Mouses on Macs (1)

By Graham K. Rogers

mouses in a circle

Two huge differences in 1984 between the early PC and the Macintosh were the graphical user interface (GUI) and the mouse, which was essential to make the GUI work. In a tight spot, however, we can get by with keystrokes for many operations.

From that time, the Mac mouse has been a single button device. The two, three and even four button mouse has appeared since the 90s. I first used one with the MS DOS operating system. By coincidence, my last 386 computer died at the time of the appearance of Windows 3.1 and I moved to Macs.

I prefer the single button mouse by far, although I have looked at other input methods, including the Wacom graphics tablet. One button suits me just fine, although I do like a scrolling device. I know that many other Mac users prefer multi-button operation; and those moving to OSX, for example with the Mac mini, will also bring these with them.

The advent of the Mighty Mouse prompted me to look at this new Apple confection and some other mouses that I have access to. Owing to space constraints, this week I will examine Apple devices and follow up with other mouses subsequently.

Mouses? While the plural of the rodent mouse is "mice" and Apple uses this on its website, most people use "mouses" as the plural of the mechanical device. I will use that too.

The black USB mouse that came with my iMac, about three years ago was almost egg-shaped, with a clear, elongated, plastic body. It is not symmetrical and the front end falls away slightly. On both sides are small indents where the thumb and forefinger may sit. My office had a couple of these supplied with the G4 Power PCs as well.

Although there were some stories of the cable becoming frayed where it entered the body, the ones we have work faultlessly and are still used daily. My eMac came with a white version (following Apple's move to all-white accessories). Extra functions are available through various keystrokes, particularly the Control key. I find this keystroke-mouse combination to be as rapid and easy as the two-button click.

This standard Apple mouse fits into my hand comfortably and the cursor is accurate. This mouse is still supplied with machines such as the eMac, but it is no longer listed at the online Apple shop.

The Mighty Mouse arrived in my mailbox at the end of August. I had been looking forward to its appearance in Bangkok where I have seen it for 2560 baht. The Apple press release suggested 2100 baht and I hope this will be reduced soon.

The Mighty Mouse -- I find the name presumptuous -- comes in its designer box with multi-language instructions and an installer CDROM for OSX (10.4.2). For Windows installation (2000 and XP), the mouse uses the standard driver and information is obtained via the control panel.

This mouse is connected using the USB port. Without the installation, it operates using the standard software which does recognise the scrolling device -- a ball rather than a scroll wheel -- although scrolling is only vertical.

Note: I do not know what I was doing when I wrote that last sentence, but I tried later and (indeed) there is horizontal scrolling. Mea culpa

mouse panel mouse panel

Installation took ten minutes on my eMac and, as instructed, I then connected the mouse. A new preference pane was visible which allows fine tuning of mouse behaviour, giving it the equivalent of four buttons (if needed); operation of a specific function (such as Spotlight or Dashboard); extra buttons on the side where the grips had been placed on the earlier mouse; and secondary clicking, depending on how I angled the mouse. The scroll ball could also be used to scroll horizontally -- a boon for extra-wide pages.

I found it all rather confusing. With the increased functionality came increased sensitivity and I was reminded of my first try on the graphics tablet. The simple click-click (or bash-bash in my case) required a far more delicate hand to balance all the tricks I could now play with the mouse's conversion into a multi-function tool.

Scrolling with the button is highly accurate and (as is normal) the speed can be adjusted. The primary click was fine, but with secondary button clicking there were a couple of surprise events.

This mouse is the same size and basic shape as the standard mouse, so should fit comfortably in my hand. However, when I had certain features turned on, I accessed those unintentionally once or twice. Like my first ventures with that graphics tablet, I have to relearn input methods.

Many people began clamouring for a Bluetooth or WiFi version of this mouse, although I think they are forgetting the cost factor. Apple has produced a multi-function mouse here at a US price of $49, while a basic mouse in wireless form costs $59.

There are rumours that the Mighty Mouse will be supplied with some new Macs from Autumn (Fall).

Note: see also part two which examines non-Apple USB mouses.

Made on Mac

For further information, e-mail to Graham K. Rogers.

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