capsule review

Microsoft IntelliMouse Explorer

At a Glance
  • Microsoft IntelliMouse Explorer

Unless you work in a NASA clean room, your mouse will eventually fall prey to mouse crud, a buildup of lint and other dirt in your mouse's moving parts that makes the cursor skip and jump on screen. Although periodic maintenance helps, some mice never seem to return to perfect working condition, even after a thorough cleaning. Microsoft's IntelliMouse Explorer, finally available for USB-enabled Macs, solves this problem by eliminating dirt-trapping components entirely.

Instead of the balls and rollers found in conventional mice, the IntelliMouse uses a novel system that tracks movement optically. (While this technology isn't new, previous optical mice required a special mouse pad.) As you move the IntelliMouse, an image sensor on the bottom of the mouse scans for minute variations in the work surface, which the sensor's red light illuminates. A digital signal processor in the mouse translates your movements into cursor motion on screen. Microsoft claims that optical tracking, in addition to avoiding the perils of dirt buildup on your roller, results in smoother cursor response.

The IntelliMouse worked as advertised on just about everything I put under it–from my laminated desktop to plain paper to the top of my head. The optical sensor won't function on glass or any highly reflective surface, however.

The IntelliMouse sports a futuristic silver case designed to fit average-to-large-size palms. Two main buttons, which you press with the index and middle fingers of your right hand, flank a rubberized scroll wheel in the center. Two auxiliary buttons on the left side are meant for thumb operation, although the larger one is a bit awkward to reach. The scroll wheel doubles as a fifth button.

Microsoft's IntelliPoint control panel lets you change cursor sensitivity and customize operation of the buttons and wheel. (Oddly, the mouse doesn't include the software; you have to download it from Microsoft's Web site or request a CD from the company's Product Support group.) You can program buttons and button combinations to perform one of 15 different functions, including clicking, dragging, and typing simple keyboard shortcuts. The control panel also lets you adjust the wheel's scrolling speed from a single line to a full page at a time. If you like, you can even specify unique button and wheel settings for different applications.


At $75, the IntelliMouse is by no means the least expensive USB mouse on the market. But if you hate cleaning your mouse and you want a device that looks like it belongs on the starship Enterprise, the IntelliMouse is an excellent choice.

February 2000 page: 52

At a Glance
  • Pros

    • Multiple programmable buttons
    • Doesn't require cleaning
    • Works on almost any surface

    Cons

    • Relatively expensive
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