The Mac Needs a Two Button Mouse—Oh Wait!

| Editorial

“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds."

-- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Since the beginning of Macintosh time, the Mac has either had a single button mouse or a two button mouse with the default set to one button. That has to change.

When one lives on the Internet daily as I do, in the realm of Apple, it's impossible to avoid the continuing ritual of Switchers who must deal with what seems, at first, to be a single button mouse on the Mac. It's one of those myths that just won't go away, as in, "AppleTalk is chatty, a network nightmare" and "The Mac OS is a toy OS, not suitable for the enterprise."

Why Apple subjects itself to this perpetual whipping at the hands of the Switchers and the PC press who voice their frustration and ridicule respectively is beyond comprehension. Most recently, FOX News had to lecture Apple on this issue in an article that, in all fairness, pointed out some other Apple problems: Guy R. Briggs wrote, soberingly, "I can’t remember ever logging into a Windows Guest account, for example, only to have the OS erase all of the files in the Administrator account."

It's not that Apple can't change. Apple has, in the past, (and I use the word lovingly) ruthlessly propelled us forward. The original iMac dispensed with the 3.5-inch floppy. Apple abandoned SCSI to move to USB, a protocol that hogs the CPU and is intended mainly to sell more and faster Intel chips. Apple abandoned FireWire on the iPods to please the PC users. Apple dragged us, ruthlessly, into the Mini DisplayPort. Apple isn't afraid of change.

But when it comes to the sacred one button mouse, I suspect Mr. Jobs enforces that rule, and no one at Apple dares challenge him.

It's simple, Mr. Jobs. This an obsolete obsession. It's an out of the box experience that infuriates. At each earnings report, Mr. Cook likes to point out that 50 percent of the people buying Macs in the retail stores are new to Macs. Yet Apple insists on infuriating and befuddling them with a mouse whose default is one button.

The time for the one button mouse is long gone. It's an anachronism of the 1990s. Apple should make the default setting a two button mouse. Mac users replacing an older Mac will know what to do, and Switchers will have a better out of the box experience.

Isn't that what's really important?

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44 Comments Leave Your Own

geoduck

Agreed.
For at least a decade, with each new desktop Mac I’d get, personally or for where I worked at the time, I’d always toss the stock mouse in a drawer and get a nice MacAlly mouse with two clearly marked buttons and a big scroll wheel. They were cheap and nobody could say the Mac didn’t do 2 button mice.

Interestingly my MacBook came with one and two button gestures; click with one finger for left, two for right. there are those at Apple who know this is the modern standard.

If you look up the word Anachronism in the dictionary would it show a picture of a one button mouse?

pats

John what are you really saying? We should get rid of SJ and multi-touch or go back 20 years and have Apple put visible left and right buttons on all rodents.  Last I looked you can set the four or five buttons on the mighty mouse via a control panel.  I agree that Apple mice are a unique breed but it takes all of a second to enable them to use context sensitive menus via a right click.  Funny thing is I use a Microsoft mouse on my mac.  It is about the only hardware Microsoft gets right.  We all need our safety blankets.

deasys

Big deal. All Macs provide or support multi-button mouse functionality. It takes a click to enable it.

Use a two button—or a ten button—-mouse if you want but don’t encourage Apple do to the mouse what it did to FireWire.

geoduck

pats and deasys I think you may be missing the point. Yes OS-X and the Mac will support multibutton mice. It even comes with a mouse that is multibutton. But by default it works as a single, with the left and right buttons doing the same thing. This should be changed so that the right button does typical right click things out of the box. Switchers are already trying to figure out the strange world of Mac. There’s no reason to make them go in and reset system setting within 5 minutes of them turning on their Mac for the first time. There’s no reason to make it any harder or to give the WinTel crowd more ammunition.

John Martellaro

geoduck explains it exactly right.

Tiger

This is such an old and tired argument. If this is the biggest complaint from users, Apple’s got it made in the shade.

