Idea for 2-button Apple mouse

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware edited January 2014
So. Everyone knows that it is incredibly handy to have a mouse with more than one button. Everyone knows Apple likes handy things. Why hasn't Apple shipped a 2+ button mouse yet?

The most likely answer is that they're pretty confusing to novice computer users. Even I, using two button mice for 5+ years, sometimes press the wrong button. (I know, I know, embarrassing.) And for someone who has never used a computer before, two buttons is about 200% more intimidating than just one. You remember those mouse tutorials Apple computers used to come with - a single button is confusing enough



So here's my idea. Apple should take the idea of a two button mouse and simplify it.

My first idea is that both buttons on the mouse, clicked by themselves, should be completely identical - clicking with the right will do the same thing as clicking with the left. This removes the number one problem with two-button mice: not knowing what's going to happen when you click. I'm sure it's happened to you. Momentarily confused, you click the right button instead of the left. A menu pops up. "Blast!" you say, and click the right button again. Another menu. And again, and again, until you figure out that you need to click the other button to make them go away. If both mouse buttons did the same thing, this would never happen.

"But," you say, "what, then, is the point of having multiple buttons?" I think the most useful way to use a multiple button mouse would be to take advantage of the multiple kinds of clicks possible. The most easy thing to do - clicking any button - does the thing most people use mice for - clicking.

To use more advanced mouse functions, you would combine the two buttons. Clicking, say, a link with both buttons could open a link in a new window, or add an icon to your selection, or be used to click interface elements on windows in the background (like a command-click). Holding the left and clicking the right could be used for another action, or holding the right while you click the left. Other mouse gestures possible with two buttons could be "twiddling" - a quick left-right-left or right-left-right click, or holding one button and double-clicking the other, or pressing down with both buttons and releasing one or the other first. The mouse could also be integrated with gestures - click one or the other button and move your mouse in a simple pattern to perform an action. The possibilities are endless.



Mouse action like this is actually in use already. Maya uses mouse button chording, because most systems which use Maya have three buttons.

The most effective use of two buttons in any application I've seen was Opera for Windows. Their mouse "gestures" (which I put in quotes because they are quite different than any gestures I've seen in any other app) utilize two buttons. For example, holding the right button and clicking the left move you back a page. Holding the left and clicking the right moves forward. I dare anyone with a Windows box to use these gestures for more than two days and not try to use them system-wide.



It's my opinion that a two button system like this would be just as usable as a single button mouse, and more powerful than a standard two button one.



Thoughts?
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 28
    marloemarloe Posts: 26member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by wyntir

    So. Everyone knows that it is incredibly handy to have a mouse with more than one button. Everyone knows Apple likes handy things. Why hasn't Apple shipped a 2+ button mouse yet?

    The most likely answer is that they're pretty confusing to novice computer users. Even I, using two button mice for 5+ years, sometimes press the wrong button. (I know, I know, embarrassing.) And for someone who has never used a computer before, two buttons is about 200% more intimidating than just one. You remember those mouse tutorials Apple computers used to come with - a single button is confusing enough



    So here's my idea. Apple should take the idea of a two button mouse and simplify it.

    My first idea is that both buttons on the mouse, clicked by themselves, should be completely identical - clicking with the right will do the same thing as clicking with the left. This removes the number one problem with two-button mice: not knowing what's going to happen when you click. I'm sure it's happened to you. Momentarily confused, you click the right button instead of the left. A menu pops up. "Blast!" you say, and click the right button again. Another menu. And again, and again, until you figure out that you need to click the other button to make them go away. If both mouse buttons did the same thing, this would never happen.

    "But," you say, "what, then, is the point of having multiple buttons?" I think the most useful way to use a multiple button mouse would be to take advantage of the multiple kinds of clicks possible. The most easy thing to do - clicking any button - does the thing most people use mice for - clicking.

