Mac OS X to the Max: Other Input Devices

Although keyboards and mice (along with their variants) are the primary input devices you are likely to use, they are by no means the only types available. Following are some other types of more specialized control devices:

  • Speech recognition This category of device is more software than hardware (the only hardware required is a microphone of one type or another), but its purpose is the same as the other devices in this chapter. You can use speech recognition to both input information to and provide control over your Mac. Although the idea of being able to speak to your Mac is quite appealing, most implementations of this concept fall far short of the ideal. In fact, they tend to fall so far short of the ideal that they tend not to be useful other than for a few rare moments of "gee whiz" when they actually do work as promised.

    There have been many attempts to develop a usable voice-recognition system over the years. However, analyzing the human voice is an incredibly complex task, and only with the recent increases in processing power has this become even possible on a personal computer. Having several of these systems collecting dust in my office, I don't believe that this technology is yet ready for practical, everyday use (unless you happen to get lucky and have the perfect voice for it?even then, you will be doing lots of tweaking to get such a system to work reliably). Although speech recognition sounds appealing, the reality is that a keyboard and mouse-type device provide much faster, more reliable, more precise, and more efficient input than any speech-recognition system. As the technology continues to evolve, hopefully this will change and speech recognition will become a feasible alternative.



    There are two leading speech-recognition applications for the Mac. One is IBM's ViaVoice for Mac; check it out at The other is MacSpeech's iListen; MacSpeech's Web site is

  • Wireless devices Many keyboards, mice, and other input devices are available in wireless varieties. The benefit of these devices is that you don't have to deal with wires. Other than that, they function just like their wired counterparts.

  • Bluetooth devices Bluetooth is a wireless communication standard that is used by many devices, including computers, personal digital assistants, cell phones, and so on. Mac OS X is designed to be Bluetooth capable so that your Mac can communicate with Bluetooth devices, such as to synchronize the calendar on your Mac with one on your Handspring PDA.

    To use Bluetooth on a Mac, you must obtain and install a Bluetooth adapter. These USB devices enable a Mac to send and receive Bluetooth signals from PDAs, cell phones, and other devices. You must also download and install the Bluetooth software. Then your Mac will be able to recognize and communicate with Bluetooth devices.

    You can learn more about Bluetooth on the Mac at

  • Joysticks and gamepads These devices serve one purpose, and that is to make game playing a more satisfying experience. In fact, some games, such as flight simulators, can't be played very well without a good joystick. Other games, such as those involving lots of rapid hand motions, are much better played with a gamepad.



The leader in joysticks for the Mac is Gravis (which is actually part of the Kensington Technology Group). Check it out on

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