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.


  • Dare me to leave your comments “in tact” eh zoetrope? No Problem! In fact I want to thank you for taking the time to register and the time to post that informative missive.

    As for sly asides and cultural geek references, well, if you say so. Never thought of myself as sly or actually geeky, more of just a regular guy. But whatever makes you happy.

    I understand that you might not like the writing that Apple Matters hosts and that is okay, to each his own. I find most of it, my stuff excluded, very good. James and Chris Howard do a fantastic job and I am honored to be the worst writer here.

    Oh, and for the record, I don’t wear little pink panties. It would be a fashion faux pas for the ages. I wear boxers. But it is nice, or possibly scary, to know that you were thinking of my undergarments.

    Venomous responses just aren’t my thing. I made an error and I owned up to it as soon as I was made aware of said error. I apologise, personally, to you zoetrope. I’ll try to do better in the future.

    Chris Seibold had this to say on Aug 09, 2005 Posts: 354
  • I dare you to write comments in tact! Heh, seriously, the peecee war *is* still out there, and if you don’t believe it, then you haven’t been paying attention to much of anything, from what’s been happening with web browsers *this year*, to the tribulations of Longhorn *this year*, and especially to the remarkable year that is Apple 2005. For good or ill, this will be remembered for decades as the year Apple radically altered it’s course, as we can discern from several announcements, including this mouse. And the year’s only barely more than half done!

    Dogger Blue had this to say on Aug 09, 2005 Posts: 34
  • One last thing zoetrope: You can call me Chris, Mr. Seibold is much too formal.

    Chris Seibold had this to say on Aug 10, 2005 Posts: 354
  • zoetrope, hang around, I reckon you’ll enjoy the article I’ve submitted for this week, which should appear tomorrow. Whereas Dogger, I can see we are going to disagree!

    And Chris!!!! I didn’t need the boxers image! :D

    Chris Howard had this to say on Aug 10, 2005 Posts: 1209
  • I thought you would like this

    Bad Beaver had this to say on Aug 10, 2005 Posts: 371
  • <objectivity and try again.</i>


    I’m sorry, did <objective</i>?

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Aug 10, 2005 Posts: 2220
  • Heh, seriously, the peecee war *is* still out there, and if you don’t believe it, then you haven’t been paying attention to much of anything, from what’s been happening with web browsers *this year*, to the tribulations of Longhorn *this year*, and especially to the remarkable year that is Apple 2005.

    There is no more transparent window into zealotry than the trickly little issue of wars over market share, or more specifically the *spin* on said share.

    Now, I happen to agree with DB that the PC wars are still hot, or at least luke warm.  Apple, for all its paltry market share in desktop computing, manages somehow and someway to steal the lion’s share of the press.  They are helped in no small way by Microsoft’s media ineptitude and the long-delayed Vista.

    But what’s interesting is how this take on a product war RADICALLY changes when anyone brings up the Ipod and it’s dominance of the portable mp3 player market.  Suddenly market share is front and center.  The Ipod owns the market, the zealots point out, and other contenders might as well not even bother joining the fight.  The war is over and no product shall ever seize the mantle.

    Curiously, Windows market share, in a war they claim is still very much alive and kicking, is 95%.

    The Ipod market share in a war they’ve declared is all but over, is 75%.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Aug 10, 2005 Posts: 2220
  • “Examine your objectivity and try again.”

    Wow my other post got mangled.  Let me put down the crack pipe and try this one again:


    I’m sorry, did you just reproach someone for not being objective?

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Aug 10, 2005 Posts: 2220
  • A funny thing happened to me today… I was on a friends PC doing a bit of troubleshooting for her (it was in remarkably good condition considering it had zero defensive software and she’s on dialup, but that’s another story)

    I opened a web page that didn’t quite fit horizontally and guess what - I instinctively tried to scroll left/right!!  Even though I’m yet to need to use that functionality with my Mighty Mouse, it was already ingrained. That spun me out.

    Chris Howard had this to say on Aug 10, 2005 Posts: 1209
  • I’ve cured my teleporting mouse problem.  I’ve changed surfaces I’m using it on.  Though, I had already tried two.

    But it still CREAKS and GRINDS. Anyone else getting that?

    Chris Howard had this to say on Aug 10, 2005 Posts: 1209
  • “The Ipod market share in a war they’ve declared is all but over, is 75%.”

    “I’m sorry, did you just reproach someone for not being objective?”

    So let’s see, ‘brox. You’ve just spent a tiny substance-free post slamming me for calling the kettle black or something in a throwaway retort with no reference whatsoever to my actual arguments, alongside a protracted post in which you actually do make an argument (bravo), but against a position *no one has taken on this page*. In fact I don’t remember anyone even mentioning the iPod—I certainly didn’t.

    I guess you must feel that your rhetorical powers are so dangerous that you can only ethically aim them at crash test dummies? I for one am impressed at your restraint, and awestruck at your ability to massively demolish the beliefs of some hypothetical iPod hypocrite you just drew for yourself on a paper target.

    Dogger Blue had this to say on Aug 10, 2005 Posts: 34
  • Sorry to butt back in, but I just wanted to make my poorly written point a little clearer.

    One button has always worked fine for me - I only wanted 2 for when my left hand was busy - and I love a scroll wheel purely because it makes web browsing s bit easier.

