Apple Magic Mouse is no Magic Bullet

Our tendency, based on other technologies, is to believe that our Apple accessories just keep getting better and better. However, Apple has had its share of hit and miss affairs with computer mice, and the Magic Mouse is no exception. (Remember the hockey puck mouse on the original iMac?)


Magic Mouse

Apple Magic Mouse

I've had the Apple Magic Mouse since October 31, and I've used it every day in my work. At first I thought it would be terrific because of the built-in gesture capability. Namely, one can:

  • Click or double click anywhere
  • Enable Two-button click (See the TMO Quick Tip)
  • Scroll and pan
  • Zoom the screen (not a new option)
  • Two-finger swipe for advancing through pages

These are all very nice features, and I use them all. Unfortunately, the feature list isn't the end of the story.

Kitten Chow

After using the Magic Mouse for awhile, several problems became apparent.

Horizontal Creep. A very gentle and inadvertent right to left touch can cause a page to scroll ever so slightly and cut off a slice of a web page. It's easy to fix; just turn off the "Swipe Left/right to Navigate" option. But then one loses the capability for selected apps. It's almost as if Apple designed (and tested) this feature with its own apps, like iPhoto, without regard for other apps. For example, the horizontal scroll plays havoc with the current version of Drag Thing.

Vertical Creep. With the old Mighty Mouse, one had to make an explicit motion to scroll with the small sphere near the front. Now, with the Magic Mouse, if you're editing a large document and accidentally brush the top of the mouse as you move your hand to the keyboard, the page will jump, losing your place. That has annoyed me a lot lately. The page should scroll only with an explicit action, not a brush of the arm, wrist or finger.

Tracking. Tracking seems unusually slow, even when set to maximum. Other customers have reported this to TMO. One fix, I am told, is to use Mousezoom. But we shouldn't have to resort to add-ons for a new Apple mouse.

Ergonomics. I have been using a Logitech wireless mouse ("Laser Travel Mouse") that is nicely fat. Well fed I guess. The design forces my hand to rest just a tad higher, and I don't need a wrist rest. But with the Magic Mouse laying so low, the edge of my arm now gets cut into by the edge of my desk. Pushing the display and keyboard further back than I would like solves the problem by resting more of my forearm flat, but now I'm hunched over more than I would like. The Magic Mouse still has me hunting around the house for a Beanie Baby to rest my arm on.

Logitech mouse

Family Rodents

Default Install. Let's face it. We're all grown up here. We use a UNIX OS. The business of making new Apple mice default to a one button mouse annoys the Apple crowd and provides disinformation and ammunition to the PC crowd. It's time to make the two button mouse the default.

Digesting it All

To sum it up, the features of the Apple Magic Mouse are out weighed, for me, by the comfort and predictability of my Logitech wireless mouse. Other vendors should not be afraid of the Magic Mouse nor try to copy it. It looks very cool, has some nice features, but it will require a long period of time to adapt to. One must change the habits developed with other mice. As a result, there's no urgency, in my mind, to run out and spend US$70.00, for the fun of it, if you like your current mice. Spend a lot of time with one in an Apple retail store if you can to determine if the new features are compelling.

System Requirements (via Apple)

  • Bluetooth-enabled Mac computer
  • Mac OS X v10.5.8 or later with Wireless Mouse Software Update 1.0* or Mac OS X v10.6.1 or later with Wireless Mouse Software Update 1.0
  • Existing keyboard and mouse for setup
  • Two AA batteries (included)

* Momentum scrolling supported only on Mac OS X v10.6 Snow Leopard.