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November 4th, 1999

Microsoft IntelliMouse Explorer
Contact and Other Information
Manufacturer: Microsoft
Product Info: IntelliMouse Explorer
Description: Ergonomic, 4-button optical mouse with wheel.
Address: One Microsoft Way
Redmond, WA
Telephone: (425) 882-8080
Pricing: US$74.95 - MSRP

US$69.99 - MacMall

Requirements USB-capable Mac (either on board or via add-on card)

Mac OS 8.5.1 or greater (Mac OS X not supported)

iMac update 1.1 or later (only on Mac OS 8.5.1)

System Used For Testing Power Computing PowerCenter with 400MHz G3 upgrade, Keyspan USB card, Mac OS 9.0
Microsoft IntelliMouse Explorer, One Of The Best Mice On The Planet
by Dave Hamilton

It's been a long time since I've seen a NEW optical mouse on the market. I remember seeing Mouse Systems, Inc. pushing them at AppleFest in years gone by, and they always had these funky little mousepads that came with them so the mouse would track properly.

Things have changed. Big time.

Enter Microsoft with their new IntelliMouse Explorer. This little gem is modern, comfy, and, as Microsoft says, will track on almost anything. No need for that funky gridline-laden mousepad -- heck, there's no need for ANY mousepad. Put it on your leg, your desk, your rug (no thick shag, please!), and you're good to go.

This Mouse Has Eyes

It's true. The mouse has a digital camera embedded in the bottom. With the help of a red light to illuminate its path, the camera takes 1,500 pictures per second. These pictures are passed along to a digital signal processor that compares each picture to the one before it and decides which direction the mouse is moving. It sends that data back up the USB cable and the cursor jumps to life!

Ergonomic Love

From the moment I laid my hand on this mouse, I knew the only way it would leave was if someone pried it from my cold, dead fingers. My hands are large, and most mice are uncomfortable for me. This mouse fit right in and all 4 buttons and the wheel (the only moving parts on it) were right where I'd want them. The mouse has two buttons in their normal places and a wheel in between them. The remaining two buttons are positioned on the side, right above where your thumb rests. These have come in quite handy in their default configuration of "back" and "forward" in a web browser (more on the configuration software below).

As with anything ergonomically designed, there are bound to be those that don't find it comfortable. Thankfully, I'm using a mouse with my right hand these days, because this mouse is not made for a left-hander. Also, people with small hands may not enjoy this mouse, as its size makes it difficult to handle. These folks may want to look at the Microsoft IntelliMouse with IntelliEye, a smaller, 2-button mouse with the same optical technology.

We did have one problem with the early review unit that we were sent where the button would not stay down during drag operations, dropping the dragged object in random, undesired places. Microsoft was quick to replace that with a true production unit which we haven't had any trouble with at all.

Microsoft Software That Works

This mouse is fantastic, and the driver software is no exception. The interface is clean, it's fully customizable, and everything works like it's supposed to. Each button can be mapped to a multitude of different click combinations, keystrokes, common applications (Finder, Sherlock), and scrolling options. The wheel is no exception as it too is fully configurable. Scrolling speed is adjustable, and Microsoft has introduced a new feature called "Accelerated Scrolling." This changes the rate at which the screen scrolls in relation to the speed at which you spin the wheel. Very handy, as it almost seems to "read" the speed you want. The default action for clicking on the scroll wheel lets you set an automatic scroll rate by dragging the mouse up or down. Once set, you can take your hands off the mouse and let the screen scroll automatically while you read along.

The Intellipoint Software also allows you to set the speed at which the cursor tracks on the screen, and it offers a "Snap To" function wherein the cursor automatically jumps to the default button choice when presented with a dialog box. The software can also be completely disabled for specific programs like games, where you'd want Input Sprockets to control the mouse directly.

Smooth as a...

Because the mouse has no tracking ball underneath, it slides along any surface with ease. The mouse tracked equally well on the carpet, a mousepad, a desk, a plain white piece of paper (!), and just about everything else we tried. A shag rug or something bumpy will, for obvious reasons, produce less-than-desirable results, but other than that this mouse moves anywhere you do.

Red Light, Go!

This just has to be discussed. As stated above, the mouse has a red light on its underside that it uses to light the path for the camera. The folks at Microsoft went ahead and left a piece of the back of the mouse translucent, so it glows red whenever your computer's on. We loved it here, but I can imagine it being a bit of a nuisance if your mouse is in your bedroom while you're trying to sleep! Then again, perhaps there IS a reason to have dust covers for all this computer equipment after all!

What Can We Say?

This mouse is the best thing since split keyboards. It meets the needs of the average computer user while enhancing productivity and adding a bit of flair to the work environment at the same time. It is, unfortunately, only available in a USB-based model, which rules out people who don't have newer Macs or USB upgrade cards. Definitely worth the purchase price, if not for everything else than for the fact that you'll never have to scrape grime off the rollers inside your mouse again!

Final Score (Maximum Score is 5 Gadgies)
4 1/2 Gadgies
Pros Operation is smooth,
Software is simple and intelligent,
Controls work as one would expect,
Digital Camera sensor tracks with
a high degree of accuracy.
Cons Ergonomic design precludes small hands
and left-handed people,
Requires USB, no ADB support.

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