Something else I got this Christmas is an Apple Magic Mouse. This is the latest generation of mouse from Apple, and it is an absolutely fantastic device! Just turn on Bluetooth on my Mac, turn on the mouse, tell the Mac to find Bluetooth devices, it straight away detects the mouse and pairing is just a matter of a couple of clicks. From there it works perfectly! Note that it does need Mac OS X 10.5.8 or higher.
It has always been my opinion that the user experience on an Apple desktop computer such as an iMac or Mac Pro is not as intuitive and potentially not as user friendly as that of Apple laptops, the Macbooks and Macbook Pro’s. The reason for this is all in how the user controls the mouse. On the Macbooks, you have the touch pad, which Apple have developed into an extremely user friendly way of controlling the mouse. It has been multi-touch capable for a number of generations with the ability to use natural gestures to do things.
For example, in addition to the usual tapping to click, the following can be done anywhere on the touch pad:
- Tapping with two fingers is right clicking
- Holding two fingers down and moving them in any direction allows scrolling in whichever direction you are moving them
- Holding two fingers (or your finger and thumb) apart and dragging them closer together zooms in, dragging them apart zooms out
- You can control gestures that use up to four fingers, for example I have it set so that:
- Swiping two fingers left or right will move backwards and forwards in a browser, slideshow or anything else that as a back and forward navigation
- Swiping four fingers horizontally on the touch pad brings up the command + tab application switcher
- Swiping four fingers vertically brings up Expose
- I don’t currently use three finger swipes as I just don’t know what else to use them for!
On an Apple desktop though, the mouse control has always been much more limited and you will need to use shortcut keys for a lot of the same functions. This is fine, except that the keys are not always close to where your hands already are.
Now though, with the Magic Mouse, Apple has added a multi-touch surface to the top of a Bluetooth mouse. I was really excited about this, until I tried it out. It was great, but it was a bit of a let down at the same time. It gets so close to replicating the touch pad functionality, but then only lets you actually set what a few things can do.
What can you set on the Magic Mouse?
- Tracking speed
- Scrolling speed
- Double click speed
- One finger secondary click (also determines how the primary click works)
- Screen zooming
- Two finger left and right navigation swipe
You can also view the battery level, and there is a short video shown of each motion so that you know how to perform each gesture on the touch surface.
Why only one two finger gesture though? What about tapping? What about three and four finger gestures?
There seems to be so much missing, so much potential gone untapped. It’s a great mouse, it works fine for both left and right handed users since you can swap the functions around and it comes so close to being able to replicate the functionality of the touch pad on a Macbook, but it’s just missing a few more things that would really bring the desktop Mac’s to the same level of usability as a Macbook.
I don’t remember what I was looking at, but completely by accident I stumbled upon an application called MagicPrefs. This nifty little third party application by @vladalexa adds an extra pane to your system preferences, as well as an icon in your menu bar (which can be disabled) that lets you do just about anything you can think of with your Magic Mouse!
When you enter the MagicPrefs settings pane, you are able to edit the tracking speed and touch sensitivity, it actually gives you higher speed settings than the regular Magic Mouse settings pane as well, so if you like your mouse fast, this is the way to do it!
There are three settings tabs:
- Clicks and Taps
- Drag, Pinch etc
The default tab that it opens to is Clicks and Taps.
An image is also displayed in the right side of the pane, similar to the default Magic Mouse settings pane. This shows the different types of gestures and motions available when you use MagicPrefs, and when you click on any of the options to enable them, it shows you how to use them as well.
Clicks and Taps
From the Clicks and Taps menu, you can specify not only a number of different motions and gestures, but also what you would like them to do.
You can set:
- One finger Middle Axis Click
- Two finger click
- Three finger click
- Four finger click
- One finger tap left
- One finger tap right
- One finger tap on the Apple stem
- Two finger tap
- Three finger tap
- Four finger tap
From the Swipes menu you, just like the Clicks and Taps menu, you can select a number of different gestures, and what you want to do when those gestures are made on the mouse. It supports up to three finger swipes, not quite as good as the Macbook touch pads, but good enough for me!
Two Finger Swipes
- Two finger swipe left
- Two finger swipe right
- Two finger swipe up
- Two finger swipe down
Three Finger Swipes
- Three finger swipe left
- Three finger swipe right
- Three finger swipe up
- Three finger swipe down
Drag, Pinch etc
As with the other menus you can set the gesture and what it does in the drag and pinch options.
- Drag the Apple stem left
- Drag the Apple stem right
- Two finger pinch in
- Two finger pinch out
- Three finger pinch in
- Three finger pinch out
What Things Can You Control?
At the time of writing this, there are 21 different options available to be set for when you make any of the motions or gestures. With three of these options being custom options you can actually set just about anything to happen!
- Left click
- Right click
- Middle click
- Simultaneous right and left click
- Screen zoom in
- Screen zoom out
- Application zoom in
- Application zoom out
- Expose all windows
- Expose application windows
- Expose desktop
- Show Spaces
- Show Dashboard
- Show Terminal
- Hide all other applications
- Unhide all applications
- Manage application targets
- Manage keyboard targets
- Manage Applescript targets
The last three options allow you to specify custom targets, so you have lots of control there!
What Parts of the Surface are Multi-Touch?
An interesting thing that MagicPrefs brings to light is just how much this mouse can detect. When I was first playing with it I found I could scroll from the front of the mouse all the way to the Apple stem, it seemed to drop off after that. Going from side to side, it seemed to be sensitive from the left edge right through to the right edge.
When going through the MagicPrefs settings it shows that there are four zones on the mouse:
- Apple Stem
These zones are all capable of determining multiple touches and gestures, and in the case of the first three, they are also capable of detecting clicks.
Since all of these zones can distinguish between motions and gestures it means you can perform them just about anywhere on the mouse surface except below the Apple logo. I’m not sure why they cut it off below that, I suspect from a usability perspective it would become difficult to leave our hands resting on the mouse if that portion were touch sensitive.
It’s Symmetrical, It’s Uncomfortable
It’s a very awkward mouse to use if you try and use it the way you would use a traditional mouse, and even more awkward and uncomfortable if you try and use it the same way as you would use a moulded mouse, such as many of the Logitech mice.
You have to use it differently, you even have to hold it differently.
Rather than resting your whole hand on the mouse I find myself primarily resting my hand on the surface directly behind the mouse, keeping my arm parallel to the surface. I then find myself using the mouse the way I would use a touchpad on my Macbook.
Once you get the hang of using it and how different it is to a traditional mouse it actually becomes very, very comfortable and much easier to use!
The only real quirk that I’ve found so far is that when using Google Maps, it is difficult to use this mouse simply because brushing one finger along it will scroll the map in or out and it is very easy to do this accidentally. I think using two fingers to scroll as on the Macbook touchpads would be a better idea as it is a bit more difficult to accidentally do this than one finger is.
Have you found any other quirks? What do you love or hate about Apple’s new toy, the Magic Mouse?
Personally, I love it!