Has the Mac world gone touch crazy? From iPhone to iPod touch to iPad and now the Mac, the user interface to the computer is touch, touch, and more touch.
Mac OS X Lion brings even more touch options, to the point of hiding scroll bars, reversing the normal Mac scrolling direction. Touch is here to stay. It might be easy on iPhone and iPad, but Mac users face a daunting array of point, click, touch, pinch, swipe options.
Goodbye, Mouse. We Hardly Knew Ye
If Apple is responsible for making a single personal computing device that everyone knows how to use, it’s the ubiquitous mouse. Mac or PC, the mouse is what we learn to use first.
So, why is Apple—the cultivator of devices for the future, the curator for all that’s chic and cool today, and the undertaker for devices past—trying to kill the mouse?
They are, you know. Apple says the future is touch, so, goodbye mouse. We hardly knew ye.
Replacing the mouse is the touchscreen (for mobile devices; even Apple won’t put a touch screen on the Mac) and, for Mac users, the trackpad. Apple sells far more MacBook Air, MacBook Pro models than desktop Macs (iMac, Mac mini, MacPro), and that means trackpads.
Mac OS X Lion brings even more touch options to the Mac. More ways to click, pinch, twist, contort, swipe, flick, slide, and glide to make things happen on screen. Mac app developers have responded to Apple’s approved direction with nearly as many ways to do all that finger contorting as the there are viruses for Windows PCs.
If Lion is too much for your feeble fingers, or not enough for your flexible fingers, then feast your eyes on these alternatives to the basic mouse and trackpad features Mac users have come to love or loathe.
SteerMouse – This not so complicated app works on nearly any USB and Bluetooth mouse to give you a few features Apple hasn’t deemed worthy. Yet. SteerMouse options include double-clicks, modifier keys, app switching, shortcut keys, and a nice snap-to cursor movement. It even works with mouse wheels, nipples, and more buttons than you can count.
MagicPrefs – One of my favorite Mac add on tools to give extra functions to both mouse and trackpad is MagicPrefs. This free tool has more tools than Sears. It even binds functions so your mouse or trackpad can do more than your fingers would anatomically allow. The sensitivity is especially good, and the onscreen positioning is the best.
MondoMouse – If you ever wanted to give your Mac’s mouse a few superpowers, MondoMouse is a place to start. What it does is different than Magic Trackpad or Magic Mouse. MondoMouse lets you resize windows without clicking the window or bringing the window to the front first. Hover over a window and watch it switch to the front.
Jitouch – It used to be click, now it’s touch. Jitouch brings additional functions to both Magic Mouse and Magic trackpad (and Mac notebook trackpads; which, inexplicably, doesn’t have a magic name). Some functions let you arrange windows (just as in Windows 7), and introduces commands based on drawing an English letter with your finger. Be careful which finger you use.
BetterTouchTool – Where there’s a will, there’s a lawyer. As to touch options, BetterTouchTool acts as if you have eleven fingers and three hands and you can decide how to use them on your Mac. For the Magic Mouse you can get up to four fingers clicking or swiping. For the Magic touchpad, up to five fingers can be used for various and sundry options, clicks, taps, swipes, but no evil eye stares allowed.
USB Overdrive – This add on is a throwback to the mouse glory days of yesteryear, when everything was connected via USB. USB Overdrive does more, though, including mouse, trackballs, joysticks, and gamepads, and features configurable options for nearly any pointing device made on earth. I’m pretty sure this what Dr. Who uses to navigate the TARDIS.
Now it’s time to look at a few special function mouse add on apps.
Mouseposé – I love this little tool because it pretty much does one thing than your Apple pointing device won’t do—highlight the mouse pointer and dim the rest of the screen when you click. Mouseposé is perfect for onscreen presentations. For very large screens Mouseposé makes it easy to find the pointer, makes it easy to see how many clicks are required for a function, and even puts focus on the window being used. Not every Mac user needs Mouseposé but you’ll know if you need it.
Remote Mouse – This will be the most expensive keyboard, trackpad, mouse you’ve ever used. Remote Mouse turns your iPhone or iPod touch into a wireless trackpad or keyboard. It features two finger taps, two finger dragging to scroll, a functional onscreen keyboard, vertical and horizontal orientation. Why do you need this? Because you have money to burn, love to impress your friends with unusually gimmicky apps, and it’s likely that no one on your block or neighborhood is doing the same thing.
On the cheaper, gimmicky side are Trackpad Magic, which brings colorful visual effects tied to sounds (piano, marimba, drums, etc.), and HotMouse, which gives your Mac silky smooth, lag-free special effects that follow your mouse pointer. Pure eye candy each with no redeeming value but cheap. Not free. Just cheap.