Apple Magic Mouse: A Touch of Magic?

In 2005, Apple released the first Mighty Mouse. A year later a bluetooth version was released. As much as we appreciate Apple’s attempt to creating a good looking mouse, the Mighty Mouse was heavily criticized for its usability – right click was awkward and the scrolling wheel was difficult to keep clean. How many times did we bang our heads because the wheel had stopped working?

The future of Apple’s mouse family is all of a sudden looking brighter with the introduction of the new Magic Mouse. If you are inline with Apple’s design philosophy, you would love the hardware design of the Magic Mouse – it’s simple, and it’s beautiful. The Mighty Mouse was a great piece of design with only a visible scrolling wheel on the top surface, the Magic Mouse takes one step further and presents you with one clean, curved top surface. From purely the appearance perspective, the Magic Mouse is absolutely breathtaking.

Magic Mouse

Magic Mouse

The Power and the Connectivity

The Magic Mouse consumes two AA batteries. Bundled with the Magic Mouse are two Energizer alkaline batteries. The Mighty Mouse used to (at least for a while) bundle with two Energizer lithium batteries which offer longer battery life and significant lighter weight. I wish Apple had done the same with the Magic Mouse, because even though is very small, actually weights a bit. Having lithium batteries will help reduce the movement resistance and will therefore offer more responsive feedback.

Bluetooth mice have always had problems with regards to the connectivity. The Magic Mouse, when paired with a Mac, offers almost seamless integration. I say ‘almost’ because as smooth as the connection between the mouse and the Mac is, sometimes the mouse would not connect after the Mac woke up from sleep. Having said that, when it does work, the pairing happens almost instantly! The Magic Mouse is by far the most responsive bluetooth mouse I have ever used.

Magic Mouse

Magic Mouse

The Ergonomics

Let’s be honest, a lot of things, such as cars, are not often practical if they look really good. The Magic Mouse obviously isn’t an exception. The question is, how much trade off is there? Or in other words, is it worth trading the loss of ergonomics with the good looking?

The short answer is, yes.

When I ordered the Magic Mouse, I did not expect much. In fact, I can safely say that I only ordered it to see what the fuss is about. I was fully expecting to have a sore wrist after extensive uses, but that did not happen. After three full days of usage, I am beginning to like the feel of the mouse. Sure, it doesn’t have the grip because it’s very flat, but by some appropriate amount of adjustment to my mouse handling technique, I am now used to it.

The trick is to not try to grab the mouse, but to lightly rest your two mouse fingers on the mouse surface. Secure the mouse by holding it with your other three fingers. Your palm should not touch the surface of the mouse.

Magic Mouse

Magic Mouse

Multi-touch and Gestures

Apart from the look, if I had to choose one thing I love about the Magic Mouse, it would be the scrolling. We are all so used to scrolling wheels, I am actually very surprised that the wheel-less multi-touch surface worked so well. A gentle swipe on the surface would scroll the content horizontally or vertically, with momentum (which can be turned off in the preferences panel). In applications such as Photoshop, you can move your finger on the mouse surface to move the content around – something a traditional scrolling wheel cannot do, and a Mighty Mouse scrolling wheel sucks at.

The scrolling gesture does not come without side effects though. For instance, because you rest your fingers on the surface, sometimes a slight, accidental move will trigger the scrolling. Also, because the scrolling is so smooth, it does not work very well in situations such as scroll between browser tabs (this is especially noticeable when momentum is turned on).

Oh, and because there is no physical scrolling wheel, we also don’t get a middle button (a function that is often provided by a scrolling wheel on a modern computer mouse).

Gestures

Gestures

If you use Firefox/Safari with a mouse gesture plugin, or if you use Opera, you are already familiar with the power of mouse gestures. I for one cannot live without it – holding down the right mouse button and dragging to the left to go back to the previous page – this is something that is so regularly used and a lot of times I wouldn’t even realize its importance until I don’t have that functionality (e.g. when using other people’s computers).

Using Magic Mouse, the mouse gestures become even more powerful because we can now swipe two fingers, it essentially doubles the amount of gestures we could use. Although admittedly, the two-finger swiping isn’t as easy as it sounds. Due to the way we hold the mouse (remember, we don’t grab the mouse, but hold it lightly with our three fingers), sometimes it becomes a challenge to perform two-finger swipes and to keep the mouse from moving side ways.

At the time of writing, the version 1.0 of the Magic Mouse software still has some issues and lacks some features. For instance, the tracking speed is extremely slow, you need to install MouseZoom to speed the tracking speed up to an acceptable state (especially for higher resolution monitors). Also there are not enough built-in two-finger gestures as there are for the Macbook trackpad for the time being, although it is logical to assume that Apple is working on improving the mouse software.

Below you can see the list of gestures available for the Macbook trackpad and for the Magic Mouse:

Preferences: Trackpad

Preferences: Trackpad

Preferences: Magic Mouse

Preferences: Magic Mouse

And by installing MouseZoom, you could speed the tracking speed up considerably.

