Miscellaneous Ramblings

2 Steps Forward: Logitech Control Center 3.0 and Unifying Receiver

Charles Moore - 2009.08.11 - Tip Jar

Logitech Control Center for Macintosh (LCC) is proprietary driver software for Logitech keyboards, mice, and trackballs that adds function enhancement and configuration options and, in some instances, is required in order to enable use of the device at all. With LCC you can set things like button functions and scrolling and acceleration speeds to your preferred types and levels of response, and to support horizontal scrolling by nudging the wheel to the left or right.

Configuring the scroll wheel in Logitech Control Center
Configuring the scroll wheel in Logitech Control Center.

One of the Control Center panes even has a handy battery charge level monitor.

Logitech Control Center includes a battery charge indicator
Logitech Control Center includes a battery charge indicator.

The Control Center will recognize any supported Logitech device connected to the computer automatically, and is in many respects pretty cool, but it has also proved quite buggy and problematical on some systems.

Logitech Control Centers shows any supported Logitech device
Logitech Control Centers shows any supported Logitech device.

For random some examples of the sorts of problems that have been encountered, these forums will provide a sampling.

My inclination is to try to get along with OS X's default device drivers as much as is practical, and happily many Logitech mice, which I'm partial to, work just fine for my purposes without LCC, albeit with standard functionality. I'm quite happy to get along with left-click/right-click and a scroll wheel most of the time.

Logitech Control Center can switch applications with a click
Logitech Control Center can switch applications with a click.

Problems with Tex-Edit Plus

However, last fall I installed Logitech Control Center - version 2.6.1 if I recall correctly - when I reviewed the then-new V550 mouse, and soon encountered some of the infamous LCC bugginess in a conflict with my main text-crunching tool, Trans-Tex Software's Tex-Edit Plus text editor, and specifically affecting the scroll wheel driver.

When working in TE+, touching the V550's scroll wheel would as often as not bring up a gaggle of "Error Detected - 9870" dialog screens. I emailed Tex-Edit Plus developer Tom Bender to get his read on the problem, and Tom immediately fingered Logitech Control Center as the culprit, adding that he uses Logitech mice too and loves them, but he doesn't use LCC.

"I could choose to ignore all -9870 reports from the [scroll] wheel, but it just seems 'wrong' to insert 'special case code' into Tex Edit Plus so that it ignores the erroneous error report from a single buggy piece of software," Tom commented at the time.

Tom actually forwarded me a slightly breathed-on copy of TE+ with the error trap disabled, but it didn't do the trick. The indefatigable Tom then came through with another modded copy of TE+ 4.9.8 - above and beyond for a busy guy - but that didn't fix the issue either. At that point I gave up, uninstalled Logitech Control Center, and the error sheets stopped appearing.

Logitech Control Center gives your mouse a lot of control
Logitech Control Center gives your mouse a lot of control.

Happily, the V550 Nano mouse seemed to work well enough with the default OS X mouse driver, although some of the advanced functions that require LCC support don't work - but that's easier to live with than the error sheets.

However, recently I wanted to use my Logitech TrackMan Wheel trackball with my 17" PowerBook, whose built-in trackpad is so horrible it cries out for substitution - or makes me want to cry out in frustration anyway. A trackball makes a good choice for use with a laptop away from desk or table surfaces, since it doesn't require a mousing surface and can remain static wherever you find to perch it within reach. However, the TrackMan Wheel refused to work without the Logitech Control Center, and it came down to a choice between the frustration of the error sheets and the relief of using the trackball.

Logitech Control Center provides lots of keyboard options
Logitech Control Center provides lots of keyboard options.

Logitech Control Center 3.0

I decided to give the trackball a try, and as luck would have it, Logitech released an updated version 3.0 of LCC last week, which I wasted no time downloading and installing. It's early days yet, but so far it seems to be behaving and coexisting peacefully with Tex Edit Plus. Hopefully that will continue.

