April 18th, 2006 • 12:57 pm
The mouse I got with my G5 Quad back in November 2005 was a Mighty Mouse. It was my first time with this mouse. Prior to that, I had been using a Kensington Mouse-In-A-Box Optical Wireless Rechargeable. At the time, I reserved my judgement about the mouse.
I have since posted about the limitations of Apple’s software for the mouse, the fact that some of these limitations can be overcome with the third-party tool USB Overdrive, and the problems with Illustrator CS 2’s lack of proper support for the Mighty Mouse.
Four months later, I guess it’s time to take stock.
The first thing I should say is that I haven’t felt tempted to revert back to the Kensington mouse. On the contrary, on the few occasions when I have tried to use the Kensington mouse again, I have been disappointed.
In particular, I much prefer the very small scroll ball in the Mighty Mouse to the standard scroll wheel in the Kensington mouse. It’s not just because the Mighty Mouse’s scroll ball lets you scroll horizontally as well as vertically. (In fact, that can be an annoyance in some circumstances, where USB Overdrive comes in handy.)
The main reason for this preference is that the scroll ball requires so little effort with the finger, and is so sensitive. As Mighty Mouse users know, the ball doesn’t roll smoothly. It rolls with tiny little clicks that correspond to the individual steps in the scrolling. One tiny click equals one notch. Depending on which application you are using, this can mean a single line of text or an entire page.
I find that this scroll ball gives me significantly more power and accuracy than a regular scroll wheel. It’s a subtle thing, but it is most definitely noticeable when I revert back to the Kensington.
There is, however, one particular situation where I find that the Mighty Mouse’s scroll ball is far too sensitive. It is when viewing PDF files in Preview. If I zoom in on a page so that the entire page doesn’t fit inside the Preview window, then things are fine, because in such a situation, the scroll bars are visible, and the Mighty Mouse’s scroll ball is used to scroll horizontally and vertically from one end of the page to the other.
But if the entire page is visible and there are not scroll bars, then the behaviour of the Mighty Mouse’s scroll ball changes. In such a situation, a single tiny click up or down with the scroll ball is equivalent to a Page Up or Page Down operation. This is a behaviour that is simply too disproportionate. Such a tiny click should not have such a big visual impact. It is simply not intuitive, and I find that it is impossible to get used to it.
Regardless of how careful I am with my finger, I always end up scrolling too far up or down the document. It’s far too easy to overshoot by one or two clicks with the scroll ball. In Preview when the full page is visible, this means overshooting by one or two entire pages! And since there is no visual feedback indicating the direction in which you are moving (up or down the document), it’s far too easy to get lost in multiple-page PDF documents.
I am not sure what the solution here would be here. After all, when the entire page is visible in the Preview window, there are no scroll bars. So it’s impossible to scroll partially between pages. You can either go to the next page (Page Down) or to the previous page (Page Up), but you cannot view the bottom half of page X and the top half of page X+1. This is simply impossible in Preview.
But the problem with this particular behaviour of the scroll ball in Preview is that you cannot avoid it. You cannot use USB Overdrive to turn it off, because doing so would also turn off the scrolling with the scroll ball within a page when you have zoomed in on a page and it’s too big to fit in the window.
The only solution that I have found so far is to switch to the keyboard and use the Page Up and Page Down keys instead when I want to go from page to page in a PDF document in Preview. It’s a bit frustrating.
Other than that, however, I must admit that I really do like the Mighty Mouse’s scroll ball.
I like it so much that, whenever I have to work on an older Mac computer that only has the standard single-buttton Apple mouse, I find myself constantly trying to roll the little ball that is not there in the middle of the mouse. I guess this means that I am hooked on it.
As for the rest of the mouse, it’s fine with me. I know that other people have problems with the fact that there is no physical separation between the left button and the right button on the Mighty Mouse and that you cannot leave your finger on the left hand side of the mouse if you want to right-click—but this has never been a problem for me. I have always kept my index finger off the surface of the mouse when right-clicking. So I haven’t had to adjust my behaviour at all.
I am not particularly enamoured with the side buttons. I still find that they require far too much physical effort compared to the mouse’s other buttons, and rarely use them. (I use USB Overdrive to program them to do a Page Up operation, and to program the scroll-ball button to do a Page Down operation in most applications.)
On the whole, however, I must admit that this mouse is definitely the best that I have used with my Macintosh computers. It’s not perfect, and the software provided by Apple could definitely use some major improvements. (I shouldn’t have to purchase a third-party tool to get it to work the way I want it to work.) But physically Apple has managed to preserve the form factor of the original Apple optical mouse and still add the essential functionality of the tiny scroll ball in the middle—which is a pretty impressive engineering feat. It definitely makes me miss the scroll ball when I grab a older Apple optical mouse on another Mac computer!