Finding, Installing, and Configuring a Mouse

When the Mac was first introduced, its mouse separated it from all the computers that came before it, and those that came after it, for a long time. Until Windows and other platforms adopted the mouse as one of their primary input devices, the Mac and its mouse really stood out from the crowd.

Choosing and Installing a Mouse

All desktop Macs come with the Apple Pro Mouse. This is an optical mouse, which means that it uses light to translate your movements into input information (as opposed to the rolling ball in previous generations of mice). Optical mice eliminate the frequent cleaning that is required by the ball-based ancestors. The Apple Pro Mouse uses the entire top half as its "button," which makes using it even easier (if that is even possible). And it shares the same clear or white plastic look as the Apple Pro keyboard.


Schools love the Apple Pro Mouse, too. In schools, kids often take the balls out of "regular" mice, thus rendering the mouse unusable until a replacement ball is located or the mouse is replaced. By switching to the optical mouse, some school districts have saved several hundred dollars that they would have otherwise spent because of missing mouse balls.

There are two main considerations when choosing a mouse. One is its comfort in your hand. Mice come in various shapes and sizes. Using one that is suited to your own hand will cut down on fatigue in your hand and lower arm. The other factor is the number of buttons and other features on the mouse. Apple's mice all provide a single mouse button, but other mice come with two or more buttons. These buttons can be programmed to accomplish specific tasks, such as opening contextual menus. Also, some mice include a scroll wheel that enables you to scroll in a window, such as a Web page, without moving the mouse.

Mouse Trivia

One of the worst input devices ever created was the infamous "hockey puck" mouse that came with the early generations of iMacs and Power Mac G4s. This mouse was totally round and provided no tactile clues about its orientation. These mice are a pain because they can easily get turned in your hand so that when you intend to move up, you move sideways, and so you get disoriented. I don't know how Apple ever released such a miserable device to the marketplace; a few minutes of testing should have revealed this bomb for what it was. At any rate, that mouse is long dead and hopefully forgotten.

As long as I am ranting a bit, I have also never understood why Apple hasn't gone to a two- or three-button mouse. With the advent of contextual menus way back in Mac OS 8.5, a one-button mouse doesn't provide all the control that it should. Why should a control key be needed along with a mouse to open a menu? My only guess is that Apple didn't want to copy Windows computers, which use a two-button mouse as standard equipment.

Like installing a keyboard, installing a mouse is trivially easy?just plug it into an available USB port.

Configuring a Mouse

Configuring a mouse is much like configuring a keyboard; however, if you use a mouse that offers additional features, you will need to install and configure the software that comes with that device first in order to take advantage of all of its features. Without this software, your mouse will default to acting like a standard one-button mouse.

To configure a mouse, do the following:

  1. Open the System Preferences utility and click the Mouse icon in the Hardware section.

  2. Use the Tracking Speed slider to set the tracking speed of the mouse. A faster tracking speed means that the pointer moves farther with less movement of the mouse.

  3. Use the Double-Click slider to set the rate at which you have to click the mouse button to register a double-click. You can use the test area to check out the click speed you have set.

  4. Quit the System Preferences utility.


PowerBooks and iBooks use a trackpad instead of a mouse (although you can connect a mouse to one of these machines just as you can any other Mac).

For information about working with a trackpad, see "Using and Configuring the Trackpad," p. 871.


If your mouse's additional buttons don't work, see "My Multiple-Button Mouse Acts Like a Single-Button Mouse" in the Troubleshooting section at the end of this chapter.

    Part I: Mac OS X: Exploring the Core
    Part III: Mac OS X: Living the Digital Lifestyle