When I got my current computer, a Powermac G4, I started using the mouse that came with it, a featureless polycarbonate ovoid. It’s a beautiful mouse–nice heft, nice materials, nice shape. But a one-button mouse. These days, many mice have four buttons plus a scroll-wheel that can also be clicked, and OS X is built to recognize two buttons plus a clickable scroll-wheel with no extra software required (unless you want to remap the button functions).

Perhaps out of exasperation with my button-deficient mousing lifestyle, my über-geek friend Drew just flat-out gave me a new-in-box Microsoft mouse with two buttons and a clickable scroll-wheel that he happened to have lying around (this isn’t that surprising–as near as I can tell, he’s got 8 computers in varying levels of service). So I plugged it in this morning and have been using it.

My findings: In terms of shape, materials, and build-quality, Apple wins hands-down. As to the extra controls, I’m actually a bit ambivalent. The scroll-wheel is a big advantage, no question. But it clicks along in steps, not smoothly, which is actually jarring when following a screenload of text. The second button is also handy (though not as frequently so), but it forces me to pay more attention to what I’m doing. And despite that, having two extra buttons doesn’t quite feel like enough. With a one-button mouse setup, I use the keyboard more to make up for the mouse’s deficiencies. If I’m going to really use the mouse, I need to be able to use it more. Chorded input would give me 7 possible clicks from three buttons, but I’m not sure if that can be accomplished, and I am loathe to install Microsoft’s bloated (4.9 MB) mouse software to find out. A mouse with more physical buttons would do the trick, though perhaps at the expense of a lot more mistaken clicks. There are other mice out there that offer multiple buttons with better ergonomics, and I might break down and try one out.

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