Apple Magic Mouse

One of the things I got for Chrismas this year was Apple’s Magic Mouse. It is one of these devices that I sort of coveted, but wouldn’t actually buy myself due to the price tag, and the entire buttonless setup. As you may or may not know, I am a big fan of big and bulky mice. I’m currently using Microsoft Sidewinder on my desktop and loving it. It is a solid five button contraption with a hardware sensitivity switch, and a side loaded set of weights that lets you experiment with friction and inertia coefficients. I consider this, along with the analogous Logitech offerings to be a real man’s mouse. No scratch that – let’s not be sexist here. It’s a mouse for a discerning customer, a hacker who wants solid, reliable and configurable hardware.

Magic Mouse is none of that. It is a rather flimsy and decorative. It really looks nice next to my laptop, but it is in no way as sturdy and dependable as my trusty Sidewinder.

The Magic Mouse really looks nice next to a MBP

So why did I want one? Because it really does fit with my laptop. You see, my MBP is my untethered mobile workstation. When I’m at home and at my desk I usually work on my desktop because nothing beats the comfort of a 24″ monitor, a sidewinder mouse and the Microsoft Ergonomic Keyboard 4000. But when I want to work or browse the web while on the road, I want to travel light. I don’t want to be burdened by too many cords, USB dongles and other optional plug-in devices. Magic Mouse works on Bluetooth which makes it perfect fit.

Not only that, it is also a multi-touch device. One of the things I really enjoy while working under OSX are the built in touch-pad gestures. I love the two finger sideways swap that gets me to a clean workspace for example. These sort of things became part of my workflow on a Mac, but the touchpad only gets you so far. If you are working on a flat surface like a desk, it really helps to have a mouse handy – and I wanted a mouse that would let me preserve at least some of the gestures I have learned to love.

Hence, Magic Mouse – not something that I would normally buy, but something that did fit a specific set of mobility related needs. How do I like it so far? It’s not bad actually.

One thing that does bother me a bit is the lack of haptic feedback. The mouse does “click” as a mouse should – that’s not the problem. If you wanted to use it as a standard “Apple Mouse” that sports a single button, it would be perfect. But I’m a power user, and a single button is not enough for me. Fortunately, Apple knows that you can’t force people to work with single button devices – they will find ways around it. So in modern versions of OSX you can actually turn the second button click straight from System Preferences:

Apple knows that most people want two button mice these days.

This works very well. I’ve been using the mouse for several days now, and I have never had a mistaken click situation – left always registers as left, and right always registers as right. It just work. But, alas – I am lost without a middle button. Sadly, Apple has not acknowledged the existence or need for such an input methodology yet. Perhaps that feature will ship with Snow Lion, or whatever the next release of OSX will be called.

Sometimes I wonder how other mac users browse the web without a ubiquitous middle click? On the touch-pad I ended up installing a nifty app called Magic Prefs which allowed me to configure a three-finger-click as middle mouse. Since that app was already running on my machine, I used it to add a similar feature to my Magic Mouse:

How I add middle click to my Magic Mouse

I found that three-finger-click is not comfortable on the small frame of a Magic Mouse, so instead I opted for a gesture that can only be called a “long-finger-click”. I think the picture above explains it quite well – it involves laying down your finger along the vertical axis of the mouse – which I find is exactly what my hand wants to do when I decide to middle-click.

Unfortunately, the detection of this gesture is a bit iffy. Part of it might be the software implementation – if Apple acknowledged middle-click as a valid user need they could probably devise a very tight detection with wide margin of error for this gesture. Built in OS features tend to be much more streamlined and tested than third party apps. Still, the other part of the equation is the lack of aforementioned haptic feedback. On my Sidewinder the middle click is effortless because the mouse wheel is big, metallic and textured (for better grip). Magic mouse has a glassy surface, and you have to more or less guess where to place your finger. It is not a hardware problem – it is a design paradigm issue that he are yet to solve.

Would I recommend this mouse to someone else? It depends. If you have a MacBook, and you want a portable, wire/dongle free device that will just work and let you combine the touch gestures with a flexibility of a mouse then yeah – it is a good pick. If you are running Windows I’d probably stay clear. Multi-touch under Windows tends to be as wonky as Bluetooth mouse support.

