Wednesday, 17 February 2010

A Kind of Magic

With my birthday coming up in a couple of weeks I decided to hedge my birthday funds and finally splash out on a Magic Mouse. The decision was mainly brought about because I found a supplier whose price couldn't be matched and they had some in stock. Over the years I've spent a small fortune on computer rodents; I've found some that I love, and others which have disappeared behind the electronic skirting board in a few weeks for one reason or another. I'm a difficult person when it comes to mice because I'm both left handed and have quite small hands. So my criteria for a good mouse are:

  • Small and lightweight

  • Uncontoured - in other words they fit into both hands the same way

  • Featured - scroll device, multiple buttons, etc.

  • Configurable

  • Truly Wireless - no dongle/receiver
Since I bought my first Apple computer I've used the Mighty Mouse (oops, that's the Apple Mouse isn't it!!), both wired and wireless versions and I must be one of the few people on the planet who have never experienced the well documented problems with the scroll ball. My only real hang-up with the Apple Mouse is the side buttons, which are just too stiff to be comfortable. I like the feel of the Apple Mouse in my hand, but the wireless version may be just a tad too heavy with the batteries in. In fact the only other mouse I use these days is the Kensington SlimBlade Trackball Mouse which I tend to use with my Hackintosh or when I'm on the train with my MBP. I love its ability to swap between mouse and trackball functions especially in cramped conditions.

I'm now hooked on the Magic Mouse. I like the low profile, although I fail to understand how people with long finger nails can use it without the desktop acting like a nail file, and it feels lighter than the wireless Apple Mouse. I love the silky touch of the mouse top and even slightly sweaty fingers seem to glide over its surface. But what really swings it for me is the 3rd party software available for it to make it truly configurable.

So far I've tried MagicPrefs, MouseWizard and jiTouch, but I keep coming back to BetterTouchTool. All four programmes offer similar features, but BTT just has the edge for me, primarily because it provides so much configurability, including fine control over speeds, touch pressures, surface boundaries, in addition to a wide range of gestures, taps, clicks and swipes. Regardless of which programme you finally opt for just take care not to overwhelm yourself by setting up loads of defined gestures; start off with a couple and build on these as you get more familiar with the mouse.

It does take some time to get to grips with the Magic Mouse. Fingers need to be in quite precise positions for a specific gesture to initiate the appropriate response and sometimes it can take to or three attempts. Scrolling is much smoother than with the Apple Mouse but clicks and taps can be a bit frustrating until you've been using the mouse for a while. I do find that my hand gets a little bit tired after prolonged usage and I think this is partly because of the low profile, but it may simply be bad habits on my part from not taking proper breaks. Time will tell.

Other caveats - the instructions indicate that to use a Magic Mouse on different machines requires you to unpair from one before pairing with another. In reality two machines can share a single Magic Mouse, but you clearly need to disconnect from one before connecting to the second. I've not noticed any issues regarding battery life as yet, with 84% charge remaining after 7 days. I certainly haven't seen the draining effect on my wireless keyboard that some users have reported, although that may be because I have one of the old plastic wireless keyboards.

Can I recommend the Magic Mouse? I really think you need to try one out before you decide to buy one. It's not going to suit everyone, and if you don't like it, it's an expensive mistake. If you decide to go ahead, be patient, and try out the different software options to get the best balance to suit you. Personally, I'm going to get a second one at some stage so I don't have to carry the current one around with me when switching between machines.

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