Mighty Mouse: Excrement Now Comes in White

by Chris Seibold Aug 09, 2005

The most inane debate of all time has to be the Apple multi button mouse tête-à-tête. For years people argued back and forth about the wisdom of Apple either shipping or failing to ship a multi button mouse. Surprisingly the argument could get quite heated at times (suprising because, after all, the debate was about a pointing device not economic policy or possible paths to eternal salvation). While the reason for the intensity of the debate remains puzzling the debate is finally well and truly over with the introduction of the Mighty Mouse. Oh, by the way, the answer is: Apple should have stuck with the one button mouse.

That conclusion undoubtedly seems surprising to the many proponents of Apple multi button goodness and to Apple themselves (they did release the Mighty Mouse). So let us examine the only real reason why Apple should have stuck with the one button mouse: Because the Mighty Mouse just isn’t very good. The fact is people expect really great stuff from Apple and if Apple isn’t going to ship something superior, something at least sanely great, they should just skip that segment of the market. Which is easy to say but practically begs for an explanation of why the Mighty Mouse is the Apple equivalent of Crystal Pepsi.

Aesthetics, some will argue, are completely subjective and hence a superfluous consideration. That is probably true when considering a lawn mower but with Apple products aesthetics are one of the defining factors and the first place the Mighty Mouse fails. Take the look of the standard Apple mouse: You’ve got a white lozenge wrapped in clear plastic, the thick clear shell makes the mouse seem brighter and smaller. The overall effect is that the mouse matches the pro Keyboard perfectly while appearing much smaller than it actually is; In fact the effect is so persuasive that the first time you lay your palm on the buttonless wonder you might be surprised by the actual size. Where the Pro Mouse is elegant and illusory the Mighty Mouse resembles nothing so much as a large waxy suppository and ruins the visual harmony found when using the standard mouse.

One could forgive the looks if only the Mighty Mouse offered substantial leaps in the usability department.  Ostensibly it does, you’ve got four buttons hidden here and there plus an omni directional track ball embedded in the top of the Mighty Mouse. Ah, where to begin? The old saw is “take it from the top” and this time that seems to be particularly sage advice. The omni directional track ball is positively tiny and this diminutive size makes the ball very difficult to manipulate. Getting the ball to scroll vertically or horizontally isn’t much of a challenge (though there is a tiny, but annoying, mechanical lag when reversing direction) but getting the ball to scroll diagonally is more challenging than pulling off Ryu’s uppercut in Street Fighter II Turbo SuperNES edition. Or said differently: the mouse will pan diagonally on occasion but rarely on demand.

Of course it is rare that one is presented with the need to actually scroll diagonally so perhaps this failing isn’t a deal killer. Let us turn our attention squarely at the dual top button functionality. The right no-button click is supposed to act consistently with the command click. For example if you command click a link in Safari a new tab or window opens (depending on your preference settings). Try this with the Mighty Mouse and a menu pops up asking you what you want to do (open link in new page/new tab etc.) This question necessitates another bit of input beyond the click and negates any time saved by not having to reach for the keyboard. Though, honestly, the lost time isn’t nearly as annoying as the fact that the button does not act exactly like the modifier key it supposedly replicates. That is nothing short of bad design. Update: I got this one completely wrong. The secondary button is actually the control key and the Mighty Bad Mouse replicates this functionality precisely. Thanks to xbaz as Chris Howard for pointing that out. Oh, so far no way to change the right click to the command key, so that bites.-CKS

While the above complaints are enough to chalk the Mighty Mouse up as a failed effort by Apple it wouldn’t be fair to omit the bits that Apple actually got right. What is there left to get right? Well the side buttons work remarkably well. Others have complained the Expose functionality is too difficult to invoke but it is not an experience I shared. Also the launching of Dashboard via the ball is nicely implemented. Further the left click right click delineation is surprising accurate, purposely trying to trick the mouse proved very difficult so the no button design is clearly workable. Oh yeah, the packaging was also nice (which is great for the first fifteen seconds you get a product but after that?)

Whining and faint praise aside let there be no doubt that the Mighty Mouse does not occupy the nadir of mouse design by Apple Computer. That distinction belongs solely to the hockey puck mouse, a mouse so bad that one is forced to wonder if the designer didn’t own a few shares of Logitech. You reach this conclusion as soon as you realize that the hockey puck mouse sold more third party mice than any “missing” second button.  While the Mighty Mouse isn’t as bad as the round puck of no luck it is pretty shoddy. Coming from most other companies one would rate the mouse as average at best, coming from a company with the reputation of Apple the Mighty Mouse can only be described as unacceptable.


  • Moff, that was precisely the experience I was hoping for. No such luck here.

