Wireless mice or trackballs, free from cords or mouse pads, can open up a surprising amount of desktop space. We tried the Kensington Turbo Mouse Pro Wireless trackball, the Microsoft Wireless Intellimouse Explorer mouse, and two mice from Logitech: the Cordless MouseMan Optical and the Cordless Optical Mouse.
Each goes well beyond the standard one-button configuration of any Apple mouse. The Cordless Optical Mouse, Cordless MouseMan Optical, and Wireless Intellimouse Explorer have three, four, and five buttons, respectively, as well as scroll wheels. The most tricked-out of the bunch is the Turbo Mouse Pro Wireless, which sports five buttons, a scroll wheel, and six DirectLaunch buttons that can be used to start applications and to jump directly to Web sites and files.
All of the wireless devices we tested have superb control-panel software (available for Mac OS 9). Both Microsoft and Kensington allow users to set up application-specific functions for each button; Logitech provides only systemwide controls. At press time, Kensington was the only company with final OS Xcompatible drivers, downloadable from their Web site.
The Kensington software is by far the most flexible, allowing users to make the most customizations for program-specific settings. Each of the six DirectLaunch buttons along the top of the trackball can be programmed to launch Web sites, applications, AppleScripts, or files. Each of the five main buttons can be set up to perform customized tasks–everything from control-clicking to pasting text–in different programs, particularly handy for users who spend a lot of time switching between various applications.
The Logitech software is very basic, with the exception of the superfluous Web Wheel application, a confusing circular configuration of customizable buttons that take you to preselected Web sites and/or applications. Microsoft’s software, while better than Logitech’s in terms of the level of customization it allows, still lags behind Kensington’s overall. But Kensington’s software is missing an essential feature that both Logitech and Microsoft provide: a battery-life indicator.
Both the Wireless Intellimouse Explorer and the Cordless MouseMan Optical are designed for right-handed users. Southpaws will want to stick with the Turbo Mouse Pro Wireless or the Cordless Optical Mouse.
Macworld’s Buying Advice
All of these are excellent input devices for daily use. Power users accustomed to trackballs would do well with Kensington’s Turbo Mouse Pro Wireless, but for average users who want a wireless optical mouse without all the extras, Logitech’s Cordless MouseMan Optical can’t be beat. m