Personally, I would prefer to complain about the need for an “in-between” Mac. More than a Mini, less than a Pro. A headless Mac box that I can use with my own monitor, mouse and keyboard, but with more horsepower than the Mini has. I’m a Pro user at work, but I don’t have the need or enough cash to justify a Pro at home. I’ve had and routinely upgraded the same G4 for 7 years.

I’d love if Apple reinvented the Cube and made it a viable MacMedium.

algr

Apple does it the right way.  Default to simplicity, and let the users who want more control act to take it.

John Martellaro

I think we’ll see that the Quad core iMac will unleash a bonanza of pent up demand.  It’s on back order, more than any other Mac in recent memory, and that’s a good sign.

ctopher

but if it’s the same… why switch?

daemon

This is such an old and tired argument. If this is the biggest complaint from users, Apple?s got it made in the shade.

Uh… there’s actually quite a bit more complaints than just that. Perhaps the most glaring example of just how much is wrong with Macs are the amount of brand new macs running Windows instead of OS X.

Lee Dronick

If Apple gave the switchers two buttons out of the box then they would be asking for a Start button. smile

I don’t know, maybe it isn’t a conscious decision to have the right button disabled by default. It could be one of those we always did it that way things.

Josh

So does this fulfill the obligatory “Complaint about Something” that TMO does about Apple every so often.  It seems like you write these pieces, not because they are important enough to actually spend time on, but because you’ll look too much like you are in Apple’s back pocket if you don’t.

I can understand your desire to seem objective, but how about you actually pick something worth to criticizing.  This is NOT worth the digital ink.

gslusher

Why only a two-button mouse? Why not 4 buttons? Why not 8 buttons? Why not 120,689 buttons?

I’ve not used an Apple mouse since I first got a Mac in 1992, except for set-up and hardware tests. Of course, I don’t use ANY mouse with my iMac. Instead, I use a Kensington Expert Mouse—a trackball, despite the name. It’s easier to use and has four physical buttons, plus one can define two “gestures” (simultaneously press the front two or back two buttons). To me, a mouse—of any kind—is an ergonomic disaster and a waste of desk space. So, should Apple bow to my preferences and include a trackball, instead of a mouse?

Most of the PC users I know do not use the mouse that came with their home computers.

ozman

A few comments about the content of the article:

1) I believe that what we have here is a point of differentiation. Correct me if I’m wrong, but Macs provide sufficient functionality for the user to operate them fully without needing two mouse buttons while PC’s do not. If indeed it is a point of differentiation (and I concede that I may be wrong), why would a savvy manufacturer want to eliminate it? In fact, wouldn’t they want to ensure that it is conspicuously available rather than being a hidden option?

2) For a new user, utilizing a double-button mouse is ONLY simpler if they are already accustomed to using that type of mouse since more sophisticated coordination and learning is involved. By definition, new computer users have in fact never used a computer before!

3) The authors argument is tantamount to saying that it is likely the 2-button mouse should someday be abandoned simply because most computer users have by then been introduced to 3-button mice.

4) Regarding the “default,” it seems to me that the simplest option that makes the tool useable by a majority of people should be the default setting. If so, it is quite reasonable that the single-button mode would be the default.

trrll

So Apple should change it because some people are ignorant?

I’ve worked with a number of people who have had trouble with two button mice and remembering what button does what. They certainly would not know how to switch to one-button function if the default was two. The single button makes the Mac much less challenging to the novice computer user. On the other hand, for the two-button savvy user, turning on the second button takes only a moment, one time in the life of the computer. Moreover, by making one button the default, Apple subtly enforces on developers a standard that the second button is a convenience, and is never required to access the features of an application.

Nom

Watch my daughters struggle with Adobe flash apps on the web and why there’s this strange menu thing that sometimes comes up when they click.

Then tell me that there’s no merit in a single-button mouse.

