This mouse is magical

I’m finally using my new Magic Mouse from Apple, which is just like normal mouse, except it does multi-touch actions. Which may seem, at first glance, sort of stupid. I’m not sure multi-touch gesturing is going to reach its full potential when confined to a mouse form factor, but it is certainly an innovative idea. And it doesn’t have a little scroll ball to get gunked up like the old Mighty Mouse, so that’s a plus.

The built-in actions are pretty limited — scrolling now has inertia, like the iPhone, and you can single or double click despite the lack of actual buttons. The real fun comes when you download a little app called MagicPrefs, which is a must-have companion to the Magic Mouse. The possibilities it opens up are breathtaking and somewhat ridiculous. It creates a dozen or so tap zones on the mouse and allows one to assign actions for clicks, swipes, drags, pinches, and taps, for up to four fingers. It would take some serious dexterity to use this program to its full potential.

My current configuration is pretty simple, but really great for my needs. Swiping down with two fingers brings up Spaces, swiping up with two fingers brings up Expose, and clicking the little Apple icon locks my screen. There is another option called the “MagicMenu” that allows you to tap or click and then swipe up, down, left, or right to select an action from a little hovering menu that appears. A little too finicky and complicated for me, but neat.

The best thing that MagicPrefs seems to do is fix — or at least lessen — the strange scroll scaling that the Magic Mouse uses, which makes it far too easy to move the mouse pointer nowhere (if moving the mouse slowly), or all the way to the other side of the screen (if moving quickly) with a tiny wrist flick. I know some people love that sort of “scaled” scrolling action, but I can’t stand it. I’m not sure how much is MagicPrefs fiddling the settings and how much is just me getting used to the odd behavior, but either way, this little mouse, full of multi-touch mystery, is definitely growing on me.

3 Comments

  1. Do you find that it cramps your fingers when scrolling? It seemed that way when playing with it at the local Apple Store, but I only used it for a few minutes.

    Though to be fair, I don’t see the point of the Mighty Mouse at all, unless you are using a Mac with its anemic keyboard capabilities. The Mac seems to emphasize mouse usage, with many actions basically requiring a mouse in order to operate. Maybe that’s fine for designers where there isn’t an alternative to mouse-based interfaces, but for coding (or even word processing), most of your work can be done (err, should be able to be done) with very little mousing around. You can’t even navigate through a dialog with just a keyboard unless it only has text entry boxes and an OK/Cancel button.

  2. I do find the scrolling more difficult than with the old mouse, because I have to physically lift my fingers rather than resting them on the mouse and ball, but I haven’t used it enough yet to determine whether it will be painful or just an adjustment.

    I agree to a point that the Mac emphasizes the mouse more than many power users might like, but it doesn’t necessarily demand you use the mouse. There is a simple option under Keyboard settings for “Full Keyboard Access” to dialog boxes and the like. But many applications, like graphic design, web browsing, etc. do generally work better with or require a mouse, and for them, as well as general Finder navigation, the multi-touch mouse surface opens up interesting possibilities.

  3. Hey, look at that, you are right, I can turn on keyboard navigation of dialogs. Too bad the default isn’t to allow you to tab through dialogs. Also amusing is how difficult it is to find the option to enable it (it took me a couple minutes of staring at the dialog to realize that the description text wrapped to two lines, as opposed to there being one line of description text for each of the two options). But at least now I can tab through dialogs on my Mac, so thank you.

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