About a year ago, I put all prejudices aside, cast away all of my prior experiences with the platform, and I tried a Mac for a month.

The experiment, as I called it back then, was very much a success.  I've integrated the Mac platform into my regular computer usage, using it for a lot of my work, while also continuing to be an avid PC user.  Giving Macs a chance for the first time last year wasn't all that hard, except for one major issue on which I would not budge: the mouse.

One of the defining Mac vs. PC arguments has always been the mouse argument; more specifically, Macs had one-button mice, while PCs had two.  More recently, PCs grew a few more buttons and wheels on their mice, all the while Apple refused to move beyond the one.  There are many justifications thrown about for the use of a one-button mouse, just as there are many for the use of a multi-button mouse, but regardless of what they are, they have been here for a couple of decades now. 

Back during the planning days of my Mac experiment, I knew that in order to give the platform a fair chance, I couldn't use that mouse.  I'd spent my mousing-life with two buttons and having to give one of them up would be too much to ask, if I were to be as objective as possible.  As time went on, I began to see both sides of the argument and truth be told, today, I can actually get by with a one-button mouse on a Mac just fine.  I still prefer to have a multi-button mouse, but it's not the deal breaker for me that it once was. 

Of course, now that it's no longer a problem for me, Apple finally broke tradition and launched their first multi-button mouse for USB enabled Macs, and it's called the Mighty Mouse and it retails for $49.99. 


The Mighty Mouse

The Mighty Mouse looks a lot like Apple's previous one-button mouse, with a few visible exceptions.  The first obvious difference is that the Mighty Mouse features a scroll ball, whereas previous mice had no scrolling specific buttons/balls/wheels.  The second difference is that there are now two side buttons on the mouse (they existed on prior Apple mice, but they didn't function as buttons). Looks can be deceiving as the two side buttons of the Mighty Mouse only function as one, and only if they are both depressed at the same time. 


Mighty Mouse (left) vs. Apple Optical Mouse (right)

The third item worth mentioning isn't a difference at all, but rather a similarity between the Mighty Mouse and prior Apple mice - the surface of the mouse hasn't changed at all.

Apple's one button mice in the past haven't really had a button; rather, the entire surface of the mouse acts as the primary mouse button. Pushing it down makes the mouse click and acts as a left or primary click.  The Mighty Mouse works the same way, but there are now touch sensors below the left and right halves of the mouse that sense whether or not you are trying to left or right click.  So, although a left and right click mechanically trigger the same button, the sensors below the surface of the mouse determine the sort of a click that you're trying to perform. I'll get to whether or not this actually works well in a moment.


The underbelly of the Mighty Mouse

Along with the mouse comes a new mouse driver that allows you to configure the various buttons and settings for the Mighty Mouse.  The settings themselves are pretty self-explanatory, although there is one glaring absence that I will touch on a bit more later; the lack of any control for how many lines are scrolled when using the scroll ball is a major omission of the first Mighty Mouse drivers. 

The remaining aspects of the new drivers are fairly run of the mill. You can configure any of the buttons to perform everything from performing an Exposé operation, bringing up the Dashboard or even launching another script/application. 

Quite possibly the most important point about the drivers is that both the left and right mouse "buttons" are configured to left or primary click by default.  You have to go into the Mouse Preferences and assign the right mouse action to act as a secondary button before it'll work as such.  This default setting gives us much insight into Apple's intentions with the Mighty Mouse. The Mighty Mouse isn't Apple's embracing of the two-button mouse; it is Apple's way of offering the option to those who truly want it, yet still making the Mighty Mouse a primarily one-button device. 

Apple has effectively built the world's first multi-button mouse that's designed to look and work primarily like a one-button mouse.  And now it's time to find out if they did a good job in doing so...

Left, Right, Left, Right, Left
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  • Homer1946 - Sunday, March 19, 2006 - link

    The review was reasonable and gave that persons subjective impressions. However most of the comments are extreme.

    I would strongly suggest that Apple has a good history of implementing good function WITH good form. OS X is largely an example of this. Certainly they have had some partial and complete misses as well. Also mice are very subjective and NO mouse will feel right for everybody. I have found that in evaluating new Apple products that Apple puts a lot of thought and effort into their designs (hardware and software) and in order to evaluate a new product or idea you need to use it with an open mind for at least a week. Often you find that it is actually a big improvement, sometimes not.

