Apple’s new Magic Mouse looks great, feels okay, and sorely lacks support for Expose and Dashboard

Mon, Nov 16, 2009


Apple may have introduced the mouse to the masses, but superior mouse design has never been Apple’s forte.  That’s not to say that all of Apple’s mice have been subpar (though the ill-fated hockey puck mouse that came with the first iMac comes to mind), but Apple, when it comes to mouse design, often seems to value aesthetics at the expense of functionality – and it’s latest offering, the multi-touch Magic Mouse, is no exception.

The first thing you notice about Apple’s new mouse is the design.  Gone is the rounded oval look soft rounded edges of the Mighty Mouse, and in its place are sleek and sharp curves.  Make no mistake about it – the Magic Mouse is a fighter jet in mouse form, but its eye catching design also happens to be a detriment.

The Magic Mouse is tightly designed, and its sharp curves evoke notions of high-end industrial design.  But its impressive aesthetic doesn’t translate into a positive ergonomic experience.  Maneuvering the mouse in hand doesn’t feel quite as natural as it should, and the contours of the Mighty Mouse, though it may not be especially sleek or modern, is a much more comfortable fit.  This is problematic because when you use something as often as you do a mouse, comfort shouldn’t take a back seat to anything.

The next thing that stands out about Apple’s new mouse is that it lacks the scroll wheel of its predecessor.  Instead, users can scroll up, down, or side to side via a number of swiping gestures, much in the way that users maneuver around a website on an iPhone.  I found the scrolling on the Magic Mouse to be quite good, and the multi touch scrolling removes the headaches associated with a sticky scroll wheel.

Apple’s new Magic Mouse is, of course, a multi-touch mouse, and includes support for swiping gestures which allow users to navigate backwards and forward in a web-browser.  That’s all well and good, but the dark cloud looming over the device is that users can’t reprogram the function calls associated with swiping.  And since Apple has removed the side buttons, users have no way to bring up either Expose or the dashboard from the mouse –  A HUGE NEGATIVE!  The side buttons and the scroll wheel button on the Mighty Mouse gave users a plethora of configuration options.  Below, check out the preference pane for the Mighty Mouse.

Check out all those options! The side-buttons and the scroll-wheel button allowed for a plethora of functions.  Users could configure it to launch variations of Expose, to bring up the dashboard, and you could even program it to bring up the application switcher, spotlight etc. Now that’s a functional mouse!

Unfortunately, and presumably in the interest of of aesthetic design, Apple did away with the side buttons, and users no have no way to access Expose, Dashboard etc. from the Mouse.  Check out the new preference pane below.

On the plus side, right clicking with the Magic Mouse seems to be a lot smoother than it was with the Mighty Mouse, but that still doesn’t compensate for the device’s limited functionality.

Overall, the new Magic Mouse looks great, feels okay, and operates just the same.  It’s no clear-cut winner, and it’s a shame that Apple took a step backwards with this release, and hopefully they’ll soon issue a firmware update to enable users to reprogram the multitouch swipes for other commands.


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4 Comments For This Post

  1. Stephan Says:

    I have to disagree. With the mightiy mouse I had some problems, I won’t have with the Magic Mouse. You already mentioned the sticky scrolling ball, but in my case, very often I enabled expose (with the side-buttons) accidentially, and thats not what I wanted. And with Snow Leopard, I don’t miss the Expose function on the mouse.
    And the mouse is smoother and the guestures are really great. Mabbe the’ll add guestures for swiping two fingers up and down for Expose and spaces? That’l be great…
    Only thing I miss: middle mouse button click (opens link in a new tab, as you know…) 😉

  2. Mojo Says:

    I personally love the magic mouse, however why there is no middle click gesture or indeed reprogrammable gestures is mystifying. Perhaps this will manifest itself as one of those lame ‘updates’ that apple has been issuing of late, more particularly of the iphone I suppose with cut and paste and mms not arriving for a good long time. Additionally the tracking speed of this magic mouse is terribly slow, especially taxing if one has a large or multiple monitors.

    Why so half assed apple? I am loath to return to my logitech mouse, yet the functionality that could so easily have been present is not. I have employed a couple of hacks addressing the middle click and tracking speed, neither is perfect but they will keep the swish looking somewhat heavy little magic mouse in my hand for a while longer.

  3. Peter Says:

    The scroll feature works much better than that little scroll ball on the mighty mouse. That ball was useless a few months after I first purchased that mouse.

    The two finger swipe to go return to a previous web page is helpful.

    Apple made an incredible innovation with the iPhone pinch to zoom in/out feature, and I don’t understand why I have to hold the control key to zoom with this mouse. This mouse would be so amazing with that pinch to zoom feature, or hot corners. Sorry guys, nice hardware, but I think you set the bar a little low when it came to firmware.

  4. Jon Says:

    There is a way to access Dashboard and Exposé using the Magic Mouse (or any mouse for that matter) — active screen corners. If you select the “Exposé and Spaces” preference pane, and select Exposé, you can set the corners to activate the Dashboard and/or Exposé, among other options. I personally use it for Exposé and to sleep the display.

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