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.


  • Ahha! Forgot to mention ‘control click’ - the ‘right click’ of the Mac.

    Once again, my left hand and thumb hover constantly over the Apple key area so all right click benefits are there (to edit a picture in photoshop, just control click on it and go to “edit with photoshop)

    Having a right click button when you have a perfectly functioning control key is frivolously duplicating functionality (again that is for the most part when I’m not eating a sandwich and have two available hands).

    But I must to say that your idea of even more buttons just for copy and paste is ludicrous. Come on - Apple C Apple V could not be easier.

    I dunno. It’s all just personal preference again I suppose.

    It just makes sense to me to have one hand operating 79 buttons (on my PowerBook anyway) and the other in charge of moving and selecting… oh no… hold on… I might have just convinced myself I don’t even need a 1 button mouse. Interesting.

    Finally, on the fact I wouldn’t buy a multi-button mouse based on the fact they look bad… well yeah. But I still say the MM works well, so it’s not all form over function. Well OK then - I do have a little bias toward design - but I’m a designer so what do you expect.

    I buy trousers/pants that suite me and look nice, not ugly ‘functional’ ones with 50 cargo pockets incase I ever need to carry cargo. And I’ll buy 1 neat 5” Global cook’s knife - http://www.chefknivestogo.com/5incookknif.html - instead of an over the top and boring looking 23 piece Messermeister set - http://www.chefknivestogo.com/meme23pcblse.html - because in all honesty I believe there’s just no real need for a 6” offset bread knife!

    Sorry. Again I digress.

    Moff had this to say on Aug 11, 2005 Posts: 4
  • hehe I guess being an engineer (or will be in a few years) puts us on different sides of the design camp =P

    Us windoze users also have a ‘right click’ key on our keyboards now. But no one really cared or noticed; heck, I don’t even know the actual name of the key, or when it was added to the keyboard. Needless to say, all of us still use the right click instead of that button, and I know of no one who went out a brought a one button mouse to use that shortcut instead.

    Do you still find yourself using the control click combo, or are you starting to get used to the right click, now that you have the mm? Old habits are sometimes hard to break, but give it a few months and see how much right clicking you do compared to how much control clicking you do. It’ll be interesting to see if having a two button mouse will eventually cause you to use the right click over the ctrl+click combo, since I can say with 99% certainity that the opposite isn’t true.

    My first computing experience was on a Mac (OOOLD thing, back in the 386 days) and I’ve been consistantly using them at around a 80% PC / 20% mac split up until about 3 years ago (full time PC user now). I know that if given a choice, on either a PC or a mac, I would rather right click than use control+click, even though I learned that keyboard shortcut first.

    —OH I also should mention, I never realized how big of a role this plays in it, but my main computer is a laptop, and has been for 5 years. My setup is usually such that the laptop is pushed back from me, while I have an external mouse in easy reach. So it’s not exactly easy for me to reach the keyboard. (dont’ plan on getting an external keyboard, my desk is messy enough as it is)

    PS. that is a CRAZY knife set. heck, I use a iron butcher’s knife for any kind of food cutting. (been in our family for ages)

    makken had this to say on Aug 11, 2005 Posts: 21
  • You’ve hit a good point there talking about habits. It’s that too.

    Habits, subjectiveness and personal preference. That’s what I reckon it’s all about!

    And my main habit is to approach a computer like a man sneaking up on a cat - with both hands out and open and ready to grab. Therefore, with my lefty always being near the control button, I’ll have to completely break my approach to become a pure two button user.

    That said, and in answer to your question about getting use to it… last night at a friends house with a one button mouse, I kept searching for the scroll wheel AND did try once or twice to correct my spelling with a right click. So we’ll see where this goes / how bad it gets!

    Moff had this to say on Aug 11, 2005 Posts: 4
  • You know, this mouse sums up why 75% of Mac users inside the first 6 months buy either a Logitech of MS mouse….*hides adjustable keyboard under bed*...ok yes, have been known to buy stupid overly expensive bits of kit before raspberry

    Nyadach had this to say on Sep 12, 2005 Posts: 29
  • From Apple’s website: “To program Mighty Mouse, simply open the Keyboard & Mouse preference pane in Mac OS X Tiger System Preferences. There you’ll see drop-down button menus, plus tracking, scrolling and double-clicking controls. Choose your primary and secondary button designation. Reassign which applications you want to open with Mighty Mouse. Customize your scrolling capability. Mighty Mouse’s preferences are as easy to manage and as versatile as Mighty Mouse itself, so your mouse works the way you do — not the other way around.”

    CaptPostMod had this to say on Oct 17, 2005 Posts: 2
  • A charging dock for the blue tooth version would be cool.  I’m still trying to figure out if the previous blue tooth mouse is worth using.  I’ve had it for a year.  I’ve dropped it a couple times (I mean if it’s not attached with a cord, how r u suppose to keep it on the desk?), and that stupid really, really thin metal thingie keeps falling off even plastered with garilla glue.

    SirGeorge53 had this to say on Dec 04, 2005 Posts: 27
  • I’m currently using an Apple BT mouse (and keyboard) on my iMac and have been reluctant to trade it for the MM (still unopened) that I bought on Black Friday because of losing the convenience of a precious USB port.  My USB hub (using one port) is full so my scanner would have to share it’s currently dedicated port (to ensure USB2 speed).

    But it’s getting harder to resist the temptation to use the MM, especially the scroll pea.  I’ll probably give in this weekend, figuring MM will end up on my wife’s eMac if I don’t like it or if/when a BT model is available.  So much for my optimal BT/USB setup, at least temporarily.

    sjk had this to say on Dec 08, 2005 Posts: 112
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