Apple Magic Mouse - Product Review and How to Use

The first multi-touch mouse from Apple is sheer magic

Apple Magic Mouse
Magic Mouse, kistotál" ( CC BY 2.0) by nyuhuhuu

Apple’s Magic Mouse is the first offering from Apple to mate the capabilities of a Multi-Touch surface with a movable mouse. The result may be the best mouse Apple has ever made or the worst, depending on your expectations. The Magic Mouse has good points and bad points, but it has great potential, especially if Apple makes a few minor changes to future releases of the mouse software.

In the meantime, the Magic Mouse is intuitive and fun to use, but its ergonomics and lack of gesture customization may determine how well it works for you, and whether you love it or hate it.

Apple Magic Mouse: Introduction

The Magic Mouse is the first Multi-Touch mouse to make its way out of labs and into the hands of the general public. Its lineage can be found in Apple’s iPhone and iPod touch, which introduced a touch-based interface that can detect multiple contact points as well as interpret gestures, such as swiping, to move between pages of information, or the pinch, to zoom in or out.

Multi-Touch next made an appearance in Apple’s MacBook and MacBook Pro, in the form of a glass trackpad that can understand one- and two-finger gestures. The Multi-Touch trackpad makes it easy and fun to navigate a portable’s desktop and applications.

Apple then used Multi-Touch technology to create a mouse that has the same capabilities as most standard mice, in a package that delivers an entirely different user experience.

The Magic Mouse is wireless, and uses a Bluetooth 2.1 transceiver to communicate with Bluetooth-enabled Macs.

It can connect to any Mac that has a Bluetooth module, either built-in or added via a USB dongle. In fact, that’s the approach I took. I used a Bluetooth dongle to connect the Magic Mouse to an older Mac Pro that is not equipped with Bluetooth.

The Magic Mouse is powered by two AA batteries, which are included in the package.

Apple says the batteries should last up to four months.

Apple’s Magic Mouse: Installation

The Magic Mouse ships with two AA batteries already installed. Turn the mouse over and you’ll find a power on/off slide switch, a laser-tracking LED, two plastic strips that serve as glide rails to allow the Magic Mouse to move freely on most surfaces, and a small green LED indicator light. If you experience any disconnection problems, you can easily fix them.

Magic Mouse Pairing

The first step is to pair the Magic Mouse with your Mac. You do this by turning the Magic Mouse’s power on, and then opening the Mouse system preferences, where you’ll find the option to ‘Set up Bluetooth mouse.’ You’ll be guided through the pairing process, which is short and quick. Once the Magic Mouse and your Mac are paired, you’re ready to start using the mouse.

Magic Mouse Software

In order to take advantage of the Multi-Touch features, you’ll need to install the Wireless Mouse Software, which is available for downloading from Apple’s web site. If you’re running Mac OS X 10.6.2 or later, support for the Magic Mouse and Multi-Touch are already built in.

After you install the Wireless Mouse Software, your Mac will reboot.

If all goes well, the Magic Mouse will be fully functional, ready to accept your commands via one- or two-finger gestures.

Apple’s Magic Mouse: The New Mouse Preference Pane

After you install the Wireless Mouse Software, the Mouse preference pane will include new options for configuring the way your Mac will interpret gestures from the Magic Mouse.

Gestures are organized as one-finger or two-finger gestures. In another first, Apple incorporated a video help system in the Mouse preference pane. Let the mouse hover over one of the gestures and a short video will describe the gesture and show you how to perform it with the Magic Mouse.

As it originally shipped, the Magic Mouse only supports four types of gestures: Secondary Click, Scrolling, Screen Zooming, and the Swipe, which is the only two-finger gesture the Magic Mouse currently supports. The Magic Mouse seems to be capable of supporting additional gestures, but Apple limits it to four basic ones, at least in this first iteration of the software.

The other missing piece in the current Mouse preference pane is a way to customize gestures beyond a few basic options. I can choose whether the secondary click is a right- or left-click, or whether I want scrolling to have momentum, but I can’t reassign what a gesture does. That’s a pity, because I never use horizontal scrolling, and I’d rather have that gesture available to control something else. As is, I’m stuck with what Apple thinks is best, and I don’t always agree.

Apple’s Magic Mouse: The Gestures

The Magic Mouse currently only supports four gestures, or five, if you count the primary click as a gesture. A ‘gesture’ is either a tapping on the Magic Mouse’s surface, or one or two fingers sliding across the Magic Mouse’s surface in a prescribed pattern.

Supported Magic Mouse Gestures

The Secondary Click: The tapping of either the right- or left-hand half of the Magic Mouse indicates a secondary mouse click. You can select which half is the secondary, and by extension, which half is the primary.

Scroll: A single finger moving vertically across the surface will scroll a window up or down, depending on the direction of the gesture.

Likewise, moving a finger left to right on the Magic Mouse’s surface performs a horizontal scroll. You can combine the vertical and horizontal scroll to move around a window in a circular fashion by simply drawing a circle on the mouse’s surface. You also have the option to enable momentum, which lets you flick your finger and have a window scroll continue for a period of time after you’ve stopped moving your finger.