    Dogger Blue,
    You may be onto something. I’ve tried two button mice over the years on Macs (used them on PCs all the time) but I really only took advantage of the second button playing, I think, warcraft. In that game command click sent your thug to do some appointed task as did the second button click. Perhaps I was expecting the same deal.

    I will note innovation does not neccessarily equal better. A clear cola, as cited above, was certainly innovative but it wasn’t good. If you think of this iteration of the Apple mouse as a beta then there are certainly things to build on but taken as whole, the picture is not so good.

    Chris Seibold had this to say on Aug 09, 2005 Posts: 354
  • Oh, by the way, the answer is: Apple should have stuck with the one button mouse.

    Not necessarily.  Unless they plan on replacing the single-button mouse entirely, then I see no point in the single-multi-button hybrid solution of the MM.  Anyone who opts to stick with the single-button configuration ALREADY has the single-button mouse that shipped with their Mac. 

    And while the MM gives certain fanatics what must be a welcome opportunity to happily fork over more money to Apple for no particular reason, the MM is specifically aimed at Mac users who want multi-button capability.  So why not just design a purely multi-button mouse that functions as a multi-button by default and get some Windows users on board as well?

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Aug 09, 2005 Posts: 2220
  • *flame suit on*

    Moff, I’m surprised.
    You’re saying you would rather have a mouse that “looks nice” than one that works. I know if I was in your position, I would defiantely rather have a “ugly gray and blue” mouse than having to run all the way over to a scroll bar.

    But I guess that is purely subjective, so here’s my opinion: the apple mouse is boring, ugly, and poorly designed. The mouse doesn’t contour to any human hands I know of, making it uncomfortable to grab for long periods. It’s too flat, so my pinky tends to slide underneath the mouse and pick it up from the table everytime I use it. I hate the surface button clicking—If i slide the mouse up too fast, the slack in the cord tends to get caught under the button and prevent any form of clicking. The mouse is not even designed, I’m glad they didn’t make it cordless, then you really wouldn’t be able to tell top from bottom

    You say that all “PC” mice are “ugly lumps of gray and blue plastic.” Is a lump of clear plastic any better? At least most “PC” mice are nicely textured, some even have really nice grips (rubber). Not to mention the clear plastic on the apple mouse makes fingerprints stand out like no other. After 30 minutes of heavy use, just about any “PC” mouse would look better than it.

    I don’t even know why everyone thinks apple has the best design and looks. There’s only 2 apple products I can think of that is designed well and has great looks, the iPod mini and their Cinema displays. The iPod’s look good, but the newer samsung MP3/Video players give it a run for its money (if only they could increase memory size a bit, i would take the samsung over the mini in a heartbeat). Their Cinema displays I have to admit, looks amazing; and those I would pick up without hesitation. Everything else, I can find something better—I can build a nicer looking desktop than the huge G5 tower, their powerbooks looks like someone spray painted everything silver. iBooks are ok, but nothing to go crazy over, and the mighty mouse looks like someone spilled xifan all over it.

    *flame suit off*

    I don’t understand why it’s so hard to understand right clicking. As dogger blue already said, right clicking lets you choose what you want to do with the object you selected. Left clicking selects the action. Double left clicking does the most common operation with the object.

    I hardly use double clicking. I almost ALWAYS go right click -> open -> left click. it’s actually faster for me to do that than double clicking. same story with dragging, I always drag with right click, then select what I want the dragging to do.

    Whenever I teach someone to use a computer, I always teach them right clicking first, before left clicking. I only mention double clicking as a sidenote for a shorthand method to perform the action in bold after they’ve mastered the right-click -> selection action -> left click. No one has ever gotten confused when I teach it to them this way (this includes my mom, who is the most technologically impaired person I know of.)

    makken had this to say on Aug 09, 2005 Posts: 21
  • I don’t know if you’re a man or woman, but I’m in love with you, makken.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Aug 09, 2005 Posts: 2220
  • Was in my local Apple store today and played with the Mighty Mouse. Now before I make my pronouncement, you should know that I have been using an MS Intellimouse for nearly two years and love it.

    The Mighty Mouse isn’t Mighty - but it isn’t the bag of pus many detractors make it out to be. Like many, I had trouble getting anything but a left mouse click to work reliably. Then my friend walked over and showed me how to hold it. That’s right. I tend hold an Apple mouse so my fingertips are near the top rather than lower down. When I moved my fingertips towards the front edge of the mouse…it worked perfectly.

    So I say its a pretty decent mouse…but not a Mighty Mouse. I’d still give that to the Intellimouse.

    davidwb had this to say on Aug 09, 2005 Posts: 32
  • Are we going to have to hose you down Beeb?