    Basically though I see any more than one button as an occasional lazy luxury.

    Whenever I’m using a Mac properly, with one hand over the keyboard and the other on the mouse, I have so many quick keys at my disposal that the benefit of one or two extra buttons at my right hand becomes almost redundant, especially when they require clicking followed by selecting from a list, then and clicking again - sorry - to slow.

    Right click
    Scroll down select copy
    Click copy
    Right click
    Scroll down select paste
    Click paste

    Apple C
    Apple V

    But makken, you do make one point I strongly agree with - it is subjective.

    And with such subjectivity in mind, yes, I am saying I want a mouse that “looks nice” and I like the look of the Mighty.

    Also in all honestly I find the Mighty Mouse easy to use. Seriously! I can’t quite believe some of the complaints in this tread about it being difficult. I must be really clever or something!

    But, if you disagree, then that’s your prerogative.

    ... It’s at this point when people agree to disagree that I feel lost about what to do next… normally though I either walk away slowly or change the subject…

    The other day I had a hire car with a stereo remote on the steering wheel. It had an effective 5 buttons and a scroll wheel. At first I though it was rubbish, but after about 20 miles I was using it like a limb. It was lovely. Same UK radio sucks.

    And that reminds me of when I was younger and had a walkman with a remote. One button, half way up the cable. Hit it once - Play. Hit it again - Stop. Hit it 2 times while playing - Fast-forward. 3 times - Rewind. Hold it down - Auto reverse. In the end the headphones broke and I never found the same model again. The end.

    Moff had this to say on Aug 10, 2005 Posts: 4
  • Chris,

    I’ll admit you had me stumped with that headline. My first thought was it was a little strong. But I also kind of liked it. Then I went on an image search. White poop did come to mind, but then I thought that would be a little over the top.

    Plus, I kind of thought the angle of the Apple product shot kind of looked like excrement.

    But keep stumping me, I like it. And for the record I haven’t used the new Apple mouse yet, but I look forward to it. I also share some readers pleasure with the hockey puck mouse. When it first came out I thought it made no sense whatsoever. Indeed, if memory serves me correctly, the first hockey puck mouse was hard to use because you weren’t always sure which way was up, down, left and right. Apple fixed this in the next version by adding a little ridge to the top of the mouse.

    I’m not sure whether it was mac-zealotry stubborness but I really took to that little round mouse. It felt like the right size in my hand. When Apple released the new mouse in 2000 (I was at that Macworld and his Steveness gave everyone at the keynote a free mouse, very nice) I of course came to love that mouse.

    I think mice are entirely subjective. Some people swear by trackballs, other by little mice, and, of course, others by multi-button contraptions. What is perhaps most disappointing in terms on innovation is that we are still talking about mice. How much, after all, can Apple be expected to innovate on something that a lot of people have spent a lot of time thinking about.

    Not much, me thinks.

    Hadley Stern had this to say on Aug 10, 2005 Posts: 114
  • I finally got to the Apple Store yesterday, and after trying to find an open computer with a Mighty Mouse attached for 20 minutes, I was finally able to bully some old lady out of the way and play. 

    It was comfy, the left-right buttons were very good, and the trackball was very cool.  My only complaint was that it kind of felt cheap.  The classic one-button mouse seemed more… substantial?  Not sure how to even express it, but it seemed like it was carved out of a single piece of plastic, as opposed to a hollow piece of plastic with stuff inside. 

    To be fair, my one-button is a bluetooth, and so the batteries add the weight that make it feel more solid.  But I can’t help thinking that somehow my palm picked up on the difference in thickness of the mouse shell. 

    I liked it a lot, but am going to try to hold off for a wireless one before I buy.  I’d give it 3 out of 5 stars.  Good job, with room for improvement.

    BergenDog had this to say on Aug 10, 2005 Posts: 18
  • Moff, You do have a point there. I was just originally really surprised by your post because you set yourself up as having the most to gain from an added right button. Yet dispite all of the choices out there today, you simply refused to try out a multi - heck 2 button even - mouse simply based on the fact that they looked bad.

    Personally, I never even thought that the apple mouse “looks nice” until I read this tread. Honestly, though I do perfer the looks of some mice, none have really struck me as “absolutely beautiful” (The MM definately doesn’t, stupid xi-fan covered nasty thing wink )

    Yes, using the keyboard shortcuts are faster than right clicking and selecting, but it would be even faster if you could bind two buttons on a multi button mouse to copy and paste specifically. The right click gives you an alternate method to copy and paste when you don’t have two hands avaliable; all this with a single button. I would argue that that’s a pretty good deal.

    In addition, the right click gives you a lot of options not avaliable as keyboard shortcuts. Want to edit a picture in photoshop, just right click on it and go to “edit with photoshop” Want to add a song to your playlist instead of playing it outright, right click on the song and go to “add to playlist” Want to open a movie with your DVD player instead of your Media player, right click, go to “open with” etc etc you get the point.

    I have no problem with getting something that looks nicer, but not when it gets in the way of its function. If I needed a sedan, I would have no problem with spending a little extra money to get the BMW 530i over say a Honda Accord, but I wouldn’t run off and get a Porsche Boxster S :D

    makken had this to say on Aug 10, 2005 Posts: 21
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