Apple’s Magic Mouse is the first offering from Apple to mate the capabilities of a Multi-Touch surface with a movable mouse. The result may be the best mouse Apple has ever made or the worst, depending on your expectations. The Magic Mouse has good points and bad points, but it has great potential, especially if Apple makes a few minor changes to future releases of the mouse software.
In the meantime, the Magic Mouse is intuitive and fun to use, but its ergonomics and lack of gesture customization may determine how well it works for you, and whether you love it or hate it.
Apple Magic Mouse: Introduction
The Magic Mouse is the first Multi-Touch mouse to make its way out of labs and into the hands of the general public. Its lineage can be found in Apple’s iPhone and iPod touch, which introduced a touch-based interface that can detect multiple contact points as well as interpret gestures, such as swiping, to move between pages of information, or the pinch, to zoom in or out.
Multi-Touch next made an appearance in Apple’s MacBook and MacBook Pro, in the form of a glass trackpad that can understand one- and two-finger gestures. The Multi-Touch trackpad makes it easy and fun to navigate a portable’s desktop and applications.
Apple then used Multi-Touch technology to create a mouse that has the same capabilities as most standard mice, in a package that delivers an entirely different user experience.
The Magic Mouse is wireless, and uses a Bluetooth 2.1 transceiver to communicate with Bluetooth-enabled Macs. It can connect to any Mac that has a Bluetooth module, either built-in or added via a USB dongle. In fact, that’s the approach I took. I used a Bluetooth dongle to connect the Magic Mouse to an older Mac Pro that is not equipped with Bluetooth.
The Magic Mouse is powered by two AA batteries, which are included in the package. Apple says the batteries should last up to four months.
Apple’s Magic Mouse: Installation
The Magic Mouse ships with two AA batteries already installed. Turn the mouse over and you’ll find a power on/off slide switch, a laser-tracking LED, two plastic strips that serve as glide rails to allow the Magic Mouse to move freely on most surfaces, and a small green LED indicator light.
Magic Mouse Pairing
The first step is to pair the Magic Mouse with your Mac. You do this by turning the Magic Mouse’s power on, and then opening the Mouse system preferences, where you’ll find the option to ‘Set up Bluetooth mouse.’ You’ll be guided through the pairing process, which is short and quick. Once the Magic Mouse and your Mac are paired, you’re ready to start using the mouse.
Magic Mouse Software
In order to take advantage of the Multi-Touch features, you’ll need to install the Wireless Mouse Software, which is available for downloading from Apple’s web site. If you’re running Mac OS X 10.6.2 or later, support for the Magic Mouse and Multi-Touch are already built in.
After you install the Wireless Mouse Software, your Mac will reboot. If all goes well, the Magic Mouse will be fully functional, ready to accept your commands via one- or two-finger gestures.
Apple’s Magic Mouse: The New Mouse Preference Pane
After you install the Wireless Mouse Software, the Mouse preference pane will include new options for configuring the way your Mac will interpret gestures from the Magic Mouse.
Gestures are organized as one-finger or two-finger gestures. In another first, Apple incorporated a video help system in the Mouse preference pane. Let the mouse hover over one of the gestures and a short video will describe the gesture and show you how to perform it with the Magic Mouse.
As it originally shipped, the Magic Mouse only supports four types of gestures: Secondary Click, Scrolling, Screen Zooming, and the Swipe, which is the only two-finger gesture the Magic Mouse currently supports. The Magic Mouse seems to be capable of supporting additional gestures, but Apple limits it to four basic ones, at least in this first iteration of the software.
The other missing piece in the current Mouse preference pane is a way to customize gestures beyond a few basic options. I can choose whether the secondary click is a right- or left-click, or whether I want scrolling to have momentum, but I can’t reassign what a gesture does. That’s a pity, because I never use horizontal scrolling, and I’d rather have that gesture available to control something else. As is, I’m stuck with what Apple thinks is best, and I don’t always agree.
Apple’s Magic Mouse: The Gestures
The Magic Mouse currently only supports four gestures, or five, if you count the primary click as a gesture. A ‘gesture’ is either a tapping on the Magic Mouse’s surface, or one or two fingers sliding across the Magic Mouse’s surface in a prescribed pattern.
Supported Magic Mouse Gestures
The Secondary Click: The tapping of either the right- or left-hand half of the Magic Mouse indicates a secondary mouse click. You can select which half is the secondary, and by extension, which half is the primary.
Scroll: A single finger moving vertically across the surface will scroll a window up or down, depending on the direction of the gesture. Likewise, moving a finger left to right on the Magic Mouse’s surface performs a horizontal scroll. You can combine the vertical and horizontal scroll to move around a window in a circular fashion by simply drawing a circle on the mouse’s surface. You also have the option to enable momentum, which lets you flick your finger and have a window scroll continue for a period of time after you’ve stopped moving your finger.
Screen Zoom: Zooming is enabled by using a modifier key, usually the control key, while performing a vertical scroll gesture. If you hold the modifier key down, the window will zoom in or out, depending on the direction of your scroll.
Swipe: The only two-finger gesture, the swipe is similar to the horizontal scroll, except that you use two fingers instead of one. A swipe lets you navigate forward or back in browsers, Finder windows, and other applications that support a forward/back function.