With the LCC 3.0 and a Logitech mouse or trackball you can

  • Scroll in windows of applications built for Mac OS X and scroll up and down with a single keystroke or wheel movement.
  • Switch between open applications.
  • Show contextual menus with a single mouse click.
  • Simulate keystrokes to provide shortcuts to commands you use regularly.

Plus, with the LCC 3.0 and a Logitech keyboard (like the extremely nice diNovo Edge and diNovo Keyboard for Macintosh) you can for example:

  • Browse the Internet using dedicated keys that provide one-touch access to your favorite sites.
  • Launch your email application by pressing a button.
  • Play music and control the system speaker using built-in buttons.
  • Open frequently used items, such as documents, folders and applications, with a single keystroke.

New features in Logitech Control Center version 3.0 include:

  • Support for new mice and keyboards
  • Inclusion of the Logitech Unifying software to pair up to six compatible wireless mice, keyboards, and number pads with one single Logitech Unifying receiver
  • Enhanced the Zoom feature to enable toggling the mouse's scroll wheel between scroll and zoom modes by pressing a button
  • Various minor (and, for some of us, not-so-minor) bug fixes

The Unifying Receiver

As noted, one of the reasons for releasing Logitech Control Center version 3.0 is to add support for Logitech's new Unifying USB Receiver for RF mode wireless devices. This is definitely one of Logitech's better ideas.

The Unifying Receiver works with Logitech wireless keyboards and mice.

The Unifying Receiver is a tiny "nano" USB RF receiver that protrudes only 8 mm (1/3") from the edge of your computer and thus can remain plugged into your notebook's USB port. It lets you easily connect up to six compatible wireless mice and keyboards using the same receiver, rather than the tedium of having to employ hubs or swap dongles, and frees up USB ports that are always at a premium on Mac notebooks due to Apple's perverse stinginess with I/O ports.

Not needing to unplug the receiver when you move your laptop around or store it in its bag or backpack lessens the potential for losing it as well.

Logitech Unifying ReceiverWith a Logitech Unifying receiver you can, for example, use a compatible wireless mouse and keyboard with the same receiver, which has not heretofore been possible with, for example, my Logitech V550 laptop mouse and diNovo Keyboard for Mac, whose USB RF receivers are mutually incompatible.

The tiny new USB receiver works with with Logitech's Wireless Keyboard K350, Wireless Keyboard K340, Marathon Mouse M705, and Wireless Mouse M505, among others.

If you get a Unifying receiver and want to connect additional compatible mice or keyboards, you will also have to download and install the Logitech Unifying software, which is available online.

The Logitech Unifying Received incorporates Logitech's excellent 2.4 GHz wireless technology that I've found completely trouble-free, reliable, and with no mouse latency or sluggish response of the sort that sometimes afflicts Bluetooth wireless peripherals, and it's always right there with no waiting when you boot or wake up the computer, and incorporates 128-bit AES encryption.

The Logitech Unifying receiver is debuting with four new products: the Logitech Wireless Keyboard K350, Wireless Keyboard K340, Marathon Mouse M705, and Wireless Mouse M505. It appears that only products designed for the Unifying Receiver will work with it.

Logitech Control Center 3.0 System Requirements:

  • Macintosh OS X OS 10.3.9, 10.4.x, 10.5.x
  • Logitech USB pointing device or keyboard

Platform Support: The Universal Binary Logitech Control Center (LCC) supports Mac OS X (both Power PC and Intel based Macs).

* Editor's note: Some images used with this article were supplied by Charles Moore, who uses Mac OS X 10.5 "Leopard"; others were supplied at LEM headquarters, where we use Mac OS X 10.4 "Tiger" - that's why the software looks different. I've been using Logitech wireless mice and keyboards since 2002, and I think they're great. dk

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Charles Moore has been a freelance journalist since 1987 and began writing for Mac websites in May 1998. His The Road Warrior column was a regular feature on MacOpinion, he is news editor at Applelinks.com and a columnist at MacPrices.net. If you find his articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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