DoctorB

The time for discussion of a one v two (or more) button mouse is long gone. It is an anachronism of the 1990s and died with OS9.

G-Man

I deal with many people in my profession, from the switcher to the new Mac user, to the new to computers, ELDERLY users. In all cases, the new to Mac and computers person has no problem with a one button mouse and the elderly users (those with arthritis, stroke victims, and others with conditions more crippling) find it more difficult and much more confusing to use a 2-button mouse as the menu keeps popping up when they don’t want it! It seems to be only the PC switchers and other long-time 2-button abusers who complain and can’t manage to figure out how to set a preference. Apple sets a default of one-button use for the simplicity of ALL USERS, from age one to age one hundred and beyond! PC people just don’t understand ease-of-use for people who have dexterity problems. Apple understands how to make their machines usable by every age group—not just the young and dextrous!

Lancashire-Witch

I’m a switcher - from Sinclair to Commodore to Apple to IBM to HP to Acer back to Apple…  One or two buttons - It doesn’t bother me, but I’m lost without a scroll wheel. And I choose my mice based on comfort and fit - strangely, I’ve never chosen an Apple mouse.

brett_x

I’m upset that they went from a 3 button mouse to a 2 button mouse. There’s no middle click on the Magic Mouse. I use that all the time (almost as much as a right click).

ozman

I choose my mice based on comfort and fit - strangely, I?ve never chosen an Apple mouse.

Perhaps not strange at all. Apple’s mouse devices have never been designed to fit a hand.

I have owned a number of different Mac computers starting in 1984, and in my various roles as physician, writer, animator, etc., I’ve been perfectly satisfied with the mouse devices that shipped with the machines. I’ve found that a mouse does not have to fit my hand, just my fingertips. If I were a graphic artist who had to draw with a mouse, I would be choosing a different input device, whether mouse or graphic pad.

I think of an Apple-provided mouse as an introductory general purpose device from which people are expected to feel free to upgrade for their own specialized needs. Works for me!

trrll

There are two very different mousing styles. People who use their mouse like a pencil, with light fingertip control, tend to like the Apple mouse. People who like their mouse to do double duty as a palmrest tend to hate the Apple mouse, and prefer a more rounded, palm-contoured mouse with separate buttons, like those made by Logitech.

esegre

I have been an Apple—-Mac user since 1977 and since Apple invented the use of the mouse I think their aproach has been the right one, I have never missed the right button and have never used it and Im not the little bit less efficient for it.
Windows users are full of stupid inbred behaviors like:” push start to log out or quit” So we have to start harassing windows users for that little piece of stupidity??  no… let them be ,as for the mouse ,use whatever you need and stop trying to change the world because a microscopic piece of it doesnt fit you.

Intruder

Perhaps the most glaring example of just how much is wrong with Macs are the amount of brand new macs running Windows instead of OS X.

And how many would that be? Running Windows exclusively?

Lee Dronick

People who use their mouse like a pencil, with light fingertip control, tend to like the Apple mouse.

That is the way I use it and with the Magic Mouse I had to start using a lighter touch. I have to come very much like this new mouse.

For a palm rest I have a long strip of fleece on the edge of my keyboard drawer.

rjackb

John has it exactly right and this is not an unimportant issue as some respondents seem to think. Virtually all Windows users use the right button constantly, are very surprised to find it missing if they move to a Mac, and have no idea how to change the behavior. That is not a good user experience. There is no arguing that point.

I would also wager that probably 95% or more of Mac users also use the right button constantly—and as one of those Mac users, I find it very annoying to have to change my mouse preferences if using a new Apple mouse for the first time.

As for you single-button aficionados, having two mouse buttons does nothing at all to stop you from continuing to use only a single button. So you really have no basis at all to find a two-button mouse objectionable. And, don’t forget, you could always go to System Preferences and change it back to a one-button mouse if you really insist on being so obstinate.