    To use more advanced mouse functions, you would combine the two buttons. Clicking, say, a link with both buttons could open a link in a new window, or add an icon to your selection, or be used to click interface elements on windows in the background (like a command-click). Holding the left and clicking the right could be used for another action, or holding the right while you click the left. Other mouse gestures possible with two buttons could be "twiddling" - a quick left-right-left or right-left-right click, or holding one button and double-clicking the other, or pressing down with both buttons and releasing one or the other first. The mouse could also be integrated with gestures - click one or the other button and move your mouse in a simple pattern to perform an action. The possibilities are endless.



    Mouse action like this is actually in use already. Maya uses mouse button chording, because most systems which use Maya have three buttons.

    The most effective use of two buttons in any application I've seen was Opera for Windows. Their mouse "gestures" (which I put in quotes because they are quite different than any gestures I've seen in any other app) utilize two buttons. For example, holding the right button and clicking the left move you back a page. Holding the left and clicking the right moves forward. I dare anyone with a Windows box to use these gestures for more than two days and not try to use them system-wide.



    It's my opinion that a two button system like this would be just as usable as a single button mouse, and more powerful than a standard two button one.



    Thoughts?




    man oh mna....lot of thinking, congrats on that, but, uhmmm. go study design and all the reasons not to do this will pop up in your head instantly.
  • Reply 2 of 28
    dave k.dave k. Posts: 1,306member
    Or better yet. Just include an option at the Apple Store to purchase Apple branded mice or third-party mice (i.e., Microsoft or Logitech).



    Problem solved. Apple can still produce single-button mice and users who care, now have a choice.
  • Reply 3 of 28
    johnqjohnq Posts: 2,763member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by marloe

    man oh mna....lot of thinking, congrats on that, but, uhmmm. go study design and all the reasons not to do this will pop up in your head instantly.



    Uhmmmm, what about not quoting entire lengthy posts? How's that for usability innovations? :/



    Anyway Apple will only use 1 button mice, period. (Braces to be shown wrong by Apple)...I wish...but no.
  • Reply 4 of 28
    stecsstecs Posts: 43member
    Quote:

    The most effective use of two buttons in any application I've seen was Opera for Windows. Their mouse "gestures" (which I put in quotes because they are quite different than any gestures I've seen in any other app) utilize two buttons. For example, holding the right button and clicking the left move you back a page. Holding the left and clicking the right moves forward. I dare anyone with a Windows box to use these gestures for more than two days and not try to use them system-wide.



    I'd have to agree that the Opera mouse gestures are one of the most efficient & effective control systems for a piece of software I have seen. Unfortunately I don't think the same system could be used system wide because other software isn't controllable in the same fashion. Some of the gestures might work OS wide though.. Open / Close / Hide windows or stuff like that.. Others may work in a subset of application (Next page/previous page etc).



    One concern would be that by utilising gestures in this way, applications could no longer use those same movements / click combinations for their own purposes.



    Gestures make using the mouse a far more powerful tool by allowing the generation of commond commands without reference to a specific point on the screen (clickable button or icon) or having to switch to a keyboard command.
  • Reply 5 of 28
    johnqjohnq Posts: 2,763member
    If you guys think that unix commands are "arcane", like "mv" for move, "cp" for copy, "ls" for list...I can't wait to see how arcane things get when users need to memorize Thai-like gesture zigzags...not to mention the havoc custom gestures might cause.



    Gestures are a nice add-on for powerusers but cannot be the core or primary input method for Jane and Joe Macuser.



    One reason why I don't like gestures (although I am not anti-gestures, to each his own, certainly) is that it makes us further dependant on the mouse. Same goes for multibutton mice and chording.



    I don't want users getting used to very particular button setups that, when the are faced with another user's setup, leads to a drop in usability.



    The goal should be moving away from mice at all, not squeezing the last drops out of the input method.



    Mind you, I don't think -any- of the alternative input paradigms are "better" or worthy of 100% adoption, yet at least.



    Voice control usurping mouse/pen/keyboard input is a myth. Although it works somewhat, even if it works 100% accurately, people simply will not want to talk for every command. It's incredibly tedious, loud, lacking privacy, annoying to others, and prohibits conversation or singing or muttering to oneself, mic toggles notwithstanding.



