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Why Apple Makes a One-Button Mouse 1271

Posted by michael
from the behind-the-times dept.
IdiotOnMyLeft writes "There is a short article at Gear Live that tries to explain why Apple still sticks with a one-button mouse. It points out the fact that although it is perfectly possible to use a two-button mouse on a Mac for 7 years now, developers are forced to rethink their design approach and can't flood the right-click menu. No article of this kind would be complete without mentioning that users get confused with two buttons. There's a rumor that John Carmack once asked Steve Jobs what would happen if they'd put one more key on the keyboard."
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Why Apple Makes a One-Button Mouse

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  • Because... (Score:5, Funny)

    by InsideTheAsylum (836659) on Sunday January 30, 2005 @03:04PM (#11521455)
    ... they can't afford to pay for the second button.
    • by Sebadude (680162) on Sunday January 30, 2005 @03:17PM (#11521579) Homepage
      Well, perhaps it should be one of the upgrades on the apple store.

      Customize your Apple Pro Mouse! Add a second button for just $399 US.

      It would be right on par with their memory upgrades...
  • Single button rules (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sg3000 (87992) * <sg_public@NoSpam.mac.com> on Sunday January 30, 2005 @03:05PM (#11521462)
    Me? I use a Microsoft Intellimouse Explorer for Bluetooth [microsoft.com] both at work and at home. I didn't have to install any drivers or anything. Just pair the mouse to my PowerBook (with built-in Bluetooth), and I'm done.

    Mouse button 1 = regular click
    Mouse button 2 = contextual click
    Mouse button 3 = not used because it's too easy to scroll with the wheel when clicking, but it used to be mapped such that when I clicked it and scrolled, the Mac screen would either zoom in or zoom out (really nice Quartz Extreme [apple.com] feature)
    Mouse button 4 = Expose [apple.com] show all windows
    Mouse button 5 = Expose show desktop

    My wife is the opposite. She prefers a single button mouse for her iMac and PowerBook. I bought her a multi-button mouse with scroll wheel for playing Jedi Academy [apple.com]. When she's done playing, she unplugs the multi-button mouse and plugs in her white Apple mouse.

    Apple's got the right idea. Ship a single button mouse to make sure that developers don't start hiding things in the contextual menu, but support multiple button mice out of the box with no need for drivers. The scenario Gear Live describes is pretty common: "left click or right click?" On a Mac, that statement doesn't come up.

    However, I'm sure some people will still complain about the single button mouse. Some people are just looking for nits to pick, and they're looking for excuses to deride Macs, though not necessarily reasons.
    • by Ark42 (522144) <slashdot@morCOBO ... t minus language> on Sunday January 30, 2005 @03:08PM (#11521488) Homepage

      Isn't it pretty common to have buttons that do one thing when clicked and do a different thing whe clicked and held down for a short duration? I seem to remember Photoshop on Macs working like that for most of the tools. Honestly I went years using Photoshop before I realized there were more options hidden there. The same menus could be found by right-clicking in the Windows version.
    • First off, how do you map the zoom function to the mouse button? That would be terribly useful!

      My biggest complaint with Apple's insistance on keeping with the one button mouse is that there isn't a nice, elegant, ergonomic multi-button mouse from Apple. I don't care if they call it the Apple Technical Mouse or what, I just wish there was one.

      I always stayed away from Apple in the past for several reasons; a major one was the mouse. Being a recent switcher (last year, and no it had nothing to do with i
  • by nizo (81281) * on Sunday January 30, 2005 @03:05PM (#11521465) Homepage Journal
    ...users get confused with two buttons...

    Just put one of these six button mice [compusa.com] on their desk and watch their head explode.

  • by lortho (700090) on Sunday January 30, 2005 @03:06PM (#11521473)
    ...to bring down a site before the first comment is even posted, apparently... *sigh*
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 30, 2005 @03:07PM (#11521481)
    Because when your grandmother uses Windows, she clicks the left and the right button at the same time. Watch her the next time she's using the computer-- really, she does this. She doesn't understand there's a difference.

    You, you are smart enough to understand the left and right buttons do different things. You aren't apparently smart enough to understand control-clicking, but that's ok. However, since you are smart enough to understand the right mouse button, you are also smart enough to understand that you can buy a two-button mouse. So if your computer comes with a one button mouse, this is not a problem for you. Your grandmother however does not even understand the right mouse button is a button, so if her computer came with a three button mouse she does not have the option of going and getting a one button mouse.