Preferences: MouseZoom

Preferences: MouseZoom

The Gestures for the Pioneers

No doubt Apple will be enhancing the mouse software to make it more useful, and it is likely that some vendors will be looking at incorporating multi-touch gestures to their software too. However, for the time being, there is something we could do to make the Magic Mouse a tad more useful.

I present you, MultiClutch, by William Henderson. To quote the author’s explanation on what MultiClutch does:

Basically, MultiClutch allows you to assign custom keyboard shortcuts in a given app to a given gesture. Want swipes to change tabs in Safari? Done. The same in iChat? Done. Want zoom-in to open emails in Mail, zoom-out to close windows in every app, and a swipe down to bring up Quicksilver? Done done done.

Installing MultiClutch is very easy – download the file, extract it, double click to install to System Preferences, and you will be presented the following screen:

Install InputManager

Install InputManager

Click “Continue and Install” to complete the installation. You may now assign keyboard shortcuts to a number of gestures:

MultiClutch

MultiClutch

The solution isn’t perfect, but it does what it supposed to do and does it quite well.

The Verdict

After years of frustration with the Mighty Mouse, Apple has finally produced a device that lives up to their high standards (and our expectations). If you are still worried about the ergonomics, I urge you to try one out in a store.

The Good

  • Great design
  • Excellent build quality
  • Can easily fit in your laptop bag
  • Very responsive
  • Scrolling is fantastic
  • Multi-touch gestures could lead to many creative uses
  • Fast Bluetooth pairing

The Bad

  • A bit heavy for such a small mouse
  • Ergonomics can take some time to get used to
  • Scrolling can have side effects
  • No middle button
  • Multi-touch gestures support is limited for now
  • Clicking the right button requires lifting the finger off the left button
  • The fancy stuff do not work on Windows/Linux (yet)

I hope you enjoyed reading this review. In any case, please go out and try it out yourself if you haven’t already. Seeing is believing!


  • http://www.lorettesamuel.be Samuel Lorette

    My regret is that several articles are no “third clic” to open or clase a tab in safari.

    An option I always use.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/nhuisman Nathan Huisman

    Good Review. Would you guys who have this mouse recommend it for someone who has massive hands and spends a lot of time in CS3? Yes or No.

    • http://scarletbits.com h1brd

      no :)

      go for a comfortable and ergonomic mouse like logitech mx.
      yes sure the design is awesome but a mouse is supposed to be more of a work tool and less of a decoration item.

    • Eric

      Absolutely. I love my Magic Mouse. It’s not for gamers. But I really don’t miss the third fourth and fifth buttons really compared to how its made my mousing life better.

      I’m a heavy-duty CS4 user and I love it!

  • http://www.oculoid.com Jonathan Kurten

    I am very excited to get my hands on one of these. Thanks for the review guys!

  • http://mcculloughdesign.com Dan McCullough

    Great review! It’s the first one I’ve read that explained how to properly hold it. Maybe that’ll cut down on people complaining about the lack of ergonomics.

    A few months ago I bought a Logitech Performance MX and it was good, but it just wasn’t “it.” Haven’t touched it since the magic mouse came out!

    Thanks for the MultiClutch tip too

  • lpezda

    This great and useful review convince me to buy Magic Mouse.

    Thanks Mac.Appstorm!

  • Topy

    nice review, I would like to try the new magic mouse, I still have the Mighty Mouse and haven’t had any problems…yet…. But, perhaps I agree with h1brd about the Magic Mouse, I dont know if it’s the best choice for somebody who’s all the time using the computer.

  • Evan

    I got one on my christmas list :)

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  • http://workawesome.com Joel Falconer

    1337est mouse review ever Fred!

  • Dom

    Tho as much as I like apple design, I’m really looking forward to see a normal mouse from Apple. Until then I’ll use other brands…

  • http://mybiteintoapple.com JD

    If I were to use on Windows for gaming? How would it square up? All I need is left and right click for the games I play; keep in mind I do need to be able to click both at the same time.

    • flunkycarter

      i don’t think you can click both at the same time…

  • http://www.binkythedoormat.com Daniel

    “I only ordered it to see what the fuss is about”

    Someone has FAR too much disposable income …

  • WhyteWork

    It looks brilliant, but I use a 3D software where, without 3 buttons you can’t navigate it’s environment. So I think I’ll wait until apple has solved this and when I upgrade to a new iMac I’ll keep my 3 buttoned mighty mouse.

    • http://www.cuby.co.nr Henry Bennett

      I was also pretty disappointed to see there was no middle click on these mice…
      I wonder if it would be possible for someone to make a plug-in that allows for a middle click to be registered as such when pressing in the middle of the mouse. (Seeing as it can tell where you are pressing.)

      Great review by the way.

  • flunkycarter

    Wishes.
    I wish the whole mouse would act as a trackpad so i could turn it sideways and use it like the trackpads on the macbooks.

