KELLNER: New Apple mouse really is ‘Magic’

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Even though a computer mouse rightly can be thought of as one of the more peripheral of peripherals, a new one just arrived that can honestly claim the adjective “transformative.”

Apple Inc.’s $69 Magic Mouse truly brings change this reviewer can believe in.

Until now, a mouse had a singular purpose, more or less: to move a cursor, or pointer, around the screen in a graphical environment such as Microsoft Windows or Apple’s Macintosh operating systems. A “click” function would let you select from various menu options or open, close or move a program “window” or an on-screen “folder” of data. Stuff like that.

As computer environments became more graphical, however, other needs arose. Wouldn’t it be nice, for example, to be able to enlarge part of a computer screen to read the type more easily or appreciate the detail in a photograph? What about scrolling up and down or from side to side in an application window? And wouldn’t it be nice to have the functionality of left- and right-click buttons without some of the mechanics that could break or jam?

Enter the Magic Mouse, announced a few weeks back. Although it is a “normal” computer mouse in the sense of being able to move the cursor around, its clicking, scrolling and “sweeping” actions make it more like the latest notebook touch pads than the older mice this new device has rendered obsolete.

The firm calls it “the world’s first Multi-Touch mouse” and is including it with the new iMac computers, also introduced recently. The rest of us have to shell out the simoleons to buy one. Believe me, it’s really, really worth it.

Within minutes of installing the hardware and updating my copy of Mac OS X 10.6, I was computing with the same ease that users of those latest notebook touch pads have. Clicking was a simple press of the mouse — once on the left side for a left-click, once on the right for a right-click. Scrolling is now supereasy and very fast: The software controls for the Magic Mouse let you control the scroll rate.

But it’s the very act of scrolling with the Magic Mouse that is, well, magical. Unlike using the scroll wheels on many (most?) of today’s mice, the simple move of gliding one’s fingers up and down the mouse feels more natural than I can describe in words. It just works better.

I would submit, though, that while such simple things as easier scrolling and clicking may seem beyond improvement, the changes the Magic Mouse brings to these operations will mean easier and better computing for me, which means some amount of time savings, which means happier computing. You can’t really put a price tag on that, but if Apple wants to say it’s worth $69, I won’t fight them there.

This is the place where it’s good to note that Apple says the Magic Mouse will work only on a Mac-based computer with a Bluetooth connection and the latest Wireless Mouse Software, which an Internet-connected Mac will seek out once the mouse has been “paired” with the device. It’s powered by two AA batteries, and I don’t have an estimate on how long those batteries will last. Apple says the device can work for southpaws as well as for right-handers, and the very comprehensive software lets you switch left- and right-click buttons to make a left-hander feel more comfortable.

Until a user spends a few minutes with the Magic Mouse, I fear that any description, no matter how enthusiastic, won’t properly convey how good a product this is. After decades of using computer input devices, I think this is the finest mouse ever.

E-mail mkellner@washingtontimes.com.

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