    Apple wants to sell computers that are usable by both you and your grandmother.
    • by CrowScape (659629) on Sunday January 30, 2005 @03:16PM (#11521567)
      Good luck to Apple then, as my Grandmother hasn't been using anything for the past ten years now. Well, except, she was apparently able to use a ballot box last election in Chicago.
    • The problem with control-click is that its not ergonomically correct. I hate applications that make me use the mouse and keyboard at the same time (I realize sometimes its necessary). Having to use one hand on the mouse and one on the keyboard is annoying. Keyboard shortcuts are good for the same reason, you can do all the work with the keyboard, and not have to move to the mouse and then back to the keyboard.
    • by bigdavex (155746) on Sunday January 30, 2005 @04:02PM (#11522031)

      So if your computer comes with a one button mouse, this is not a problem for you. Your grandmother however does not even understand the right mouse button is a button, so if her computer came with a three button mouse she does not have the option of going and getting a one button mouse.

      I'm looking at my Logitech mouse, and it seems to me that this isn't Grandma's fault. The mouse buttons seem designed to look like one button. They're the same color. There's no outline to delineate where one starts and the other begins. They look like one damn button with a crack in it.

    • I would agree but... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by spir0 (319821)
      I remember the Acorn Archimedes computers. They had 3 mouse buttons, which was pretty unusual 15 years ago. However, they did something really clever. They named the buttons. Left was Select, right was Menu, and middle was Adjust. All programs adhered to the standard and they all did the same sort of thing regardless of the application.

      They went a step further, though, and supplied a set of audio tapes that taught you how to use your OS. This ensured that even people who didn't have a clue about computers
  • Forced to rethink? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Faust7 (314817) on Sunday January 30, 2005 @03:09PM (#11521506) Homepage
    developers are forced to rethink their design approach and can't flood the right click menu.

    What? In a lot of applications, if you hold down the button, you get the equivalent of a right-click menu. How in the world does this restrict developers?
    • by Sierpinski (266120) on Sunday January 30, 2005 @03:27PM (#11521651)
      I believe he was trying to say (correct me if I'm wrong) that the developers can't add features that exist ONLY in the right-mouse click menu, because they can't guarantee that the user will be able to get there. So, while it might be handy to use a multi-button mouse, its not required. In my opinion, that's not a bad idea. Give the not-so-experienced users fewer reasons to get confused (one mouse button), yet give the more experienced users the option of using a multi-button mouse for extra functionality.

      I'm not a Mac user myself, but its the little things like this that make me like Macs more and more.
      • by cbreaker (561297)
        Show me an example of some application somewhere that ONLY has an option in a context menu and nowhere else.

        What happens on a mac, is that the menus on the top bar get cluttered to hell with option because most people won't ever see context menus. So you can look at it either way.

        • Uh, isn't your post logically self-defeating? First paragraph, paraphrased: "Even on PCs, contextual menus duplicate options available elsewhere." Second paragraph, paraphrased: "Duplicating options means the menubar gets cluttered." But somehow this last point only applies to Macs.

          Can you explain what you mean by this?
  • by daveschroeder (516195) * on Sunday January 30, 2005 @03:16PM (#11521575)
    An article completely unrelated with Apple or anyone who works for Apple in any way writes its own justification for Apple shipping a one-button mouse standard, and this article gets flooded with comments essentially along the lines of "Apple sucks" because they ship a one-button mouse, even though you can use ANY USB or Bluetooth multi-button/scroll mouse/trackpad/trackball on earth, and they all function by default with no drivers for left/right/scroll (and center where applicable, e.g., X11), and Apple even sells NUMEROUS multi-button mice and speciality input devices right on the Apple online store and in all of its retail stores, and Apple just announced what will likely be their highest volume computer ever, which does NOT ship with a mouse, meaning you're free to choose any mouse you please, and the right button functionality will instantly work across the whole OS and all applications, which has supported this for years?

    With the introduction of the Mac mini, Apple is implicitly getting AWAY from shipping a one-button mouse, since the computer comes with no mouse at all!

    So, is there a problem because Apple doesn't make its own branded two button mouse? Maybe we should bash Dell for Logitech making its mice, then! Or is this simply just another opportunity to bash Apple? Frankly, the assertion that it forces developers to actually THINK about shit they're butting into contextual menus instead of just flooding them with crap is a perfectly reasonable one.
  • by sirReal.83. (671912) on Sunday January 30, 2005 @03:29PM (#11521670) Homepage
    While I won't judge Apple for refusing to ship a 3-button mouse, I will say it's the one thing that keeps me from buying one of their laptops. When I'm using X applications, the PRIMARY buffer is my best friend. Copying text via simple selection and pasting just by clicking the middle mouse button does actually help me work faster.

    And please don't tell me that I can just plug in a USB mouse. My Apple-owning friends have suggested that, but it's really not a solution. I want a laptop for portability, not for lugging around external devices to compensate for poor design decisions on the part of the manufacturer.

