The Mighty Mac Mouse Myth

As a Mac user, I get a fair amount of flack from PC folks. Some of it was about the toilet-seat design of the original colorful iBooks (hey, I agree – those things looked awful). Some of it was aimed at processor speed (I admit it – PCs have faster processors, although gap isn’t nearly as great as PC folks might like you to believe). But the single greatest source of scorn has been the Mac mouse.

The term “double click” is synonymous with the Mac – after all, Apple’s the one who took the mouse mainstream. Yet although Apple pioneered consumer use of the mouse, it’s been the PC side that’s seen a true explosion in mice utility. Three button and four button mice, scroll mice, inverted mice – you name it, you’ll find it … on the PC side.

Meanwhile, back in Appleland, all Macs ship with a single -button mouse. Actually, the current mice don’t technically have a button, because the entire surface of their mirrored exterior is clickable. It’s an optical mouse – meaning it uses a laser rather than a rubber ball to track its movement across the desk – but it’s still got that one button.

The one-button mouse is a major turnoff for PC users (although I should add that there’s a good percentage of PC users that don’t know how to use one mouse button, let alone 3, but I digress), especially power users and especially folks who are addicted to their scroll-wheel. Such individuals deride the Mac for its backward mouse, and point to it as evidence of an inferior operating system.

To which I say nothing … I just pull out my Microsoft two-button, optical scroll IntelliMouse, plug it into the USB port on my iBook and smile as Mac OS X instantly detects not only the mouse, but its scroll wheel and right click button.

That’s right folks – out of the box every Mac supports a two-button mouse with scroll wheel. Further, Microsoft makes a Mac OS X drive for its IntelliMouse, which extends the two button mouse even more, allowing you to specify what the buttons do, how fast the cursor movies, and exempting specific programs from two-button funcationality.

Now I’ll admit that the contextual menus – those menus that appear in Windows when you right-click on a document or your desktop – aren’t as detailed on the Mac, but it offers most of what you’d want. In addition, the mouse works just the way you’d expect in apps like Microsoft Office (allowing you to right click on misspelled words). Further, even Mac games recognize the mouse, which is a godsend for folks like me intent on doing a little two-button hack’n’slash in Diablo II.

I must also admit that at least one application seems to be mouse-dumb on Mac OS X – Adobe Acrobat Reader. There may be others as well (there probably are) so coverage isn’t complete, but it’s far greater than the heathens suspect.

Is Apple boneheaded and wrong for not adopting a multi-button mouse of its own? Yes. No doubt about it. Definitely.

Why don’t they do it?

Age-old usability debates aside, I think it’s because Apple president Steve Jobs absolutely despises the idea of importing something form the Windows world. To that I say – it’s time to bite the bullet Steve.

Your Switchers want a two-button mouse, most of your users already use a two-button mouse – it’s time to admit that the world has moved on and release a glorious new two-button, wheeled, optical, wireless mouse with all the slick industrial design that Apple’s known for (bring back the hockey puck though, and I’m switching back to Windows…)

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