When Will Apple Deliver A Decent Mouse?

May 22nd, 2007

Years ago, I actually believed that an Apple mouse was the bee’s knees. It was small, comfortable, or I believed it was at the time. I couldn’t understand why you needed multiple buttons, special software or how your hand could possibly cope with all those strange shapes and sizes.

I remember actually ordering a semi-custom mouse some years back, one that was designed to fit the approximate size of your hand. I made the proper measurements and all per the written instructions, but the product I received was way too large for comfort. After a day or two of frustration, I set it aside and retrieved the Apple mouse.

Today I’m older, though maybe not wiser. But I’ve reached the point where the flat Apple mouse exacts too much of a penalty on my aging wrists at the end of a long workday. I also became accustomed to having a minimum of two buttons and a scroll wheel, and eventually settled on products from Logitech and Microsoft as my preferred input devices.

Over the years, I was happy to join the chorus of those who suggested Apple was making a huge mistake confining itself to one button. I could sympathize with the desire to keep it simple. In fact, I find that a lot of Windows users never get the hang of the right mouse button, and Mac users rarely master a Control-Click for a context menu.

But consider all those operating system features that go unused.

So when Apple introduced the Mighty Mouse, I was one of the first on the block to buy one. Only the nearest Apple Store ran out of stock after just a few hours, and the second Apple outlet in the area never got a shipment, nor did any third party dealers.

Well, I finally got one a few days later, and I tolerated it for a few days before returning to my Logitech wireless laser mouse. The Mighty Mouse’s tiny scroll button, touted as some sort of wonderful innovation, felt tiny, insignificant even in my long and thin hands. It also made my finger tingle slightly after a few hours of rapid scrolling.

The problem, of course, is that what is uncomfortable to me may be just ideal for you. Unfortunately, the Mighty Mouse comes in the same basic form factor as its single-button predecessor. Worse, the software is configured to operate in the same fashion unless you change to a right button configuration in the Mouse preference panel. Well, that’s the way it was then, and I haven’t checked the setup since.

I just wonder if the company who also brought you the infamous hockey puck mouse for early versions of the iMac has ever done any research to see what form factors are best suited for the widest number of people. Does Steve Jobs invited some physicians to assist in the research, or does he regard himself as the lone beta tester to determine what works and what doesn’t?

Well, maybe not, because the shape of the Mighty Mouse isn’t so different from older Apple mice, some models of which appeared during Steve’s absence from the company.

So where does Apple go from here? Will they ever provide a different types of input devices to accommodate the needs of Mac users of all sizes and shapes? Will the issue of eliminating wrist strain and injury inspire them to test some innovative designs?

Or will we have to hope and pray that Steve Jobs develops a case of carpel tunnel so he is compelled to inspire his troops to deliver something that has a higher comfort factor? Understand that I do not harbor any negative feelings towards Jobs. I have chatted with him briefly a few times and he seemed reasonably polite and all.

But that’s not the important thing, and, yes, I realize there are plentiful supplies of third-party input devices that will accommodate most anyone’s needs. I’m also certain that Apple’s decision to stick with a single design creates a climate for other companies to sell product to Mac users who are not satisfied with Apple’s offering, be it wired or wireless.

The Mac, however, is offered as a complete solution out of the box. Everything from unpacking the box to the initial setup experience is carefully considered and designed to deliver the highest level of satisfaction.

Until you unpack the mouse, that is. Or at least that’s my not-so-humble opinion.

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25 Responses to “When Will Apple Deliver A Decent Mouse?”

  1. Tim Buchheim says:

    I like the overall shape of the mighty mouse. I would like the scrollball, if it didn’t get stuck after 3 days of use.

    The side buttons are stupid. The pressure required to activate them varies widely. I have a lab full of Macs (I’m a sysadmin at a college) and on some of the mice it takes a huge amount of force to push the buttons, and on others they are activated all the time by accident because it takes no force at all. So I always disable them.

    I hate the touch sensor thing for determining whether you’re clicking the left or right side.. no, I don’t mind lifting my left finger to right-click. My problem is that given the way I hold the mouse, half the time it thinks my left-clicks are right-clicks because my finger isn’t in exactly the right spot.

    They should just put a slit in the plastic and have two mechanical buttons. And keep the ball, but either provide a reasonable way to clean it, or make it so it doesn’t get stuck so easily to begin with. The ball could be a bit bigger, too.

  2. steve says:

    I haven’t had the scrollball to stick. I’ve used the MM for about 9 months, and I don’t wash my hands before using the computer, and it is not in an especially undusty environment, so I have no reason to think my experience would be exceptional.

  3. Arnold Ziffel says:

    Been using MMs for the past year or so (something like that), and have found the scroll ball gets dirty about every three to four months. Cleaning requires spraying Windex on a paper towel and rolling the ball on it repeatedly, then rolling it on the dry towel for a bit. Works like a charm. I find the scroll ball to be much easier to use than wheels. I’ve also disabled the right click and the pinch feature–got used to using a one-click mouse with our SE and haven’t found the need for right clicking, middle clicking, pinky clicking, nor thumb clicking. Thank you, Apple, for making functions one-clickable.

  4. rwahrens says:

    Well, I guess I’ll put in my two cents.

    I have both the wired and wireless version of the Mighty Mouse, and I do like them both.

    I naturally just keep one finger on the mouse button, so having to raise one finger to do a right click has never been an issue with me.

    I’ve always liked the way Mac OS X shows a contextual menu with a right click on a mouse, so I always used a third party (Microsoft – yuck) mouse for the two buttons. When Apple came out with the programmable two button mouse, I cheered! I LOVE the scroll ball with its 360 degree flexibility, too. Perhaps if they made it a couple of millimeters bigger, but that’s just subjective.

    I agree with the comments about the side buttons – they’re just useless, but using the scroll ball as a button is good, but it is also easy to inadvertently activate, tho.

    But I do like the clean lines of the MM, and I think its good that it works for both lefties and righties. As a desktop tech, I can appreciate equipment thats so flexible.

  5. Paul says:

    While the MM is an improvement on previous designs I am also waiting for Apple to design a decent mouse, I ended up disabling the side buttons as I was finding I was clicking them by mistake.

    As for the ball, while it works ok, every now and then I have to try and clean it as it stops working.

    Finally, while it’s good to have two buttons, I would like to see a version where the buttons are completely separate – maybe it wouldn’t look as good but at least it would be easier to use.

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