    I'd pay the extra $5 for some more buttons. A wheel would be cool, but I'd settle for 3 plain buttons, like the Thinkpads have. I'd also like to have the option of using a nipple for pointing instead of a touchpad because it just feels better to me, but that's another discussion...
    • Even nicer than extra buttons!

      SideTrack

      SideTrack is a replacement driver for the Apple PowerBook and iBook trackpads. With SideTrack installed your standard trackpad becomes a powerful multi-button scrolling mouse.

      Leave your external mouse at home and take full control over your trackpad:

      Vertical scrolling at left or right edge of pad.

      Horizontal scrolling at top or bottom edge of pad.

      Map hardware button to left or right click.

      Map trackpad taps to no action, left click, left click drag (with

  • by Twinbee (767046) on Sunday January 30, 2005 @03:32PM (#11521700) Homepage
    Well, I'm one of those that would prefer zero buttons - nobody would get confused then. It'd nicer to just hold the mouse over an area of the screen and keep it there for around 5 seconds. Waiting that time would be the equivalent of a 'click'.

    Seriously, two buttons is one of those things that might be harder to use initially, and then over time (i.e. 5 minutes), the increase in productivity, and general ease of use is all worth it. Even my mum can use 2 buttons, and if she can, anyone can.

    Can any of the browsers use the the right mouse button to 'lock' the cursor, and then you move the mouse to scroll the page up and down (or even left and right) ? The idea is that the cursor doesn't move while you do so. I think that'd be a really neat idea - better than the usual scroll bar.

  • by MajorBlunder (114448) on Sunday January 30, 2005 @03:35PM (#11521752)
    "No article of this kind would be complete without mentioning that users get confused with two buttons."

    While on the face of it, this statement sounds ridiculous, I have experienced cases where it has proved true. I relate the following Tech Support True Story.

    me: Okay ma'am, I want you to move your mouse pointer over the My Computer icon and click your right mouse button.

    caller: The right mouse button?

    me: Yes ma'am.

    caller: Which one is the right button?

    me: (starting to get annoyed) You have two buttons on your mouse, One on the left and one on the right, I want you to click the right button over the My Computer icon.

    caller: Um, your right or my right?

    me: (putting my phone on mute and desperately trying to avoid laughing hysterically)

  • Personally... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Sophrosyne (630428) on Sunday January 30, 2005 @03:37PM (#11521774) Homepage
    I switched from 14 years of PC use to Mac OS X, and I have to say that while it did take a while to get used to-- the one button mouse is much more intuitive than a 2-button mouse.
    You can do everything on OS X just using the mouse and clicking to get it, everything in a contextual menu can be found either in a button or the apple menu.
    Also another beauty in OS X is that everything can be controlled through the keyboard which some people find very intuitive.
    If you really 'need' to invoke a contextual menu you just hold down control and click-- it really isn't that hard, and it probably isnt necessary anyway.
  • by John Jorsett (171560) on Sunday January 30, 2005 @03:45PM (#11521860)
    This sounds like one of those arguments where you take a position, THEN figure out why. Reminds me of the arguments over Reverse Polish Notation at the dawn of the calculator age. ("Fewer keystrokes!" "Ahh you're full of crap; look at this carefully-concocted example that requires MORE keystrokes in RPN." "Yeah, but in the general case you need X% fewer keystrokes. And you need calculator real estate for those stupid paren keys." "Who the hell's anal enough to give a crap about how many times they hit a calculator key anyway?" Repeat until the end of time ...)

    Figure out how many mouse buttons you like, buy a mouse with that many, and shut the hell up about it.

    /grumble

  • The real reason (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Bastian (66383) on Sunday January 30, 2005 @04:02PM (#11522035)
    Historically, Macs had only one mouse button because desktop computers only used one mouse button at the time, and Apple had a thing for simplifying anything they could reasonably.

    But Macs have supported right-clicks for the better part of a decade now, and you can control click, and the right mouse button is suddenly useful. As are scroll-wheel mice. Given that, I don't think you can claim that Macs get along just fine without two (or three) mouse buttons. So why don't Apple computers ship with them?

    I'm sure you can make lots of vague hand-wavy excuses based on human-computer interaction theory and research, but the HCI arguments against the splat-click that Apple gives us as a replacement are far far stronger. And you can't really give strict adherence to HCI standards as a serious reason when you're talking about Apple's reasons for doing things anymore - a Google search will turn up scads of pages listing all sorts of UI blunders in OS X.

