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.


  • I haven’t got one and I have no plans to get one ... but isn’t a “right-click” or “secondary click” or whatever supposed to be a Ctrl-Click and not a Command-Click.  In which case it is working exactly as advertised.

    xbaz had this to say on Aug 09, 2005 Posts: 11
  • you know what xbaz, you’ve got a point there. I thought it was set to take the place of the command button but, sure enough, it acts like a control click. That bites.

    Chris Seibold had this to say on Aug 09, 2005 Posts: 354
  • 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

    I can’t replicate that Chris. If I command-left-click, it opens a new tab as expected.  If I command-right-click, I get a context menu (as you’d expect) - which is the same as control-command-left-click. But why would you command-right-click unless you had that sequence mapped to something? So I find mine is acting exactly like the modifier button it replicates. Or did I misunderstand what you’re doing?

    coming from a company with the reputation of Apple the Mighty Mouse can only be described as unacceptable.

    Yeah, I’d give this one 3 out of 5.  Once you’ve used it, you find there’s nothing compelling about it. It’s clever but not compelling. Maybe if it didn’t creak so loudly and jump around so much I might feel better about it.

    My favorite pointing device would still be a multi-button trackball with a scroll wheel.

    Chris Howard had this to say on Aug 09, 2005 Posts: 1209
  • Actually, I couldn’t agree with you less regarding the “hockey puck mouse.”

    Yes, I scorned it and swore how difficult it was to use years ago. Since then, I’ve had a lot of trouble using (conventional) one- and two-button mice due to RSI-related pains. After working for hours on long-term projects, it got to the point where my fingers would continue clicking, on their own, even after I had gotten up and walked away from the computer. Yeah, I know that the ergonomics crowd will say that I need to take frequent breaks and all that, but tell that one to my manager when we’re on deadline.

    As a last resort I dragged out the old hockey-puck mouse and discovered that these pains have largely subsided. I have since acquired more and populated all of my Macs with them.

    I’ve wondered why these seem easier to use, and I have to conclude that it’s the shape (it’s round, like a ball—very natural for anyone who enjoys sports involving balls), plus I can use any of three or four fingers to click (thereby reducing the stress any one finger has to take).

    You might think I’m a little crazy, dumping my white Apple optical mouse for the old hockey puck, but I use what works for me. When I first grab it, my middle finger lightly grazes the top of the cord, avoiding any “orientation” issues. I have to clean it regularly, but this seems a small price to pay for having pain-free hands that don’t click mouse buttons on their own.

    For the record, these were also manufactured by Logitech.

    ArtBrymer had this to say on Aug 09, 2005 Posts: 1
  • Art,
    I’m glad you found a use for the hockey puck mouse. A use besides landfill filling anyway. I completely agree that frequet breaks are a nice idea but, with deadlines, often unworkable. Still there is a difference between making a mouse useable by the majority of slackers (like myself) who have breaks interrupted by short periods of work and people who (honestly) work far too hard.

    Chris Seibold had this to say on Aug 09, 2005 Posts: 354
  • So really your only beef is the track ball thing and the design which as you stated is subjective. I don’t like the design a whole lot either, but IMO it seems this article is a lot of pissing and moaning for the sake of it.

    The first 3 paragraphs of this article are pretty much pointless and the title, while quite funny, is a little misleading. I’ll sum up:

    As a single button mouse - works well.
    As right click mouse - works well.
    Side buttons - work well.
    You don’t like the track ball much or the design.

    So bottom line, for you, it’s a 3 out of 4 + subjective dislike. Meh. :p

    donovan had this to say on Aug 09, 2005 Posts: 19

    i just lost everything I wrote up. And I’m too lazy to write it all up again.

    Basically, I’ve already posted this on the previous mighty mouse article, but I’ll port it here as well:

    a more indept review can be found here: http://www.anandtech.com/mac/showdoc.aspx?i=2488

    the mighty mouse reminds me of the ipod shuffle. I think that says enough already.

    makken had this to say on Aug 09, 2005 Posts: 21
  • Did we really need another Mighty Mouse article?

    Second, after the retraction your biggest beef appears to be that it doesn’t scroll diagonally that well… and you don’t like the look (which is subjective anyway). I don’t see that as adding up to “unnacceptable”... Perhaps it might score “nothing to jump up and down about”, but “unnacceptable” seems to be a harsh criticism based entirely on what you thought a right-click was supposed to be in the Mac OS.

    You mention that one can’t program it to “Command-Click” instead, but are you 100% certain of that?  Did you try the “Other…” selection in the drop downs? 

    I don’t have one to test with, but “Other…” would seem like the obvious choice for custom keystrokes. Can anyone else using the Mighty Mouse confirm that you can’t put a Command-Click on one of the buttons?

    vb_baysider had this to say on Aug 09, 2005 Posts: 243
  • A pen tablet is still the best bet when it comes to replace a mouse. It’s incredibly light compared to my Logitech wireless mouse which is carrying its own weight in batteries and it causes less stress on my arm as I can keep the pen in my hand even when typing on keyboard, no need to readjust to the mouse. Oh, yes, and the buttons can be configured per application.

    hitoro had this to say on Aug 09, 2005 Posts: 12
  • Well if you try the “other” selection on the drop down menu you get to choose which application or document the click opens. That seems a little limiting, a choice for choosing another keystroke would be appreciated.

