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  • The Mighty Mouse Report: So Why Does My Finger Tingle?

    August 6th, 2005

    You know that when Kensington, Logitech or even Microsoft release a new mouse or trackball, you won’t read discussions about it for weeks on end. But when Apple is involved, things are almost always different. People are talking, still. And the Mighty Mouse remains the top seller at Apple’s online store, and it’s sales ranking at Amazon was at number 14 last time I checked. Of course, you may consult those same resources and see a totally different picture, but I’m just showing a trend. This is one hot product, and online dealers are typically quoting a one or two week wait to get one.

    All this for a computer mouse.

    Ever curious, I got one of the first to ship, and found it pretty good, at first. But input device comfort is a matter of personal taste, and after a few days, the thrill is gone. While recording an interview with author Jim Heid for this week’s episode of The Tech Night Owl LIVE, I noticed that one of the fingers on my right hand had begun to tingle slightly. Now perhaps it was the power of suggestion, because we were talking about protecting yourself against wrist-related injuries. After the interview concluded, I removed the Mighty Mouse and set up the Logitech MX1000 mouse in its place. The Logitech is taller, and better follows the contour of my hand.

    Now it’s not my imagination, but within less than a day the tingling sensation was gone. I also noticed areas where the Logitech is noticeably superior to the Mighty Mouse. Right-clicking for one. As some Mighty Mouse reviewers have noted, you have to lift your finger first before you try to bring up the context menu. Not so with the MX1000. I can let my fingers rest and right-click comfortably. The button assembly at the left side is easily accessed by your thumb and the special software to engage the device’s custom functions isn’t restricted to a single Mac OS version. It works the same for both Mac and Windows users.

    And, like some, I noticed that when you try to move the Mighty Mouse’s scroll button sideways in Firefox, it moves to the next or previous page. There is a hack to fix that, I gather, and it might take a software fix to eradicate the symptom completely. But I’m surprised Apple didn’t anticipate this particular bug, unless it assumes we’re all using Safari.

    On the other hand, the Logitech is strictly designed for right-handed use. Maybe there’s a left-handed version hidden somewhere, but I didn’t see it. I suppose lucky that, although I’m a southpaw in most respects, I learned to use the mouse with my right hand.

    It’s also clear to me that Logitech paid close attention to how people really use a computer mouse and came up with a superior product, one that a lot of people find a precise match to their needs. I suspect usability studies were also involved, because the design of the MX1000 is not something that appears to have emerged entirely from someone’s imagination. With the Mighty Mouse, Apple simply took the basic design of the Pro mouse and grafted a multibutton scheme onto the product. It’s a smart maneuver, and I like the fact that it’s not restricted to right-handers and that you can set it up to run in single button mode for folks who aren’t into right-clicking. But that design motif entails compromises, and comfort may not have been considered as a major design factor.

    To be fair, however, a lot of this is a matter of personal preference. I have also been working with a computer mouse for hours on end for over 20 years, and I have used a standard Apple mouse for a number of those years with no adverse symptoms whatever. Maybe I haven’t trashed my wrists as badly as some have, but I’m sure both age and routine wear and tear are, in part, responsible for the symptoms I felt. So I probably have to be just a little more selective in selecting the ideal input device.

    At the same time, I don’t disagree with Jim Heid that it may be a good idea to have a couple of different types at hand, and switch among them every so often, to reduce the tendency to develop some sort of repetitive stress injury. In the end, I suppose I’m just fortunate or maybe I discovered an ideal posture strictly by accident, because I seldom pay attention to such things. Maybe it’s because I also use a “wrist curl” device as part of my daily exercise routine to keep the muscles flexible.

    Regardless, even if I didn’t suffer adverse effects, I would not regard the Mighty Mouse as a killer product. A smart one, yes, but Apple has a chance to set the standard for input devices. Maybe it’ll do better with the Mighty Mouse II. I remain ever optimistic.

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