Friday, 29 May 2009

Why can't Apple make a good mouse?

After being an OS X convert for a little over a year I’ve finally given up the battle with the Mighty Mouse. First I had the wired version which came with my iMac, and admittedly I thought it a little uncomfortable, but hey, I have lots of things to get used to with switching, perhaps the idiosyncrasies of an Apple mouse are one more thing. After playing awhile I managed to get used to the awkward left click (where you have to physically life your left finger off the mouse, otherwise it has a preference to treat uncertain clicks as a primary click), and even began to find the squeeze buttons useful, so I upgraded to a bluetooth version.

So far so good, everything seemed fine and I was really enjoying the mac experience. But then the problems began, starting with an odd tendency for my right-click technique to just stop working for no apparent reason. In fact, on some occasions I even lifted my entire hand off the mouse, clicked the right-hand side, and still no contextual menu! This began to get frustrating, so I resorted to the tried and tested method of holding down ‘control’ and clicking (the obligatory mac ctrl+click). Now you may think, dear readers, that this may have seriously irked me enough to ditch the Mighty Mouse, but no I did persist. This was partially due to the money the mouse had cost me, but also because I read a very interesting article exploring Apple’s persistent emphasis on a single-button mouse. I’m not sure where the original article is, but I shall reiterate the main points here to illustrate why limited right-click ability was not a deal breaker for me. Basically, the one-button mouse has a twofold advantage, firstly, it’s simpler and therefore more intuitive to only have one button to use, and secondly, it prevents bad programming. In relation to the first point, as the original author rightly pointed out, many problematic calls made to IT services are from people who have trouble understanding that some programs require you to access ‘hidden’ functions by clicking with a different button, upon which they’re unsure whether they should be further clicking within the contextual menu with the right button or the left. For those of us used to power-using with right clicks these mistakes seem pretty silly, however, they do highlight an important fact, right-clicking is not necessarily an intuitive function. In relation to the second point, the Apple philosophy is the not-so-crazy idea that all a programs functionality should be available without the need for contextual menus (something I do really agree with), because lazy programmers will often tack-on features into contextual menus as an easy-fix, which represents poor design and un-intuitive computing (something I may write an article about soon). All this amounts to the fact that right-clicking is much less of a necessity in OS X than it is in Windows (though perhaps I just prefer keyboard shortcuts these days, it seemed more necessary in Windows but it may not be), meaning that troublesome right-click behaviour was still not a deal breaker.

My real issue with the Mighty Mouse came when the little scroll ball (or mighty nipple, if you like) just stopped working. I cleaned it, I blew into it, I held the mouse upside down, nothing. That was really the last straw with me, I need to scroll, I really hate using the scroll bar in browser windows, dammit Apple! For a company who can seemingly revolutionise touch-screen computing, create the thinnest laptop in the world, and apparently come out of nowhere and create arguably one of the most successful mobile phones of all time a mouse seems like a small ask. But no, the Mighty Mouse is an absolute failure, Apple tried to be too clever and it just doesn’t work. I gave the Mighty Mouse a year of my life, and it repaid me with nothing. I just hope that soon Apple will suck in their gut and say ‘actually the Mighty Mouse was a problem, here you go, have a mouse with some physical buttons everyone can use.’ But you know what, I bet they don’t, because at times Apple are just far too stubborn to admit when they’ve made a mistake.

I now have a Logitech VX Nano, and you know what, I couldn’t be happier. Come on Apple, get a grip.

Thoughts? Comments? Feel free to leave them here.

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