    Anyway, we need a plethora of input methods, not just a few or one. But I still think multi-button mice and chording only delay the inevitable: That mouse input's time is nearing an end.



    I don't think touch screens are the answer either, btw. Between grease on the screen, hand obscuring data, and the bad ergonomics involved it has limited usefulness.
  • Reply 6 of 28
    macusersmacusers Posts: 840member
    I love the one-button mouse, what are you too lazy to control click. You can control almost half the OS with keyboard shortcuts, i have atleast 20 I have at the top of my head. Keyboards are cool, 1 button mice are cool. if you want a 2 button, go buy one.
  • Reply 7 of 28
    johnqjohnq Posts: 2,763member
    The worst thing about voice input is...what?



    Voice input is "bad" or least ideal, for exactly the same reason that Unix commandline is "bad". Namely that the user must mentally conjure up the name of the command and make their body either type it without flaw or speak it without flaw.



    I say "bad" from the Macintosh viewpoint that users MUST NOT need to know the name of the command in order to be able to use it. Voice is as bad as commandline in this regard.



    Muscle memory plays a crucial part in this (and it can be a major problem too, when change is imposed). I use so many Photoshop commands per day but if you asked me to name the menu and submenu and filter names I couldn't say...it's all very quick x-y memorizations on a subconscious level, with text acting as a reassuring guide as opposed to the primary input method.



    Macs are all about serendipitously being able to root out and ponder commands visually. The worst that happens is that they over reach for a command and select the wrong one.



    This comes back to gestures. The user must then memorize or devise custom gestures. This is so "un-Mac" to it's very essence. I do see the value in gesture for Pen input and again, I welcome including gestures and multibutton mice support in the OS....



    But I don't see them as being truly "Macintosh" worthy methods.
  • Reply 8 of 28
    cubedudecubedude Posts: 1,556member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by Dave K.:

    Or better yet. Just include an option at the Apple Store to purchase Apple branded mice or third-party mice (i.e., Microsoft or Logitech).



    Problem solved. Apple can still produce single-button mice and users who care, now have a choice.




    Agreed. The single-button mouse is great for newbies and veterans alike, but the choice of a third-party mouse is a must.
  • Reply 9 of 28
    reynardreynard Posts: 160member
    Unless Apple has a truly innovative idea, stay with the one button. You know if they sold a 2-button, scrolling mouse it would be a $100 anyway.



    Everybody should have a 2nd mouse for backup. Buy your $20 third party mouse and put the Apple 1-buttoner in a desk drawer. Or vice-versa.
  • Reply 10 of 28
    socratessocrates Posts: 261member
    I'm sorry but the combined button action idea is terrible.



    Firstly, it's as easy to click both buttons accidentally as it is to click the wrong one, if not easier.



    Secondly, the vast majority of new mac users are confused by the differences between macs and pcs, not by the difference between the buttons on their mouse. They can just about cope with one button (they moan constantly about having to press ctrl all the time though) but if they had a right mouse button that didn't appear to do anything then they would moan a lot more.



    I think what apple needs to do it educate new users about the various key combinations on a mac so that they don't think macs lack functionality because they lack the seconds button. At the moment new users almost certainly don't find out about ctrl clicking unless they happen to have a mac-using friend. This is made worse when games and other mac apps make references to using the (non-existant) right button without explaining how you do this on a mac.



    ...or they could just put the damned second button in. People seem to forget though that while this is pretty trivial on a mouse, a powerbook trackpad is a whole different problem. Two buttons side by side under the trackpad really are a pain, especially if you use the button with your thumb as I do because my right thumb cannot comfortably reach the left-hand side of the button with the current layout and when I try and use windoze laptops I keep right-clicking constantly when I mean left.



    Socrates
  • Reply 11 of 28
    stecsstecs Posts: 43member
    Apple mice effectively have two buttons anyway.. just for some reason they placed one on the keyboard. Once you realise this it is no better than a PC and no worse, just different.