    Anyway my two bits. Note that I am a longtime Mac user but have LONG since gone to using two button mice exclusively. I am picky (like most power users) and really like the feel of MS mice.

    1) The trackball works great and has a nice feel. Horizontal scrolling works much better in Cocoa native applications.

    2) I don't have problems with missing right clicks but I don't leave my finger resting in the mouse. (Just dumb luck.)

    3) The side buttons are better thought out than it seems. You only have to press one and the buttons are placed so the users thumb should naturally lie over one of the buttons such that they can activate it with just the thumb and counter pressure from wherever their other fingers naturally lie.

    3) Their are lots of little touches and evidence careful thought:

    - The side buttons take a fair amount of pressure so you don't press them accidently while moving the mouse. When the mouse is picked up they require even more pressure to activate than they do when the mouse is not being held to help prevent accidental activation, but they can still be activated with adequate pressure.

    - The scroll ball requires a little pressure to activate to prevent incidental movement from your finger brushing it but requires enough pressure to depress the mouse casing to active its button feature to allow scrolling without pressing that button by accident (not that other mice have problems with this either)

    - For most (all?) buttons a quick click will act normally but a click->hold->release will toggle the linked function. For example with the default behavior of having the scroll ball button activate dashboard just clicking it normally brings up dashboard, but clicking and holding brings out dashboard and then closes it when you release.

    My overall impression.

    A very good mouse. The trackball is great, better than the MS mice scroll wheel (although they are very nice as well). I think the side buttons are awkward but I feel that way about ALL side buttons on mice.

    Although the cord is perfect for use with Apple keyboards, it is too short otherwise. I wish they had included an extender. (I note that the new MacBook Pros have USB ports on both sides.) I personally like the size and shape of the larger MS mouse better.

    The Apple mice (and most other mice) are a little small for me. Others I know think the opposite. Apple should IMHO add the ability to map a key combination to a button as part if its standard preferences. I think this would greatly expand the flexibility for a number of users without overly complicating the interface.

    This mouse is not perfect (nothing ever is) and not for everybody. However Apple is trying to re-think this, at least a little, and it is going to take some experimenting and some revisions. To those people who actually say 'Two button mice are already good enough and Apple is stupid to attempt to improve on it' I say this: The difference between Apple and the others is Apple understanding of how wrong that thinking is.

    -R
    Reply
  • softonero - Friday, August 19, 2005 - link

    First of all... I'm from Argentina, so please excuse me if my english is too bad ;)
    I've readed the article, all the comments and even tried the mouse (on an apple reseller near my home) but didn't buy it, i have a MX500 thas is very good and the "mighty" is too for my buck... 1 dollar = 3 pesos :(
    But I think it's very important for Apple the double functionality (1-button or 2-button) just look at this page: http://www.macpolls.com/?poll_id=444">http://www.macpolls.com/?poll_id=444, there are a lot of people who still wants a 1 button mouse from Apple (I have a few in my family), and this means that apple is thinking in it as the possible next "apple mouse" (the one who ships with macs)... possibly with "MacIntels"? So it would be nice to see it in all new Macs. Even better, you will have the Apple Pro Mouse... perhaps THIS is the mouse you are looking for (the one who wants Anand) at least, this is the beginning.
    Reply
  • SuperTyphoon - Saturday, November 19, 2005 - link

    Crap. Complete crap. Just buy a regular PC mouse with two buttons and a scroll, and save money.

    When clicking right and other buttons, it sometimes clicks the standard one. They don't feel separated enough.

    The scroll wheel is pathetic, too small, and hard to use.

    The smooth, slippery surface gets very slippery with sweat over time.