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5 Responses to Apple Magic Mouse

  1. Liudvikas LITHUANIA Google Chrome Windows Terminalist says:

    So what would you suggest for a “real mans mouse”, that could withstand nuclear holocaust or even worse – me dropping it again and again.
    Because as of now all my mouses break because of my clumsiness, same goes for all the other peripherals.

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  2. Naum UNITED STATES Google Chrome Mac OS says:

    Before magic mouse, loathed all Apple incantations of the mouse.

    Magic mouse is the most fantastic mouse ever IMV. Initially, I installed BetterTouchTool to add additional gestures, but have found that the default (plus enabling right click) OS X setup is dandy enough.


    Two big reasons — scroll with inertia (when PC users bash the Mac mouse, they simply do not understand the “scroll with inertia” — it literally becomes an extension of your finger and is so natural and intuitive — only apt comparison would be the scroll motion on a touch device interface, like iPhone or iPad or Android device. The other may only be relevant if you do media (image, audio, video, etc.…) manipulation but is also handy when browsing — slide left (in browser, go back) and slide right (in browser, go forward).

    Also, not using Lion yet, so my mouse setup looks a little different but to “screen zoom”, I just depress Ctrl button and “scroll” up or down to zoom in / zoom out.

    I couldn’t go back to a regular mouse — I would feel crippled…

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  3. i really had to “work” with one of these over the last years, since it came with my work-imac.
    To cut it short: i hated every second of it and just loved when i accomplished the heroic feat to convince my boss of buying me a cheap 25€ gaming-mouse.
    Not even is this one cable-bound (and thus doesn’t run out of batteries every month, what leads to unbearable recharging/exchanging trouble if >10 persons use such crap) it even has the astonishing amount of 5 buttons and doesn’t scroll accidently because i just touched the mouse again. Even better: it _has_ haptic feedback and is somewhat ergonomic.

    I don’t understand how apple accomplished to really get everything wrong what is to producing mice. We have cable-less mice around for some years now, giving it a cradle or even better some micro/mini-usb-port, so allowing it to recharge or even beeing used while charging is no magic anymore.

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  4. Victoria Netscape Navigator Mac OS says:

    It was a present for my birthday. It’s pretty and shiny and photogenic, but I hate it :) especially the bottom lines that make a faint but nasty scratching noise against the table.

    My usual mouse is Wacom Intuos 3 native mouse, which has a nice curvy ‘butt’ that fits my hand perfectly.

    I did like the magic trackpad though.

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  5. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Google Chrome Mac OS Terminalist says:

    @ Liudvikas:

    I think the cheeper you go, the more robust they get. The standard wired mouse you get for free with a new Dell desktop can last years of abuse. Usually they die due to frayed cords rather than due to structural damage. I mean, it’s a chunk of plastic, with a tiny circuit board and laser lens embedded inside. It’s actually difficult to break it.

    @ Naum:

    Yeah, the scrolling is a delicate process on this mouse. It works very much like the touchpad which does take a bit of getting used to. Granted, the touchpad on the MBP is the best touchpad I have used in my life – the PC experience does not even come close. Magic Mouse is a combination of a great touchpad and crappy mouse which results in an average/decent experience. :) I still prefer the sidewinder for precision work.

    The Ctrl+Scroll motion still works in Lion. I think the tap is there to let you auto-zoom images and such. Haven’t really used it much.

    I especially like these:

    – Single finger swipe left/right: browser back/forward
    – Two finger swipe left/right: switch workspaces
    – Two finger double tap – equivalent of three finger upward swipe – shows all the workspaces

    @ Dr. Azrael Tod:

    Actually, pretty much every cordless mouse I have ever owned was battery operated so this is not such a huge issue. I sort of got in a habit of switching off my mice when I leave the desk for an extended period of time.

    But yeah, I can relate to these complaints. For me the ability to use gestures and the Bluetooth support does make up for some of that inconvenience.

    @ Victoria:

    Ugh, those black lines – yeah, they are kinda weird, and the sound they make is a bit off-putting. I might need to get a mouse pad or something.

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