For all Jonathan Ive’s design prowess, I still think Mac mouse design sucks. While the G4 and G5 optical mouse is a huge improvement on the atrocious G3 hockey-puck debacle, it still really doesn’t cut the mustard as a quality input device.
A graphics tablet such as the Graphire3 is one solution to this problem. On a plastic tablet with an A5 working area, you can use either a cordless mouse or a pen. The pen is ideal for precise work in graphics applications such as Corel Painter, Adobe Photoshop, or Macromedia Fireworks or Flash, where the natural hand position and movement translates into screen strokes. The pen on the Graphire3 is excellent, with decent weight and balance. As well as the tip, there’s a button on the butt end, and a button along the barrel of the pen. The tip has 256 levels of pressure-sensitivity – so the harder you press as you draw,
the stronger the stroke. You can easily customize the action of the barrel and butt buttons through the excellent control panel that’s installed during set-up. It’s a joy to use, doodle with, and twirl in your fingers – though it’d be nice if the grip were rubberized, as on the Intuos2 range.
During installation, the Apple Inkwell application is initialized. Using this, you can use the pen to write text and issue screen commands. This uses the built-in Apple handwriting technology, which, a far cry from the days of the Newton, is excellent. It’s nice touch, but a bit gimmicky; it’s a lot easier to put the pen down and just type.
While using a pen is great for graphics applications, it isn’t ideal for general mousework or navigating applications – so the inclusion of the mouse is very welcome. If you’re only used to the Apple optical mouse, then the Graphire mouse will be a revelation: there’s a right-mouse button and a scroll wheel. This is great for quickly navigating Web pages, word documents, Finder windows and so on. Once you’ve used a scroll wheel, it’s hard to go back.
As with the pen, you can configure the action of the mouse through the control panel, setting the tracking speed, mouse acceleration, and scroll-wheel action. But, somehow, I didn’t find it as comfortable or as easy to handle as the superb Microsoft Optical IntelliMouse. After a week of fighting with it for just standard window navigation, I went back to my old mouse.
The Graphire3 is an excellent bundle that can increase your productivity and really help your artistic touch in graphics applications that support variable-width strokes. But if you’re still using the mouse that came with your Mac, then you should seek out a dedicated optical mouse unless you also want the pen. If only Wacom would release a pen with a scroll wheel, I would happily abandon the mouse for ever.