    As for all the other suckiness abounding in the mouse, if it wasn’t from Apple it wouldn’t be a big deal. It would just be another mouse trying a little too hard to be clever. But it does come from Apple and. quite honestly, I hold Apple to a much higher standard. Which makes sense, they have some of the best industrial designers around so we should expect consistent greatness.

    Chris Seibold had this to say on Aug 09, 2005 Posts: 354
  • Not being able to designate keystrokes is just absurd.  Maybe there’s a workaround, like getting it to run some applescript ?

    Hywel had this to say on Aug 09, 2005 Posts: 51
  • I’ve been a Mac user for years and have always managed perfectly with a one button mouse. In the past I’ve berated many a PC users for so desperately needing two buttons and nearly killed a man with an 8 button mouse… I mean… WHY?

    But, I’m getting old.

    Yes, I know more short cuts than PC has viruses, but there comes a time when I’m eating my lunch that my apply key hand as to hold my sandwich and I can’t open links in new tabs.

    Then there are times that I’m artwork away, nearly nodding off (chin resting gently on fist) that copying and pasting does interrupt my doze and annoy me terribly.

    And finally there are the moments of weakness that I wish, oh how I wish, I didn’t have to grab and drag that scroll bar, far far away on the other side of the screen.

    So a while back, while out shopping for slippers, incontinent pants and a Saga holiday for my twilight years, I took a look at what the mouse market had to offer…


    Just a load disgusting cumbersome ugly over the top and over prices lumps of gray and blue plastic.

    So when the other day my lazy ass wishes were answered by Apple, I bought a Mighty Mouse instantly… And it bloody rocks.

    It does just what I want, with all the grace of any Mac product.

    And, I must be younger than I thought, because I can operate it flawlessly, unlike the obviously non-dextrous monkeys above, who find it difficult. But then, fair enough I suppose, having no opposable thumbs can’t be easy life.

    Seriously though - It works well and looks better than anything else on the market.

    Moff had this to say on Aug 09, 2005 Posts: 4
  • I am a little surprised that you can’t assign custom keystrokes to the buttons.  I would deduct review points for missing a feature like that (at that price). Hopefully, Apple will revise the preference panel to allow that.

    That’s one thing I do really like about my Logitech. I have Cmd-Arrows, Expose and other keystrokes assigned to the various buttons.

    I wish it had application-aware switching though. Does anyone make a mouse with button switching or saveable presets so that you can easily switch layouts?  That was one thing I loved about the old Gravis Mousesticks.

    vb_baysider had this to say on Aug 09, 2005 Posts: 243
  • If didn’t already know that the right-button’s whole reason for being is, and always has been, to bring up contextual menus, and that the CONTROL key has for almost a *decade* been the Mac way of duplicating that function, then you clearly aren’t qualified to review *any* multi-button mouse, much less Apple’s.

    For example, you wanting to remap the CONTROL key to COMMAND just shows that you have never made extensive use of this feature. CONTROL, being the edgemost bottom-right key on any modern Apple keyboard, is the perfect key to find when you don’t already have your hands on the keyboard. COMMAND isn’t. Apple could probably allow you to remap this key; they probably haven’t because nobody who actually uses this function regularly (a group you have just proven that you are NOT among, Chris) would actually want to do this.

    So stick with your one-button mouse. Let people with a clue about multi-button mice review Apple’s. The scroll-ball doesn’t have any issues that scroll-wheels don’t already have (ever tried to scroll a VERY LONG way on a regular scroll-wheel?). Any buttons beyond the second are purely optional and not particularly necessary, so it doesn’t much matter how Apple implements them.

    The absolute key to this mouse is that you can use a software control panel to change what used to only be configurable by hardware design (i.e. switching your mouse): one-button simplicity versus two-button functionality. Not only has this not been done before, but (a) it has not even been publically *contemplated* being done, and (b) it is obviously superior to every other way anyone else has ever done it. That’s Apple’s particular brand of genius. And that’s a classic example of *innovation* my friend. Try to recognise it when it comes along.

    Dogger Blue had this to say on Aug 09, 2005 Posts: 34
  • Hmm. On second reading I misinterpreted your CONTROL/COMMAND complaint. What you want is to remap the Mighty Mouse’s right button to the COMMAND key behaviour. Okayyyyy ... whatever. And that bites, huh? It still shows you have absolutely no clue about what the advantages are of a multi-button mouse in general. The COMMAND key’s function is very limited. The CONTROL-based contextual menu gives you sometimes up to a dozen alternate functions.

    The logic is simple. Left-side gives you the *assumed* click-result. Right-side lets you *select* a click-result. This is the premise on which all two-button mice are based. If you want to remap the right button I’m sure there is some third-party app to let you do so for any mouse, but using it as a criticism of any particular two-button mouse clearly shows you don’t understand the basic concept here.

    Dogger Blue had this to say on Aug 09, 2005 Posts: 34
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