    James R. Stoup had this to say on Aug 09, 2005 Posts: 122
  • Not sure I agree with Makeen on the asthetic qualities of desktop/portable alternatives to the PowerBook’s or Power G5’s, but I couldn’t agree more when it comes to the ability to, and benefits of, right clicking.

    I still can’t get over that some feel two handed operation (keyboard + mouse) is a more elegenat solution. Or those that feel that the presence of a right mouse button is confusing.

    But to each his own I guess.

    I haven’t had a chance to test out the new Mighty Mouse but on it’s surface it isn’t exactly what I would look for when purchasing a new multi button mouse. Too close in design to Apple’s included mouse which I have an intense dislike for. But I am glad to see Apple embracing new input alternatives. Let’s hope the Mighty Mouse is mightier the second time around.

    AngryHamster had this to say on Aug 09, 2005 Posts: 19
  • Ergonomically, the pill shape allows to grip the mouse about a dozen different ways. A mouse that tries to shape itself to your hand can be held in just that one way. If you develop a feeling of strain from your hand being in that position, forget it. You have to get an entirely new mouse, and you will probably choose one next time that doesn’t lock you into one position. People who extol the virtues of a mouse shaped to fit a hand have probably never experienced repetitive strain injuries, or else they would realise that the worst thing you can do is lock yourself into one position only no matter how “shaped to your hand” it might be.

    This is the same reason that touring bikes (i.e. for very long journeys) use ten-speed style curved handlebars rather than a mountain-bike style straight bar. Neither one is shaped like the human armspan ... that isn’t the point.

    And then there’s this…

    “I hardly use double clicking. I almost ALWAYS go right click -> open -> left click. it’s actually faster for me to do that than double clicking.”

    Let me just say that I just plain don’t believe this statement, nor could any reasonable person. Two clicks with the same button cannot, a priori, be faster than two clicks with different buttons with a mouse-move sandwiched in-between. Not possible. Examine your objectivity and try again.

    Dogger Blue had this to say on Aug 09, 2005 Posts: 34
  • “I don’t know if you’re a man or woman, but I’m in love with you, makken. “

    O.o sorry, unless you’re a woman, this isn’t gonna work wink

    “Let me just say that I just plain don’t believe this statement, nor could any reasonable person. Two clicks with the same button cannot, a priori, be faster than two clicks with different buttons with a mouse-move sandwiched in-between. Not possible. Examine your objectivity and try again. ”

    I was waiting for someone to comment on that. Notice the “for me” part. In theory yes, double clicking is faster than the right click -> open, but in practice, at least to me, that is not the case.
    firstly, there’s strain on my finger. If i double click fast, I can feel quite a bit of strain on my forearm. to reduce that, I slow down my double clicking speed.
    second, there’s a much higher chance of error from double clicking. the most common is that i’ll start the second click before I return my finger to the fully up position, so the computer will only register it as one click. another common one to me is that I would quickly slide the mouse over to double click on an icon in the corner of my screen, but i will start the first click while the mouse is still sliding, causing it drag, then select with the second click.
    third, I only perform the default action of a double click half the time or so. The other times I’m doing some other option (editing an image in photoshop, adding music to playlist etc), so right clicking is starting to become a habit; it’s longer to actually get out of the context menu and double click again then to just select “open”

    makken had this to say on Aug 09, 2005 Posts: 21
  • Even if you need to “slow down your double click” speed (yeah, right) because of FINGER strain - two clicks is still faster than click, move, click (switching fingers no less).

    And that’s not a “just me” clause. “For You” it may seem faster, but that’s all it is, a subjective feeling of being faster. That could be all a human needs, simply the feeling - then makken kudos for finding a faster way, just don’t try to tell others it really is faster.

    Dogger Blue’s comment about the mouse being more ergonomic because it can actually accomodate more hand positions and types - sounds good, but is probably not the primary reason the mouse is shaped the way it is. It is shaped the way it is for aesthetic reasons. Function has definately been trumped by Form. And before the click wheel was retrofitted to the iPod, form was given higher priority than function (who the hell thought 4 horizontal buttons were better than the Gen 1 iPod?)

    BUT, our computers and accessories are being dragged into the increasingly fashionable area of home electronics. Things must be formed, even at the expense of a little function. If the Mighty Mouse was not beautiful (to most who see it, maaken - you’re probably not a metrosexual I am guessing) then no one would use it. It then becoming by default the most unusable mouse on the planet, no matter its actual physical usability.