Mac User

Thank you for this post. I love my macs but the insistance on slapping a new switcher with a fundamentally altered input device from what they will be expecting is a huge sign of the contempt that Steve Jobs holds for people that are not long time mac users. It is in direct conflict with the message that the commercials send, that a Mac works like you’d expect it to.

John Martellaro

a huge sign of the contempt that Steve Jobs holds for people

I wouldn’t go that far.  Rather, I believe it’s an unwarranted obsession and a sign of inflexible thinking that creates an experience that no longer serves modern users.

Mac User

“Apple abandoned SCSI to move to USB, a protocol that hogs the CPU and is intended mainly to sell more and faster Intel chips.”

WTF??
Apple moved from SCSI to ATA- like the rest of the PC world.
Apple moved from ADB to USB - like the rest of the PC world.
SCSI hogs CPU? Is that why it’s used in high end drives (SAS) and Fibre Channel?
And all those changes were made at more than decade before Apple moved to Intel.
Nice way to blow all credibility in one sentence.

Mac User

oops, I miss understood. USB is the CPU hog. That must be why every PC, camera, cel phone, thumb drive, etc uses it.
At any rate Apple moved to USB as they moved from TO the PPC chip.

TPA8580

I’m sorry but when I switch to the Mac, 7 years ago and got stuck with the one button mouse I never looked back. I never saw the one button mouse as being annoying. Even with the mighty mouse I use ctrl - click instead of right clicking. The only thing I missed was the scroll wheel. But that has been remedied with the Mighty Mouse and now the Magic Mouse.

Truth be told I work in a APR and most people whom switch to the Mac for the first time, get used to the, one physical button idea very quickly.

TPA8580

I?ve been perfectly satisfied with the mouse devices that shipped with the machines. I?ve found that a mouse does not have to fit my hand, just my fingertips.

I have exactly the same experience. My hand never fully rests on the mouse just my finger tips.

JulesLt

The point is that once this was a valid decision - for someone with no previous experience of a computer, having one button for ‘do something’ made it a lot easier to learn.

It also forced software designers to think within those limitations.

But I’d agree with John - once upon a time there were more people with no experience of any computers at all, now most potential Mac buyers have experience of Windows.

And given that the OS has supported 2-button mice forever, and the shipped hardware also supports 2-buttons . . why not make it the default?

(I suspect it is a Jobs thing - like the iPhone having one-button . . . and growing more with each version to improve usability).

ozman

Imagine that Microsoft Word were free of cost and was pre-installed on all computers. Everybody who currently uses a computer has already been exposed to MSFT Word, and it has all the bells and whistles. Considering that there will always be first-time computer users who’ve never been exposed to a word processor before, who would choose to have MSFT Word set up as the default when simpler word processors (that demonstrate most of the same principles) are also available on the computer? Probably only Microsoft.

once upon a time there were more people with no experience of any computers at all, now most potential Mac buyers have experience of Windows.

Yes, but bear in mind that, even as new babies are born everyday, there will always be new users who, by definition, have NEVER used a computer before. What about them? The default setting should take that into account especially since it’s more reasonable to expect an experienced computer user to quickly change a default setting than to expect the same from a new user.

davidneale

I far prefer the single-button mouse and have done since the first one I used back in the 1980s (and I’d used two-button ones before then). Somebody above wrote, “the insistance on slapping a new switcher with a fundamentally altered input device from what they will be expecting is a huge sign of the contempt that Steve Jobs holds for people that are not long time mac users.” Well, stuff that for a lark! I’m a long-time Mac user and I don’t want to be fobbed off with a multi-button monster, thank you very much.

kirkgray

First, I’ve always gotten along well with Apple’s supplied mice (since my first Mac in 1984). But, like others who do, I tend to rest my hands on or near my keyboard and lightly touch the mouse only as needed.

