Mightier Mouse

There’s been a lot of debate about Apple’s new multi-button Mighty Mouse over the past few weeks, but one of the most common complaints is that the Mighty Mouse mouse driver doesn’t give advanced users as much control as they would like. Specifically, Apple’s driver—accessible via the Mouse tab of the Keyboard & Mouse pane of System Preferences—provides only a few choices for the actions of each button and limited ability to customize tracking and scrolling speeds.

Those who crave more options should check out PlentyCom System’s $20 SteerMouse 2.0 (   ), a third-party driver for Apple’s new pointing device. (It also works with other mice, but is designed primarily for the Mighty Mouse.)

Once installed, you configure SteerMouse via the SteerMouse utility, which provides options for the Mighty Mouse’s buttons, scroll ball, and cursor movement.

SteerMouse Buttons window

The Buttons screen lets you assign actions to each of the Mighty Mouse’s four “buttons”: left, right, scroll ball, and side. The available actions include:

  • Click: Alone or with any combination of Command, Shift, Option, and Control.
  • Double-click: Alone or with the above modifiers.
  • Triple-click: Alone or modified.
  • Click-lock: For click-dragging.
  • Contextual menu: A.k.a., “right-click” or “Control-click.”
  • Keyboard key or shortcut: Any defined key, such as the F-keys or volume up/down, or any custom keyboard shortcut, such as Command+W or Shift+Option+8.
  • Scroll: You can set any button to scroll up, down, left, or right, and customize the speed of that scrolling.
  • Cursor Actions: SteerMouse provides a number of predefined “cursor actions” such as moving to a window’s Close, Minimize, or Zoom button; moving to the Apple Menu; or moving to a dialog’s default button. You can also choose to automatically “click” after the movement is finished—for example, you can set the Mighty Mouse’s side buttons to move the cursor to the current window’s Close button and automatically close the window.
  • Switch Application: Clicking and holding the button brings up OS X’s application switcher; move the mouse cursor over an application and release the button to switch to that app.
  • No action: This disables the button completely.

The Wheel tab lets you customize the behavior of the Mighty Mouse’s scroll ball. You can adjust both the scroll speed and the scrolling acceleration, but you can also completely alter the behavior of the scroll wheel. For example, you can assign keyboard shortcuts to each direction—left, right, up, and down. Or, even more interesting, you can choose to have the scroll ball actually move the cursor , making it the world’s smallest trackball. (One feature I’d like to see is the ability to have different scroll ball settings when you hold down a modifier key; for example, to scroll when used normally, but to control the cursor when used with the shift key pressed.)

SteerMouse Wheel window

Finally, the Cursor screen lets you customize the mouse cursor’s speed and acceleration much more effectively than Apple’s driver, and to enable “Auto move.” This latter feature causes the mouse cursor to automatically move to a particular location in a newly-activated window or dialog: the default button; the Cancel button; the close, minimize, or zoom button; or the resize “handle” in the bottom right corner of the window. (If you’re wondering about the Tilt Wheel tab, it’s for third-party mice with tiltable scroll wheels.)

Like Kensington’s popular MouseWorks software, SteerMouse lets you configure different groups of settings for different applications—your Mighty Mouse can function one way in Photoshop and another in the Finder. And SteerMouse offers Panther users one other welcome feature: Whereas Apple’s Mighty Mouse drivers work only under OS X 10.4.2 and later, SteerMouse also supports 10.3.9, allowing Panther users to customize their Mighty Mice, as well.

(As a side note, the developers of SteerMouse are non-native English speakers, so you’ll find occasional mistakes throughout the interface. But these errors obviously don’t affect functionality.)

At $20, SteerMouse may seem like a lot to spend when you’ve just shelled out $50 for a new mouse, but if you’re the type who’ll use its additional functionality, it will surely be worth the investment over the long haul.

Note: Another option for customizing your Mighty Mouse is USB Overdrive 10.4; I’ll be covering that product in a future column.

SteerMouse works with both Tiger and Panther.

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