New Pro Mouse and Keyboard

Introduction

Apple has won more prizes than Tom Hanks has picked up Oscars for its fantastically designed range of computers and peripherals. The iMac has rightly been designated a true design classic, and the Graphite Power Mac G4 and 22-inch Cinema Display both have their places in design museums around the world. And that’s not even mentioning the new G4 Cube… But Apple made a crucial error when it came to designing the input devices that shipped with these great desktop Macs. British designer Jonathan Ive may be assured of his place in the great design Hall of Fame, but he is not going to be an automatic choice as creator of the best-ever computer mouse. Indeed, the round, puck-like mouse that shipped with the iMac and Power Macs has been called the worst mouse ever. Apple claims that it is more ergonomic than other mice, but 99 per cent of its users think it’s about as tasty as a stale digestive – just not as good looking. For all its awards, Apple was in the embarrassing position of being beaten on mouse design by Microsoft, of all companies. Its futuristic silver IntelliMouse Explorer mouse (£42; see Reviews, Macworld, March 2000) featured two main buttons flanked by a rubberized scroll wheel in the centre, and a further two auxiliary buttons on its left side. You could program buttons and button combinations to perform one of 15 different functions, including clicking, dragging, and typing simple keyboard shortcuts. In contrast, Apple’s dumb disk mouse had one button and even less supporters. It looked a bit like a wheel, but it lacked the Explorer’s scrolling capabilities. During his keynote speech at New York’s Macworld Expo, Apple CEO Steve Jobs finally did the honourable thing. He admitted that Apple had goofed with the goofy mouse. “We have many faults, but we do listen,” he gracefully told his audience. And he immediately delivered a replacement – that could see Microsoft’s mouse retreating through the silicon skirting board. Like the Explorer, Apple’s new Pro Mouse is quite different to all previous Apple mice. It does not rely on the movement of a dust-collecting ball on its underside. The Pro Mouse is optical. Its glowing-red optical sensor ensures a far higher level of precision than that old scratchy ball. It also eliminates the all-too-often skipping and sticking that we’re used to with our mice. It has no moving parts at all – so there’s nothing to get dirty and gam up. Its optical nature means that there’s no need for a mousepad – spelling certain death to much future Simpsons and Star Wars merchandising. The best thing about the Pro Mouse, though, is that it isn’t round. Its sleek crystal-clear casing is like a tiny see-through glasses’ case, and is as unobtrusive a shape for the hand as I’ve ever felt. As you move it around, its red optical sensor lights up, which is as attractive as it is useful. Shine the light against a wall, and you get a devil bunny shape. Hey, who said mice were boring? Button it
There is a big debate in mouse technical circles about the merits of a one-button mouse and a multi-buttoned mouse. Apple has always plumped for the one-button variety, ingeniously inventing the double-click to do away with the need for a second finger target. Nearly all other PC manufacturers decided that two buttons are better than one – and so Apple has remained out on a limb in this furious debate. The pro Mouse, however, bucks the trend even further – it doesn’t have any buttons! Instead, you click by gently depressing the whole mouse case - the body pivots up and down to activate the click mechanism. You can click as hard or as softly as you want. If this sounds like you’ll have to learn a whole new way of operating a mouse, relax. The first time you use a Pro Mouse, you’ll forget what all the button fuss was about. In fact, you’ll wonder why those button boffins ever existed in the first place. No buttons is the perfect mouse solution, as you don’t even think about the mouse in your hand – you just guide yourself wherever you want your cursor to go. The mouse is rightly transparent, as it just seems to disappear from your consciousness. A scrolling wheel would have maybe spoiled this finger freedom, but its absence is perhaps the only complaint that people will aim at the new mouse. Keyboard cares
The old round mouse was hated by many. Its tiny keyboard sibling was also disliked by many professional users, who yearned for the expansive pleasures of Apple’s old Extended Keyboard. Their prayers have been answered. The sleek new Pro Keyboard – with Cinema Display-like plastics - offers 15 full-size programmable function keys, full-size inverted-T cursor controls, and a six-key document navigation pad, as well as volume control and media-eject keys. It also includes a couple of USB ports. The Pro Keyboard does not, however, feature the on/off button we’ve all grown used to using. You can find the on/off button on Apple’s new displays (see page 75), so maybe Apple is hoping that by removing this function from the keyboard, it’ll sell more of its monitors… If you don’t buy one of the new screens, you’ll have to use the on/off button on your Mac.
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