    The shape of the mouse is hard to use and uncomfortable compared to many pc mouses.
    Reply
  • soosy - Wednesday, August 10, 2005 - link

    Nice review. I haven't used the Mightly Mouse in person yet...
    - Just to be clear for those who don't know, you can use 3rd party two button mice on Macs. The first page of the review wasn't totally clear on that I thought.
    - The article mentions a lack of control for how many lines are scrolled yet also mentions the slow/fast scrolling setting. Is there a difference? The beef really seems to be that the "fast" setting isn't fast enough. This should be built in but there is a program called USB Overdrive that many use to adjust mouse speed settings beyond what is built in.
    - I love the shape of Apple mice. Where the side buttons are now there used to be panels that you would grip to pickup up the mouse and move it since every where else on the mouse is essentially part of the main button. So using those panels as buttons makes a lot of sense to me. They obviously can't be seperate buttons because they are directly opposite each other and pushing one would mean pushing the other. So you end up with 4 buttons instead of 5 but I think it's a fine trade-off to keep the excellent existing shape/form and single button/multi-button versatility.
    - Other reviews have said you only have to push one of the side buttons, not both at once.
    - The track ball looks very cool to me as opposed to the bulkier scroll wheel that has resistant clicks on my current MS Intellimouse.
    - I have used multi-button and single button mice with my Mac back and forth. For a while, I went back to using a single button mouse but had to go back to a multi-button because of World of Warcraft. That game just isn't designed very well for a single button mouse. I'm very sympathetic to the Application Design argument for single button mice. Mac users are mostly fine with single button mice because using a single button is no big deal. Contextual menus are merely convenience. On Windows, too often the only way to do something is to right click.
    - The one thing I am dissappointed with is the having to lift up your left finger to right click. I notice I mostly lift up my left finger anyway... but even if I don't just 1% of the time... it will be annoying.
    Reply
  • jbezdek - Tuesday, August 09, 2005 - link

    Apple has created something truly innovative with the Mighty Mouse: a single piece of hardware that can function as a 1-button mouse or a 2-button mouse. Personally (as a Mac power user), I find this to be brilliant. I can use the mouse in 2-button mode, while my wife, child, and any other user who prefers the 1-button mode can use that.

    In the many comments I've seen posted about the Mighty Mouse, I note one thing: those people who don't see any value in a 1-button mouse to begin with, don't see anything noteworthy about a mouse that can be 1-button or 2-button. ("1-button mice suck! Who cares if the mouse works in 1-button mode. Just give it 2-buttons and be done!") Those people who _do_ see the value of a 1-button mouse (better usability, encourages better application design, easier for average/inexperienced users to use) see a lot of value in a dual function mouse. You can have your cake and eat it too.

    On an unrelated note, in your section on "Ergonomics," you should note that the Mighty Mouse (and all of Apple's mice, for that matter) work equally well for right-handed and left-handed users. The other mice you compare it to work only for right-handed users. That is certainly an ergonomic plus.
    Reply
  • MCSim - Thursday, August 11, 2005 - link

    quote:

    On an unrelated note, in your section on "Ergonomics," you should note that the Mighty Mouse (and all of Apple's mice, for that matter) work equally well for right-handed and left-handed users. The other mice you compare it to work only for right-handed users. That is certainly an ergonomic plus.

    Ergonimics has very little to do with that, but all how it fits to your hand with minimal strain. You just can't make better ergonomics for mice that can be used by left or right hand. In other words you have to make compromises. When the mouse is perfecly fitted to left/right hand it's pretty much better than the "hybrid" ;)

    Only ~10% of the humans are left-handed. It's quite big compromise. But again those are who should get that mouse. ;)
    Reply
  • SuperTyphoon - Monday, August 08, 2005 - link

    apple has finally made the break through in the two button mouse!!! its a miracle! that mouse must suck big time for games. Reply
  • Windaria - Monday, August 08, 2005 - link

    I don't think that I could stand anything less than 5 anymore. I mean, 4 buttons? You mean I have to give up a function? NO!

    Oh well... I have never understood Apple's hardware anyway. The only thing that they made that was better than anyone else was the Apple Cinema displays, ant that may even be eclipsed by the Dell monitors entirely soon, even though they are in certain aspects already.

    Everything else... bah.
    Reply
  • toot - Saturday, August 06, 2005 - link

    Doesn't it look just a bit phalic? :p Reply
  • Jalf - Sunday, August 07, 2005 - link

    Just a bit... :)
    At least, the little logo thing for the article does
    Reply

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