    Nathan had this to say on Aug 09, 2005 Posts: 219
  • it’s not FINGER strain, it’s along the palm up to the forearm. try double click as fast as you possibly can. do you notice the little area between your index finger and thumb tensing up? it starts there and runs just past the wrist.
    second and third are personal things yah, so it is a just me cause, which i’ve stated. If double clicking is faster for you, then that’s fine; a lot of my friends think i’m weird for opening context menus 90 of the time. Don’t get me wrong, I still double click about 20 to 30 percent of the time, but if you force me to ONLY use double clicking while navigating my computer, I will be slower than if I can use a combination of the two.

    I do value form, but there has to be a line drawn somewhere. Maybe it’s a lot further for you than it is for me. the MM, even if taken from a purly artistic point of view still doesn’t look good to me.

    makken had this to say on Aug 09, 2005 Posts: 21
  • Makken, if you have double-click strain then you are certainly justified in doing it whatever way works for you and I take back my remark about your objectivity. However, I’d like to point out that this doesn’t make your way *faster* for you, just more comfortable for you. (The influence of habit BTW I generally discount because if you were to choose a different way you would obviously eventually acquire *that* habit instead, you just don’t choose it because it’s painful—understood.)

    Nathan, I put it to you that it doesn’t matter what the *intentions* were in making the mouse the shape it is. What matters are the *effects*. And if the effect is a better mouse for people with RSI difficulty (and I’m not the only one who has said so), then you can’t say that they have chosen form “over function”, whether or not you personally believe that they chose form for form’s sake. Who knows what evil lurks in the minds of men and mouse designers? The only relevant analysis is of the results.

    I notice that nobody has mentioned that the fact that the touch-sensitive circuitry doesn’t extend all the way to the back of the mouse *does* actually serve to restrict your hand position somewhat, *if* you want to right-click (if you want to set it to one-button mode with a scroll-nipple bonus then you’re still golden which as I’ve argued is the whole beauty of it), but *not* as much as any form of bearclaw shape does. Still, I might find myself turninig off that right button sensor on occasion.

    BTW I would also like to point out that interestingly, even though Chris is the only writer to compare the Might Mouse directly to fecal matter, he is probably also one of the very very few who does not take issue with the implementation of the squeeze button, and in fact who heaps praise upon it.

    P.S. Wasn’t that excrement reference a little bit sensationalist considering the generally lukewarm nature of the review? Feh.

    Dogger Blue had this to say on Aug 09, 2005 Posts: 34
  • Dogger Blue,
    Judging by the quality of my writing this may come as a surprise: I often do rewrites. Generally I rewrite because my stuff tends to be too long winded (as this reply is rapidly becoming). In any event my original review was much harder on the MM but the review was too long and rambling. So I cut out some of the stuff I hated about it (no mention of price, no mention of the ball getting glogged with filth, no mention of the cord, no mention of the mouse constantly getting dirty, no mention of a bunch of other stuff). I also read some other reviews (not a good idea).
    In any event time comes to publish and the piece is titled excrement. I realized that the title didn’t exactly reflect my revised story but the title really cracked me up. Rather than let a good joke go I stuck with it.*

    *Also note that Hadley comes up with that cool picture that accompanies every lead. Twice a week I try to write a story that will leave him befuddled. I was secretly hoping the excrement inclusion would lead to a very interesting picture.

    Chris Seibold had this to say on Aug 09, 2005 Posts: 354
  • This is the poorest written review of any hardware device I’ve had the displeasure of reading in quite some time.  And before you get your little pink panties all tied in a knot Mr. Seibold by responding with venim, I too have misgivings about Apple’s recent venture into mulit-buttoned mousedom.  However, the simple fact that you seem to be unaware of “context sensitive menus” and Apple’s ‘control’ key modifier as a substitution for the missing right mouse button of their one click Apple Pro Mouse wonder, should disqualify you immediately from writing Apple or Macintosh centric reviews again…EVER!  This website in general has sunk to the bottom of a blog sewer.  The endless rantings on second guessing Microsoft’s business strategies as if there’s still a ‘peecee’ war out there between Apple and M$ is just nothing but tripe.  These zealot rantings are too numerous to waste time on.  I thought this review might contain some pertiant and useful information. Instead, it contains nothing but uninformed drivel. I know that Stern and yourself think your being coy by inserting sly asides of cultural and geek references into your opinions, but instead they come off as disingenuous and affected.  To whomever is the owner of this website, improve the quality of writing contained within this website soon or perish alongside the rest of the useless blog drivel that takes up valuable server space. I dare you to leave my comments in tact!

    zoetrope had this to say on Aug 09, 2005 Posts: 5
  • Spelling mistakes and all!

    zoetrope had this to say on Aug 09, 2005 Posts: 5
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