Steve Jobs Cannot Design A Mouse

Over the weekend I began reading Inside Steve’s Brain by Leander Kahney which has given me an insight into the control-freak that is Steve Jobs. Take the design of the mouse for the first Mac computer:

“Jobs paid close attention to every detail. Even the mouse was designed to reflect the shape of the computer: it has the same dimensions, and its single square button corresponds to the shape and placement of the screen.”

Macintosh SE and the ADB mouse were designed with the same proportions in mind.

Fast forward 24 years and when I go to use the Mighty Mouse connected to my fiance’s 24″ iMac I find the scrollball unwilling to scroll down. The gray nipple-like scroll mechanism might have been good on paper but after just a year of normal, everyday use the thing becomes flaky and useless. About every other week I need to flip the mouse upside down and rub the scroll ball vigorously along the length of my finger to restore functionality (video demonstration). In extreme cases when that doesn’t work I apply a dab of rubbing alcohol on the ball and gently turn the ball around in all possible directions to scrub the runners clean. Some people have even taken the Mighty Mouse apart in order to clean it. Since Apple’s products have won numerous industrial design awards, it escapes me how the mouse has been so neglected considering it is one of the most frequently used input devices on a computer.

The Mighty Mouse wasn’t the first unsuccessful mouse released by the Cupertino company. In 1998 to coincide the release of the first iMac, Apple created the USB Mouse which became known as the “hockey puck”. While considered stylish with it’s translucent colors and circular design the USB mouse was actually very uncomfortable to use. Third parties released USB to ADB converters so people could use the older, more comfortable Apple mouses with their new iMac computers. There was even an adaptive shell called the iCatch which elongated the circular mouse making it more comfortable to hold and similar looking to the old Desktop Mouse II.

The Apple USB mouse that came with new iMacs looked and felt like a hockey puck.

So while Apple dared to be different by making computers that were easy to use while being gorgeous to look at, their mice could never compare. But on the other hand the trackpads on Apple’s new MacBook and MacBook Pro laptops are marvelously responsive and a joy to use. Apple is at the top of it’s game when it comes to user inputs on non-desktop products. Perhaps Steve Jobs should ditch the whole mouse concept and bundle his desktops with a USB powered trackpad. That would certainly be better than licensing the trademark of a popular cartoon series to tack on to a crappy product.

Finger gestures make using an Apple laptop easy.

P.S. I had to “clean” the trackball 3 times while writing this blog post.

Configuring The Logitech MX Revolution Mouse

Kristina got me the mouse I have long been eying to replace my 5-year old Microsoft Wireless Explorer Blue mouse: The Logitech MX Revolution. It was an early anniversary gift as our 7 year anniversary is this Friday, March 21st. Logitech claims it is the most advanced mouse in the world and after dragging it around my screen for a minute or two I whole-heartedly agree. It works fine as a regular mouse, but where the real power is in the advanced configuration of the many buttons. Furthermore, you can program the buttons to do different things in different applications providing total flexibility with integration into your workflow. Since Firefox is the main application used on my PC, I decided to turbo charge my mouse shortcuts for speedier web surfing.

Logitech MX Revolution Mouse Diagram

The first part was easy. The standard conventions of left-click, right-click, and the scroll wheel would remain in tact. The tried and true middle-click which I rely on to close tabs or open links in new tabs, is no where to be found (more on this later). Instead I have set up the clicking of the main scroll wheel to switch between two different scroll types. The Logitech MX Revolution can be controlled via software to scroll in click-mode or free-wheel mode. Click-mode is just like any other mouse scroll wheel with each turn producing a click. This is used for more precise scrolling. But if you need to get through a long web page in a short amount of time, free-wheel mode will let you spin the scroll with a mighty flick and continue scrolling for up to 7 seconds. Sure makes getting around the largest web page in the universe a lot easier. If you wanted you could define the default scroll-mode in specific applications. I found this difficult to get used to so I set the global behavior to be free-wheel mode with middle clicking switching to click-mode.

Moving on in Firefox, the back and forward buttons naturally would correlate to the back and forward buttons of the browser. This was a no brainier. But the thumb wheel left me puzzled about what task to assign to it. This wasn’t like the main scroll wheel but instead more like a lever that you could push up, down, and in with your right thumb. One interesting combination is to map the copy (Control + C), paste (Control + V), and cut (Control + X) commands to the up, down, and pushed-in positions respectively. In Firefox I find myself switching through tabs a lot so I decided to map Control + Tab (switch to the tab to the right), Control + Shift + Tab (shift to the tab on the left), and Control + W (close tab) functions to the thumb wheel. This set-up works great when tackling the daily news reading I do.

Of course if you have become used to the middle click opening links to new tabs, then you will want to install the free uberOptions which gives you a wide range of additional options for configuring your mouse. I set my one touch search button to perform a middle click. It’s a little out of the way from my index finer, but I can deal with that. The main scroll wheel itself is a bit too heavy to push in multiple times. Besides, Logitech’s configuration software, SetPoint, doesn’t let you assign a click function to this button.

It took a bit of experimenting but I believe I have settled on the ideal set-up for my mouse. This thing is such a joy to use I wish I had taken the leap sooner. If you are in need of a new mouse and you take personal configuration seriously, then the Logitech MX Revolution is a perfect pointing device for you.

What are some handy mouse or keyboard shortcuts that you rely on?

*If you’re more of a keyboard-shortcut kind of person, thanks for reading all the way through. I appreciate it 🙂