Screen Zoom: Zooming is enabled by using a modifier key, usually the control key, while performing a vertical scroll gesture. If you hold the modifier key down, the window will zoom in or out, depending on the direction of your scroll.

Swipe: The only two-finger gesture, the swipe is similar to the horizontal scroll, except that you use two fingers instead of one. A swipe lets you navigate forward or back in browsers, Finder windows, and other applications that support a forward/back function.

Apple’s Magic Mouse: Ergonomics

 

At first glance, the Magic Mouse’s shape and size seem odd for a mouse. Most mice are bulbous, to conform to the shape of the user’s palm. The Magic Mouse instead has a surface that defines a gentle arc, and its height at mid-point is barely more than half an inch, which ensures that resting a palm on the Magic Mouse is a feat to be performed only by children or adults with very small hands.

The more natural way to use the Magic Mouse is to grip its sides between your thumb and pinkie, rest your index and middle fingers against the top edge of the mouse, and the base of your palm against the bottom edge. In doing so, your hand rests above the mouse without your palm ever touching the Multi-Touch surface. This mouse grip is actually pretty automatic, and leaves the index and middle finger ready to perform clicks and most gestures without the need to reposition your hand.

The Magic Mouse’s grip seems a bit uncomfortable at first, but in a short period of time becomes second nature. Unlike a conventional mouse, the Magic Mouse is best served by a light grip that leaves your hand and fingers ready for action.

Apple’s Magic Mouse: Usage

 

First and foremost, the Magic Mouse must be a mouse. It must move smoothly across any surface and accurately track its movement, so that not only does the cursor on your screen move freely, but your hand can move the mouse freely, without hesitation.

The Magic Mouse glides on two plastic rails that provide just enough resistance to keep its movements smooth. The laser-tracking system didn’t miss a beat on any of the surfaces I tried, including mouse pads, magazine covers, paper, and tabletops.

Clicks and Scrolling

Mouse clicks on the Magic Mouse are similar to the Mighty Mouse (now simply called the Apple Mouse).

The touch sensor determines where your fingertips are; clicks are defined as occurring on the left- or right-hand side of the mouse’s shell. The Magic Mouse also provides tactile feedback, producing the same clicks and pressure found with mice that have standard mouse buttons.

Scrolling vertically and horizontally are the simplest gestures to perform. I decided I loved the Magic Mouse the moment I scrolled through a large web page. Scrolling is easy and intuitive; a gentle swipe of a finger in either direction produces a scrolling motion in a window. One scrolling option, Momentum, allows your mouse to register the speed of your swipe. It converts this into the speed of your scroll, and allows scrolling to continue for a bit after you stop the swiping motion. This type of scrolling is great for large documents with many pages of data. Scrolling side to side is just as easy and just as satisfying.

Apple’s Magic Mouse: Two-Finger Gestures

Where Magic Mouse gestures become less than intuitive is the two-finger swipe. This gesture, usually performed with the index and middle fingers, is identical to the standard one-finger side-to-side scroll, except that you use two fingers instead of one.

What makes it more difficult? First, both fingers must be in contact with the Magic Mouse’s surface when you perform the swipe. For me, at least, this means I have to modify the way I grip the mouse in order to perform this gesture. When I use the swipe, the Magic Mouse and I have a difference of opinion about what I’m trying to do. Most times the mouse will register the correct swipe motion, but it ignores me enough times, as if I haven’t done anything, to be more than a little frustrating. This is probably the result of the difficulty I have keeping both fingers in contact with the surface for a side-to-side swipe.

It’s just not a natural motion to perform while maintaining a grip on the mouse. On the other hand, if I use the two-finger swipe without holding onto the Magic Mouse, it works the way it should, every time. This is fine for moving page by page through large documents or photo galleries, but it’s pretty useless for the frequently used forward and back commands in web browsers and Finder windows. That’s a pity, because I constantly use forward and back commands. While I’m happy to see the Magic Mouse swipe support these commands, the difficulty of performing a two-finger swipe while maintaining a usable grip on the mouse is a chore.

Apple’s Magic Mouse: Conclusion

 

The Magic Mouse is one of the better mice Apple has ever made, but it does have some flaws, which is to be expected for the first generation of a new product. For me, the difficulty of performing the two-finger swipe was a letdown. It’s a problem that Apple could easily resolve by adding some basic gesture customization capabilities to the Magic Mouse. If I could reassign the side-to-side scroll, which I’ve never used in any mouse, to the forward and back functions, which I use constantly, I would be a happy camper. Or, if I could create a vertical two-finger swipe, which my less-than-nimble fingers can perform with ease, then the Magic Mouse would be an ideal mouse for me.

These two basic flaws are really the only flaws I noticed in daily use of the Magic Mouse. Its tracking ability was flawless on the surfaces I tested it on, and it’s a comfortable mouse to use.

The single-finger gestures are easy, natural motions that making using the Magic Mouse a pleasure.

One additional point that’s worth mentioning. The Magic Mouse currently has no mouse drivers that enable gesture support under Windows. So, if you use the Magic Mouse with Boot Camp or any other virtual environment, it will revert to a standard two-button mouse.