Low End Mac Round Table

My Favorite Mac Mouse

Low End Mac Staff - 2011.09.02

Since 1983, when Apple introduced the $10,000 Lisa, the mouse has been the default pointing device used to interact with the graphical user interface (GUI). Early Apple mice were clunky affairs, and the ADB mice were far less clunky.

With the introduction of USB on the iMac in 1998, Apple made one of its most reviled decisions by introducing a round mouse, which a few loved and many hated. There was a huge aftermarket in add-on shells to reshape the round mouse and in third-party conventionally shaped USB mice to replace it.

Mac trackballs have been available as an alternative since at least 1985, and Apple used them in its portable models starting with the Macintosh Portable in 1989 until it introduced the PowerBook 500 Series in 1994, which adopted the trackpad as the pointing device on laptops.

Through much of that history, Apple's mice, trackballs, and trackpads have had a single button, while pointing devices in the Windows world often had two or three buttons - and sometimes several more. PC mice also came in a wider variety of shapes and colors, and they tended to adopt new technologies, such as optical sensors, earlier than Apple.

This week we're polling Low End Mac's staff about their favorite Mac pointing devices, past and present.

Old Logitech Mouse

Logitech Trackman

Dan Knight (Mac Musings): I got my first mouse, a 3-button Logitech Mouse (left), in my PC/DOS days in the late 1980s. I used the mouse that came with my Mac Plus, and later the ADB mouse that came with my Centris 610. At one point I bought a 3-button Logitech Trackman (right), but I never found it nearly as easy to use as a mouse.

My first USB mouse was the Contour USB UniMouse, a 3-button mouse that came in five different colors to complement the iMacs of the day. This was 1999, and I was still using ADB at home, so I brought it to work to use with the Blue & White Power Mac G3 on my desk. I fell in love with it, as it fit the hand nicely and handled smoothly. I would later use it with my first USB Mac, a 400 MHz PowerBook G4.

When I got my PowerBook, I quickly determined that I wanted to use a real keyboard and mouse whenever possible. After a lot of research, I picked up the Logitech Cordless Elite Duo, which included a Logitech Cordless Keyboard, a Logitech wireless mouse, a wireless receiver, and Logitech Control Center software. I bought a second set a couple years later, which my wife uses with her Mac these days. Both of the keyboards continue to function perfectly, as does one of the mice. The other mouse I pretty much wore out in about eight years of daily use. This was one of the best mice I've ever owned.

For the past year or so, I've been using a Logitech M705 Marathon Mouse, one that uses Logitech's tiny USB Unifying Receiver. It's an optical mouse that claims to run for years on a set of batteries - I just checked, and the battery level is at 65% with an estimated 712 more days of use available. Because the optical sensor is in a different location, it took a while to adjust to the mouse, but I have to report that I am very happy with it.

Apple ADB Mouse II.

Macally 2-button ADB mouse.

Charles Moore (several columns): Favorite mouse? I can't pick just one. I haven't really used any Apple mouse since the ADB Mouse II beck in the early '90s. It was a decent mouse in the context of the era, but not spectacular IMHO. From the time I sampled a MacAlly 2-button mouse around 1995, I never seriously considered using a single-button mouse again (with one offbeat exception that I'll get to in a moment). I did try to use the "no-button" Apple Pro Mouse that shipped with my G4 Cube in 2001, but found it heavy and stiff to click, and soon set it aside for a third-party rodent.

I didn't hate the much-reviled Apple USB "hockey puck" mouse of the late '90s the way many profess to. Indeed, I liked it better than its successor. My daughter still says it's her favorite Apple mouse. The hockey puck is also the exception I alluded to above: I discovered that it makes an excellent foot clicker with the tracking ball removed and the hole taped over to keep dust out. I would estimate that 80% or more of nerve and muscle small-motion stress from using computer mice derives from clicking, and foot-clicking helps spreads the wear and tear around. It's also a surprising efficiency booster when used in tandem with a hand input device. The old hockey pucks last amazingly well on the floor, so long as you address them with soft footwear like slippers, socks, or bare feet. I've laid in what I expect will be a lifetime supply.

Logitech V550 Nano mouse

For my regular mouse these days, I mostly use a Logitech V550, whose shape I find comfortable, and I love the weighted scroll-wheel with the detents optional. Unfortunately, after three years use, the wheel has gotten less "free" in its wheeling of late. I suspect dirt contaminating the bearing, but Iæ haven't discovered any obvious non-destructive means of getting at it for a good cleaning.

Another mouse I like, and one which obviates the problem just described in the previous paragraph, is the under-appreciated Targus for Mac Wireless Mouse, whose Touch Scroll solid-state optical 4-way scroll sensor (in lieu of a scroll wheel) has no moving parts, and therefore can't get gummed up with dirt. The Targus Wireless Mouse has other virtues as well, which I covered in my 2009 review.

RollerMouse 2 with i-Rocks Illuminated Keyboard

However, the pointing device I use most these days at my office workstation isn't a conventional mouse at all, but a Contour RollerMouse Free2 roller bar. I can't say enough good about these roller bars. They're fast, smooth, and easy on the hand, wrist, and arms. The Contour Free2 even comes with an excellent wristrest that goes nicely with any slim-profile keyboard that has a straight front page.

For general use, I find the roller bar superior to a conventional mouse or trackball (I've checked out a couple of good trackballs, but I never really warmed up to the body-English). I still use a mouse for precision work like image editing and as a stress-diversifying alternate to the roller bar.

I actually used to keep four pointing devices connected at my workstation, the other one a left-handed mouse, but since the roller bar is ambidextrous, that seems redundant now. Well, strictly speaking there are still four input devices if you count the multitouch trackpad on the MacBook, but with the notebook on a stand, I never use the trackpad for routine pointing and clicking.

Finally, with my mobile laptops, two old Pismo PowerBooks, I use a 2006 vintage Kensington Ci25M Notebook Optical Mouse with a handy retractable USB cable. It's ancient, but light and comfortably sized, with nice smooth button action, and is still available from Kensington for just $19.99.

Austin Leeds: Personally, I have yet to find a favorite mouse, but as far as pointing devices go, I adore the trackpads on the new MacBook Pros and MacBook Airs, and I'm sure I'd like the Magic Trackpad. They have a very Pismo-esque quality to them (I think it's the slightly rough surface: fingers can glide but still receive feedback that they're doing so). If my iPad's screen felt like those trackpads, I would never stop touching it!

Simon Royal (Tech Spectrum): My favourite Apple mouse is the puck. Yes.

My favourite trackpad is the PowerBook G4 Titanium and iBook G4 - large pads with a massive mouse button that you can slap anywhere you like. It has made me a lazy Mac user, and I find using the tiny two buttons on my wife's Toshiba laptop difficult. I wasn't too keen on the Lombard/Pismo trackpad buttons as they were a little less accessible, so you had to be a bit more accurate.

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