    I think the real reason why Apple uses one-button mice is because Apple, especially now that Steve Jobs is at the wheel, is obsessed with visual appeal. From a design standpoint, a one-button mouse is almost naturally sexier to look at. The standard Apple mouse looks like something that raver kids would suck on, while I have never seen a three-button mouse that gets any better than wavering between unappealing and ugly.

    The Apple mouse has become simply another great example of the 'function follows form' attitude that Apple has taken in recent years.
  • I love this topic (Score:5, Informative)

    by RetiredMidn (441788) * on Sunday January 30, 2005 @04:20PM (#11522215) Homepage
    When the Mac first came out, many people (typically Microsoft users) sneered at having a mouse at all because it required removing one hand from the keyboard.

    Then Microsoft eventually adopted the mouse, and made the design decision they often do, that if one is good, more is better, and two-button mice became common. As GUI applications adopted contextual menus off the right mouse button, Apple adopted CMs via control-click. Now the complaint from Microsoft users was that Apple required you to keep one hand on the keyboard. (Assuming they didn't need two hands to use the mouse, I wonder what they needed the other hand for.)

    One advantage to using the keyboard modifiers for the mouse clicks is that a meticulously designed application can provide visual clues about what will happen if a modified click is performed ahead of time. For example, when the Control key is down, Apple's Finder decorates the cursor with a small menu graphic to indicate the availability of the contextual menu.

    Look, a user is not brain-damaged or deficient for not caring to remember the function of alternate mouse keys. A large number of users (probably 0% of the /. crowd) view the computer as an auxiliary device that's supposed to assist them at their Real Job while distracting them as little as possible with the need for special training and knowledge.

    Even some of us who are power users and unafraid to learn non-intuitive gestures (I used to "fat-finger" bootstrap code into PDP-11 consoles using binary switches) are just as comfortable with a single-button mouse and alternative techniques to accelerate our work. It's neither better nor lamer; it's just another way of getting things done.

    Finally, Apple is perfectly accommodating to those of you who prefer something other than what they offer as standard. If you prefer another mouse with 2, 4, or 7 buttons, the online store will sell you one, and the OS will support it. No, you won't get a credit for deleting the standard mouse (where offered), but last time I checked (three minutes ago), neither does Dell.

  • by epheterson (854771) on Sunday January 30, 2005 @05:07PM (#11522553) Homepage
    That makes no sense! If anything, having one button on a mouse is MORE confusing because you don't know how to easily get to what you need to do. You have to search through menus or settings to find something that's easy to do on a PC. Also, apple added TWO buttons to the keyboard! These buttons are there because macs lack a right mouse button.
  • by kiddailey (165202) on Sunday January 30, 2005 @08:22PM (#11524082) Homepage

    I'm flabbergasted at all the posts here that claim that any idiot knows how to work a mouse with multiple buttons.

    Doesn't anyone do any usability studies on their applications with "joe six-pack" user types?

    I've done a few myself (mostly websites) and nearly every time, there is at least one person who has trouble working the mouse to one degree or another:
    • clicking the wrong button
    • hesitation of picking up the mouse for repositioning
    • disorientation between the cursor onscreen and their hand
    And let's not even get started on how many people still have a problem with scrolling down a page :D

    Seems to me a few of you just take your own experience levels for granted ;)
  • Apple's "one button" mouse has five buttons. It's just that three of the buttons are on the keyboard, and one is based on timing:

    Click
    Double-click (the equivalent of the third button on Xerox original design)
    Control-click (the equivalent of the second button)
    Command-click (the equivalent of the third button on Sun's original 3-button layout)
    Alt-click (the equivalent of the third button on many X11 apps)
    Shift-click

    How this is simpler and easier to learn than two buttons, I'll never understand. Especially when these extra buttons are not just accelerateors or shortcuts but are absolutely required to perform many functions.

    But anyone who claims a single button is easier had better be able to show a study that compared apples to apples... the ones Apple published really compared two-buttons plus only context menus to single buttons with menu bars, and nobody's modern two-button mice actually behave that way.
  • by argent (18001) <<moc.agnorat.6002.todhsals> <ta> <retep>> on Sunday January 30, 2005 @11:45PM (#11525458) Homepage Journal
    In any menu system that uses clicks, EITHER left or right click will dismiss the menu and activate teh selected action. IT DOESN'T MATTER.

    But I do support, and I still get users who are trying to double-click on things that only take a single click, or double-click on menus. ALL of which is Apple's fault... because with only a single button mouse they couldn't use the middle button for "action" like Xerox had... so they "invented" a second button called double-click.

    No, the "stupid users" argument cuts both ways. The answer is, "stupid users are stupid... design for smart users, and train the novices, necause you have to anyway. The only "intuitive" user interface is the nipple.

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