    Same way that a Apple keyboard switches the effects of CTRL and Alt/Command around. Neither setup is better or worse than the other, but it is probably the most frustrating difference between the two sytems if you are regularly switching between them.
  • Reply 12 of 28
    ensign pulverensign pulver Posts: 1,193member
    Apple ships a new two button, scroll wheel mouse with all machines, but all buttons are mapped to the traditional "left click" by default. Go to Mouse preferences and check "multi-button mouse" option to enable full three button control.



    Novice users blissfully click away however they want with no confusion, advanced users get full functionality with a single preference change. One piece of hardware, two kinds of uses, everybody's happy.
  • Reply 13 of 28
    johnqjohnq Posts: 2,763member
    We simply need a FinderPop type of control for the System.



    FinderPop was/(is?) a wonderful utility (on Mac OS 9...not sure if it's on Mac OS X yet) that, among other things, let you merely click and hold for half a second on anything and that triggers the contextual menu. No stupid control button, no stupid second mouse button.



    That was truly innovative and very Mac-like in its simplicity (and power! Power through simplicity!). Only improvement I'd make is to make the delay customisable so no one could complain they were waiting too long for the menu to appear.
  • Reply 14 of 28
    socratessocrates Posts: 261member
    What happens if you want to drag the item? I frequently pick up a file to drag it and then pause for a second to consider where I want to put it. Not sure I'd like that interface.



    Havign said that, dock items do this already and that seems to work pretty well.



    Socrates
  • Reply 15 of 28
    johnqjohnq Posts: 2,763member
    You'd like it. It simply detects the drag movement and doesn't show a contextual menu. The problem you are imagining would not happen. Only if the delay is made user definable, I suppose a user could set it too low. But the default timing is sufficient.
  • Reply 16 of 28
    kantarellkantarell Posts: 13member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by Stecs

    Apple mice effectively have two buttons anyway.. just for some reason they placed one on the keyboard. Once you realise this it is no better than a PC and no worse, just different.



    Same way that a Apple keyboard switches the effects of CTRL and Alt/Command around. Neither setup is better or worse than the other, but it is probably the most frustrating difference between the two sytems if you are regularly switching between them.




    I agree that both systems are a matter of habit, and the largest problem occurs when switching. So wichever you are accustomed to at the moment will appear the most natural when forced to use the other. I experience this every day because we use windows at the office and a mac at home.



    But mouse hands is a problem at many workplaces, and it seems to be a good idea to move as many commands as possible off the mouse, and on to the keyboard. And when the other hand is in keyboard position and activated it is easier for it to take on more tasks. So keyboard shortcutting at system level is preventing muscular strains, and paves the way for a more varied and effective method of work.
  • Reply 17 of 28
    dviantdviant Posts: 483member
    ctrl-clicking is hardly intuitive for novice or PC users new to macs.For advanced users why would I want to use two hands instead of one to gain access to contextual menus? Right clicking is pretty much a standard and as someone pointed out, many games and other apps assume you have a right mouse button.



    Even though I would LOVE a cool 2-button/scroll mouse from Apple, the solution for 1-button mice is already there, just underused. Click and hold on a folder in the dock and it opens like a contextual menu.



    Why this isn't implemented system-wide is beyond me. To me this seems like a pretty elegant, simple and moderately intuitive way of getting around the need for 2nd button and/or ctrl-clicking. This type of action couldn't replace a real right button in ALL instances (anything that needs immediate response, like games)... but works fine for contextual menu situations, which is probably what 90% of right clicks are used for.



    (EDIT: oops i missed JohnQ's post... hes saying the same thing :P )
  • Reply 18 of 28
    jimdreamworxjimdreamworx Posts: 1,064member
    Why is eveyone so gung-ho about a multi-button mouse as standard equipment from Apple?