    I wish it had more multitouch gestures, think macbook. Three button swipes. Double Tap for Right click… etc…

    I’m sure they’ll bring some of those features later on, but definitely not via a software update… you’ll have to buy a brand new mouse.

    But yes, it’s the best bluetooth and best apple mouse I’ve used so far… even though I do miss the middle button that I used to use for Dashboard and the side buttons for expose. Sigh.

  • Carl

    Can’t disagree more on the coolness outweighing the ergonomics. I so wanted to love the Magic Mouse but frankly it feels very unnatural to use and hold. I’ll stick with my Logitech.

  • adasdw

    I didnt like that the mouse was so low at first but i got used to it. I think its better like this because you move around your finger on it alot, and that is easier to do when the mouse is low

  • http://www.pixmac.com Vitezslav Valka

    I love the review. And as you, I agree that this is leap forward!

  • Joachim

    Thank you for the review.

    Did’t try one, but want one if it’s got a wire.
    A pity it does not exist.
    A well for ecology (no batteries) , as for your health (no extra radiation)

    tnx.

  • http://mobilechamps.com/ mobilechamps

    looking great design brilliant mouse & nice function

    thnx

  • http://bardo.in Sathish

    Thank you. Really useful review.

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  • http://unttld.com/ Derek K

    Are the ergonomics worth trading off? The short answer: no. The medium answer: absolutely without question not a chance.

    This mouse is perfect if you’re just browsing the net. That’s basically all it’s designed to do.

    I’ve already got serious carpal tunnel injuries. I can’t work (as in not bugger about at the computer) for more than fifteen minutes before needing a serious relax period. There’s nothing to support the hand. Anyone doing art/design/multimedia work will probably want to stick with the trusty Wacom mouse or a Logitech mouse.

    Swipy gestures and shiny tops doesn’t equal (by a very long longshot) the health of my wrist.

  • Gedy

    I’ve had the Magic Mouse for more than a month now and I love it. When I go back to work to use the Mighty Mouse it just feels cheap and hurts to use.

    Amazing to design with too!

    Best mouse yet.

    It’s true that it took a little to get used to, but now it’s second nature.

  • kerry

    I’ve been using it for 4 months, except for the days when the batteries die and I go back to my old chunky mouse. The only thing I LOVE about the magic mouse is the fling-scroll – so smooth. It’s giving me bad RSI in the back of the hand and wrist. I use the gently touch-hold where my palm does not rest on the shell and lately have taken to using a toilet roll under my wrist for a break – yes toilet roll!! LOL. Because it’s soft and spongy and rolls. OK that doesn’t last for long but 5 mins gives me a break.

    So why do I persist? Because swapping mice, means adjusting the tracking in the prefs even then I can’t readjust my hand movement easily to compensate for the wobbly inaccuracy in the cursor of the old-style mouse compared to the heavier drag of the magic mouse which is more precise. Catch-22.

    Well my old mouse was a fairly cheap and nasty Post-Office brand but at least comfortable – that is I’ve never experienced aches and pains before. Think I’m going to go try/buy a high-performance old-style mouse.

  • http://www.germaris.com Gerard Mariscalchi

    MagicMouse is absolutely amazing! With the help of both MouseZoom and MagicPrefs preference panes, I’m fully satisfied.

    It’s a very reliable tool. Speed, feather touch, ease and comfort of use, everything is fantastic.

    I work intensively in Flash, Photoshop and Illustrator CS4 and since I use it, my wrist ache has already disappeared!!

    Oh, I forgot, did you noticed its incredible design?

  • Jacob Fortuna

    The magic mouse is great. I still use a PC for most of my computing, but when using my mac to edit photos and especially to read articles online, I love the zoom and ease of use that my magic mouse provides!

    Thank you Apple!

  • Ian

    There’s an app called magicprefs (technically it’s a preference pane) that allows for very precise modifications to the magic mouse’s touch surface abilities. The lack of a middle button can be remedied by programing the middle strip (which can be done by dragging a box in a diagram, or selecting a preset) to function as middle click when the mouse button is depressed while a finger is placed there, similar to the way the two-finger right-click works on the Macbook Pro trackpads. I would recommend this app to anyone with a magic mouse, and it’s free!

  • Mark F

    Running OS 10.6.8 at work — heard about app to reverse the Magic Mouse scroll direction. Know how to find it?

    Have Lion at home on my PowerBook, which scrolls opposite now, to be in line with iPhones and iPads.

    Just want to make it all match the new mode.
    ~MRF

  • minasmms

    I regret buying this mouse :( It so insensitive, need to move like 1km to move across the screen, tho applestore says its normal:( Tried 3rd party apps but still not good for me. Even a silly microsoft mouse did the trick but magic mouse was not ok with my macbook pro.

  • http://butenas.com Ignas

    Got the mouse, used for 20 minutes and will try to return it tomorrow… It is not sensitive enough, after 20 minutes of web browsing I start to feel pain in my wrist. It is hard for me to imagine that I can work with this mouse longer when 10 minutes per day. Worst Apple product I owned. But I know people who enjoy it a lot.

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