While the Magic Mouse is a step in the right direction, what Apple really needs to do is to abandon the mouse altogether.  Apple, please give me a USB or Bluetooth keyboard identical to that of my MacBook Pro—keyboard and multi-touch touchpad in one slim aluminum unit.  Then, as I move from desktop to laptop, my keyboarding and “mousing” routines would be identical.  Now that’s ease of use.

trrll

I use the second button extensively, and the first thing I do with a new Mac is enable the additional Mac buttons. Nevertheless, I think that it is right for the default behavior to favor the novice computer user who is likely to be disoriented and annoyed by unwanted popup menus, rather than the presumably more computer-sophisticated experienced Windows user, who is likely to have enough computer experience to think to go into the System Preferences and adjust the Mouse settings to his liking.

Still, Apple is picking up more and more former Windows users, and from the comments, I guess some of them aren’t so sophisticated after all. So maybe Apple needs a special new user tutorial for Windows switchers. It could come up on first boot after the “Welcome” video (perhaps a “Windows Switchers Start Here” button in the lower left-hand corner of the screen), and could explain the basics of getting started on the Mac: System Preferences instead of Control Panel, How to enable the second mouse button, Menu bar at the top of the screen, Shut down command under the Apple, Command key instead of Control, and so forth.)

Lee Dronick

Still, Apple is picking up more and more former Windows users, and from the comments, I guess some of them aren?t so sophisticated after all.

I noticed that. Not the technically minded ones of course, but the pedestrian Windows user who just use it they way it came out of the box and don’t explore the system very much.

geoduck

Apple, please give me a USB or Bluetooth keyboard identical to that of my MacBook Pro?keyboard and multi-touch touchpad in one slim aluminum unit.?

That’s the best idea I’ve heard so far. It got me to think of how I use my Mac and with its large multi-touch trackpad my MacBook has never had a mouse plugged into it.

Lancashire-Witch

That?s the best idea I?ve heard so fa

I agree. How about a trackpad where the numeric keypad used to be? Left handed option too, naturally.

Then Steve can forget all about buttons - they’d be extinct!

Ken

Apple’s defaults (for anything) are the simplest settings, and as users learn the system, they can turn on the more complex settings.

The result is that with Apple, the system grows with the user’s expertise.

Now for experts like you, it might be annoying to spend five seconds turning on features, but most people aren’t experts. Apple gives the user a more pleasurable experience—a computer that they can use right out of the box and that grows as they do. It’s better to let the user turn on features to make the computer do more things, than it is to force the user to hunt down and turn off features that are annoying and confusing.

If you are an expert user, you know how to change the default in five seconds, so quit your bellyaching. If the default were two buttons, the new user wouldn’t know how to simplify it.

That is why one button is the default. It won’t change.

Dean Lewis

I agree with G-Man above. As someone who has taught people of all ages to use computers over the years, the second mouse button really does cause a lot of confusion to novice users and a lot of headaches for people with mobility problems. I prefer the simplest setting with the option to get more complicated by using the Mouse preference panel or adding a new mouse with however many buttons or trackballs or pads one wants.

If Switchers are having trouble, they just need to be better made aware of where things are in relation to their previous Windows experience, and there are people to show that as well as tutorial videos at Apple’s site and around the Internet. Making that clear at startup would be key. Also, in Snow Leopard, the Help feature is much faster and more animated than ever before, too. Granted, Windows users may have to be told that as well since they may not be used to a Help feature that actually finds what you need pretty well. wink

Dean Lewis

Quick aside, I’m interested to see where the Magic Mouse and all the coming iterations of gesture and motion control are going and how they will affect, for better or worse, those with mobility problems.

Dean Lewis

One last thing (okay, two—is editing an article comment possible for logged in users?):

I just went up to “Help” in the Finder and typed in “mouse” and the very first choice in the list that comes up is “Changing the way your mouse works.” Definitely informing people that the Help function might just be the first place to look on a Mac could be useful. smile

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