    I don't buy the argument that it is unfair to pay for a third-party mouse, because the fact is that once you buy the input device you like, you can move it between Macs you own and plan to buy. Also note I mention multi-button because if Apple shipped with two, some would want three; if they shipped with three, others would complain. Just buy your own favorite input device for your own needs.



    Look, you can buy a much "bigger" keyboard as well with all sorts of cool colored keys and program them too, but I would never expect Apple to include this as standard.



    (I mention this as I have a keyboard and mouse I have used between three computers. And because of this, am I going to ask Apple to offer an option to ship computers without a keyboard and mouse so I can save a few bucks? Perhaps some may think this is wise, but then what do you include with the old computer you are trying to sell second hand? Although there is a "built to order" option, things can get a bit hairy if you have too may SKUs.)



    Apple doesn't include a graphics tablet, but supports that. Apple doesn't include MIDI gear, but supports that. It's a very basic mouse that serves well - especially now that you click the whole body instead of a button (much easier for those of us who have problems with our hands, or who want to avoid the carpal tunnel associated with using a mouse button). We should never design any part of the computer to become too dependent on one source of input.



    There is something to be said about using both hands (kind of like when you type) for input of the mouse. One is movement and simple selection control (one button), and the other is for added options via the keyboard that may require more thinking and more detailed input. Apple has put a lot of study into this, and novices do well with one button.



    This is not to deny power users, but remember how menus were designed: Novices looks at the menu, gets used to what it does, then is supposed to discover the command-key equivalent to "speed up" their abilities. Should we get rid of the Edit menu since we all know these commands off by heart? Ask Apple to provide a Systems Pref for doing so?



    Oh, and note I avoided the use of "right" and "left" when discussing the above. Ever seen a southpaw use Windows? There is a bit of frustration with the buttons and the semantics of how they are termed and what to click. Now add this to being a new user.



    Apple is sticking with the one button mouse, get used to it. Oh, yeah, you already are! (Line stolen from another article about the same topic.)
  • Reply 19 of 28
    amorphamorph Posts: 7,112member
    Gestures will go nowhere with mice because you don't generally perform gestures of any precision with your wrists or elbows, and neither joint is mechanically set up to do them anyway.



    Your fingers, on the other hand, are great gesturers - we can all form letters, point, circle, 'x' something out, etc. The one button mouse simply accepts the fact that the mouse itself cannot be very expressive, because of its design and because of the way its used. It's not an accident that the attempts to make it more expressive have caused "mouse hands" and carpal tunnel in millions of people.



    So if we're going to have something other than a keyboard, it should be something like a pen. Not the antiergonomic knitting needles that some companies are pleased to call "pens," but substantial devices that actually fit into your hand without requiring you to pinch down on them. So, we've solved the problem, right? Well, except that the hardware involved to parse all this into something that a computer can understand, and do so promptly, accurately and economically, is still on its way; and the pen wants to be a primary input device, so the most natural place for such a device to be used is right where the keyboard is - unlike a mouse, which as a secondary input device will happily work off to one side - and I don't think the keyboard is going anywhere. There is also the issue of hardware having to be able to take a 5 foot drop from a standing user's hand, rather than the 3 foot drop from a student's desk that the current iBook can't quite manage to survive.



    As for speech, well, there are a number of problems with that. Speech recognition is an even rougher issue than handwriting recognition, and cubicle farms are noisy enough without everyone talking at their machines; not to mention privacy issues, and sore throats, and the computer being capable of recognizing when it's being addressed, and which voices it should heed when. Speech is a useful secondary input, and a worthy primary input for people like Charles Moore whose disabilities make keyboards intolerable, but I just don't see it going mainstream.
  • Reply 20 of 28
    1337_5l4xx0r1337_5l4xx0r Posts: 1,558member
    Y'know, I'm with johnq in every one of his posts in here. His beefs w/ touchscreens and voice input are dead on.



    However, i must say that even if two-button (plus scroll, of course) mice are confusing, **** it, it's not that hard to learn. And since it's standard on every PC, it just makes 'switching' that much easier.
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