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Apple Mighty Mouse

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“When is Apple going to come out with a two-button mouse?”

Mac users have been asking that question for so long that Apple’s introduction of the multi-button Mighty Mouse is almost an anticlimax. If users seriously pined for a right-button to access the Mac’s contextual menus (an ease-of-use amenity that Windows users have long enjoyed), they probably abandoned Apple’s stylish but less-functional one-button mouse a long time ago.

The Mighty Mouse is nice looking, it has some innovations (like an omnidirectional scroll ball), and it’s a good product overall. It just may not be worth $49 to many Mac users.

Getting ready

If you’re using OS X 10.4.2 or later, you can install the included software. Once installed, the options appear in the Keyboard & Mouse dialog in the System Preferences. The software is very easy to use, with a diagram of the buttons and pull-down menus to program them (see screenshot).

The Mighty Mouse has a beautiful, minimalist, modern design, and is completely ambidextrous. Its shape is similar to the long, oval Apple Pro Mouse, but without the clear acrylic shell, giving it a similar finish to the iBook and the top of the Mac mini. The cable is rather short, though, at 29 inches, so you may need a USB extender cable if you don’t use a keyboard that has a USB port.

All those buttons

The Mighty Mouse gives you four buttons to program and a scroll ball on top. There’s a primary (single click) and secondary (control-click) button on either side of the scroll ball; the force-sensing side button, which looks like two buttons (you can squeeze both buttons at once or just press one with your thumb); and the scroll ball button, activated when you simply click on the scroll ball.

You can program the buttons to be the primary (single-click) button, secondary (control-click) button, to perform various Exposé, Dashboard, and Application Switcher actions, and to bring up Spotlight. (Your Mac OS version must support these functions, of course). The Other menu item lets you choose an application to launch when the button is clicked. But Apple’s driver won’t let you program a modifier key or keystroke to go with a button click, such as option-click or command-click. I like to program one button on my mouse for double-clicking to reduce my clicking, but Apple’s driver won’t allow this. (If you’re running an OS earlier than OS X 10.3.8, you can’t install the software, and you must make do with the default button assignments of primary, secondary, and scroll ball.)

The scroll ball is very useful and perfectly sensitive, scrolling 360 degrees, so when you want to pan around a Photoshop image or QuarkXPress layout, for example, you need not hold down a modifier key on your keyboard or use the window’s scroll bars. While Apple says you can scroll with any finger, it only seems practical to scroll with your index finger, which will probably get very tired, and maybe even sore, if you use the mouse all day long. I also noticed that scrolling works with varying degrees of smoothness in various applications.

The force-sensing buttons proved a little difficult to use in my testing. When I wanted to use them, I had to stop, locate the buttons with my fingers, and squeeze with the proper degree of intensity, which was more difficult than it needed to be. In addition, when I tried to click just one of the buttons with my thumb, I often inadvertently clicked the right button when trying to get the right leverage. This squeeze button may not be the most popular button for the terminally uncoordinated.

Amusingly, the slight (and quiet) scroll ball’s gear-turning sound and the click of the force-sensing button is audible only with the mouse plugged into a computer. Apple says the sound comes from a tiny speaker inside the mouse. There appears to be no way to turn off the sounds if you don’t want to hear them, but they’re not so loud that you would need to.

Just being practical

So about that scroll ball: While I haven’t had my Mighty Mouse but for two days, I am already wondering how I’d clean it if the scroll ball gets gunked up with finger oils and such. Apple says that to clean it, you would moisten a cloth and dab the scroll ball (it doesn’t come out of its casing).

Ergonomically speaking, the Mighty Mouse is no great shakes. Everyone’s physical mechanics are different, but for most people, squeezing something narrow, small, and made of hard acrylic for hours could cause some strain and pain to tendons. Mice already cause a lot of trouble for many people due to the repetitive use of the shoulder and forearm. If Apple really wanted to innovate its input devices the way it has revolutionized so many other products, it would make something both beautiful and comfortable, like the Evoluent VerticalMouse 2 (   ; March 2005 ), although that mouse is not ambidextrous.

Macworld’s Buying Advice

Until this mouse comes with new Macs—and Apple isn’t saying whether it will—you will pay for the privilege of using an Apple-designed mouse that is, well, still just a mouse—and not the most graceful one I’ve ever used. The Mighty Mouse’s $49 price seems a bit much for such a simple little item, but if this were a truly revolutionary mouse design, the price wouldn’t be an issue.

The Mighty Mouse also has some competition: There are lots of other stylish mice with multiple buttons and scrolling capabilities (for example, Kensington’s Studio Mouse and Iridio, and Microsoft’s Optical Mouse by Starck and Wireless Optical Mouse 2.0). But they’re not Apple style. If you want your multi-button mouse and its software to truly match your Mac, this is the mouse for you.

Jennifer Berger is Macworld’s Senior Reviews Editor.

Apple Mighty MouseThe Mighty Mouse software lets you program all four buttons and the scroll ball in OS X 10.4.2, but it won’t let you assign modifier keys to buttons or program a button to double-click.
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