We’re here,” with trumpets blaring, is the only thing that keeps the Turbo Mouse Pro from getting an Excellent rating. The hardware is top notch. The Classic Mac OS software is top notch. The OS X software is the only thing that’s lacking. Like I said earlier, though, Kensington products tend to increase in value as time goes on. If Kensington lives up to its past, then you can bet things will improve.

Reader Comments (12)

Will Coughln · June 29, 2001 - 01:09 EST #1
I've been using a Kensington Turboball (I forget which model - four buttons and a scroller). I love the software aspects of it. However, the ball depends on a band of coefficient of friction values (not too tight and not slippery) in order to work. I have had a LOT of trouble keeping the Turboball moving well consistancy. (I've found that car wax works well.)
Eric Blair (ATPM Staff) · June 30, 2001 - 00:32 EST #2
Will, How long have you had your trackball? I've been using mine for a few months now with no problem. When I first looked at trackballs a few years back, one of the major issues was, much like mice, keeping them clean. The oils on your hands and fingers get on the ball. I believe that mouse/trackball cleaning kits were little more than rubbing alcohol and a cloth drying pad. If you haven't tried this combination, I'd suggest it - probably cheaper than car wax. --Eric
Will Coughln · June 30, 2001 - 10:23 EST #3
Eric, Thanks for your reply. I've used dish soap, but it leaves the ball very "dry"(?) so that it does not move freely at all (a certain amount of slippage is required on the "perpendicular" sensor wheel. That's when I started using the wax. I'll try the alcohol; perhaps it wouldn't leave the ball the same as the soap. Also, it's not like I leave a lot of residue ... I have very dry hands and I try to make sure they're clean. But sometimes it works great, like right now. Thanks, Will
Eric Blair (ATPM Staff) · June 30, 2001 - 12:14 EST #4
Will, If it gets to the point where usability, don't hesitate to get in touch with Kensington. In my experience, they are exceptional when it comes to supporting their products. Everything has a five year warranty and they don't make you jump through hoops. A few years back, my Thinking Mouse started giving me trouble -- it was in the fourth year of its warranty and was around the time when Kensington was discontinuing the device. I sent an email to tech support and was expecting a response telling me to try a handful of different things that probably wouldn't work. Instead, the reply said "A replacement mouse is in the mail. Just send back your old mouse when the new one arrives." --Eric
Wensley · June 30, 2001 - 13:44 EST #5
I have had a Kensington Turbo Mouse ADB on my PPC 7600 for several years. Several months ago, a problem developed with one of the bearings that cleaning could not clean. The unit was returned to Kensington, where they said that it was still under warranty and that the unit needed to be replaced. I was surprised when I was told on 3 different occasions that the unit was "not in inventory" and that they would ship one to me asap. Just over 2 months went by, when my new Turbo Mouse came by courier. Rather than have me wait for a longer period, Kensington replaced my ADB product with a new ADB/USB hybrid!! I now have a new graphite/bluish-grey Turbo Mouse that I can use with either my 7600 or my iBook. Now that IS customer service! Thanks Kensington.
Will Coughln · June 30, 2001 - 19:23 EST #6
Eric, Wensley, I have also had a good experience with Kensington. I dropped by trackball and chipped it. When I called them and told them what I had done, they also sent me a new unit (the whole works) in about a WEEK and asked me to just return the extra unit and bad trackball. I actually kept the entire new unit because it did work better (smoother) than the first one, and I returned the first unit.... free, of course. Now THAT is customer service! However, my ball does get stuck here and there, but I'm also using 1280x1080 (or whatever) resolution, so I require a lot of precision. I believe, though, that the optical method that the Evil Empire uses in their trackball is inherently a better method. Will
SamHill · August 22, 2001 - 22:10 EST #7
I've had my ADB TurboMouse for years (even longer than the computer!), and I love it. It's now working under X (Window System). I usually clean the rollers with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol; sometimes I clean the ball, as well. A couple of months ago, however, cleaning didn't seem to help, and I seriously wondered if one of the sensors had died. I took the base apart and found that there was a surprising amount of fluff (mostly cat hair) tangled around the rollers in the path of the light beam. I carefully removed it all, cleaned the wheels with alcohol (since I had it at hand), and tested the trackball before putting it back together. Everything worked great, and after putting it back together, it worked like new! I will definitely be buying another when I buy a new machine, and I'm looking forward to using it with Mac OS X.
h alan · August 10, 2008 - 19:41 EST #8
anyone have a clue where to find drivers for the kensington turbo mouse pro, model # 64214?
ATPM Staff · August 10, 2008 - 22:03 EST #9
Alan - In Mac OS X, drivers are only needed to program the extra buttons. I'm not sure if you'd need SlimBlade or MouseWorks, but you can find the links to them both here:
forager · September 3, 2008 - 17:16 EST #10
Anybody know if the old adb Turbo Mouse can be used with some kind of an adb to usb adapter and if so, do I need a driver if I'm not going to program the buttons?
Eric Blair (ATPM Staff) · September 3, 2008 - 17:33 EST #11
forager - I don't know about the ADB to USB adapter. I don't see any reason why that wouldn't work.

As far as button programming goes, I think it depends on which version of the Turbo Mouse you have. According to the documentation on the Kensington web site, the latest version of Kensington MouseWorks (which is the only one I could find):

This version supports all Kensington USB and ADB mice and trackballs except Turbo Mouse 1.0-4.0 (the older, 2-button models)

If you have a 2 button model, you could try contacting the authors of one of the third-party USB mouse drivers to fine out if the support ADB-USB adapters. I personally use SteerMouse, but I know plenty of people who use USB Overdrive.
Carl Wedell · October 30, 2009 - 01:19 EST #12
Does anyone know of kernel panic problems with OS X 10.5/10.6 and Mouseworks? Is there a solution or do we have to wait for Apple or Kensington to fix it?

In the meantime, does anyone know of a driver other than Mouseworks that supports chording (SteerMouse and USB Overdrive do not)?


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