Review: Apple Magic Mouse

It’s about time. For years, Apple has embraced aesthetic simplicity over practicality with its peripherals. Single-button mice! Yes, we know Apple hasn’t made single-button mice for a long time, but why in the world did Steve Jobs ever think that was a good idea? Well, he was wrong until today. Apple’s latest Magic Mouse actually does the trick thanks to its multitouch powers.

The Magic Mouse ditches the lozenge-shaped body and gunk-collecting trackball of its predecessor (the Mighty Mouse) in favor of a curvy wedge shape with a fully touch-sensitive housing. The new form factor fits more naturally in your hand than previous Apple mice — enough so to erase the painful memories you have of that atrocious hockey-puck mouse from the ’90s.

The mouse detects touch gestures that trigger different functions. Swiping upward or downward with momentum enables scrolling in a browser. In Safari, using two fingers and swiping left or right takes you a page backward or forward, respectively. The same gesture also lets you flip through a photo album with the Mac OS X Preview app.

In an age where a heavy amount of everyday computing can be done in a web browser, the Magic Mouse couldn’t be more than welcome. You’ll love the Magic Mouse if your browser of choice is Firefox. Why? Two words: Tab switching. With a simple hack, you can switch back and forth between tabs using the two-finger swipe gesture. That means obsessive tab switchers can more efficiently waste their afternoons reading in between catching up on the latest TMZ gossip and a few minutes of doing actual work in Google Docs.

As is often the case, these gains come with loss, too. The Mighty Mouse had a clickable scroll wheel and two squeeze sensors on the side that could each trigger the Exposé and Spaces tools for desktop management. The Magic Mouse doesn’t have any built-in gestures for Exposé, which seems like a wasted opportunity. Cross your fingers and maybe Apple will issue a software update adding a three-finger gesture, perhaps, that controls Exposé. (For now, there’s a third-party solution to enable Exposé functionality with the Magic Mouse, but it’s not practical.)

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