Apple has put us all on notice with the announcement of the new MacBook. The MacBook has a single USB-C port, and the clear message is don’t bother plugging anything into your Mac anymore except a power cable. It’s not even clear why the new MacBook only has one port vs. two other than perhaps Apple is telling us we now live in a post-port world.
- Bluetooth Wireless Mouse For Mac
- Best Bluetooth Mac Mouse For Office Desktop
- Mac Bluetooth Mouse
- Best Bluetooth Mac Mouse For Office Computers
While the MacBook is a sort of forward looking “concept” Mac, all of Apple’s portables aren’t exactly flush with USB ports- every shipping Mac laptop currently has only two USB 3 ports, and most Mac owners are buying laptops.
My primary traveling machine is an 11″ MacBook Air. Most of the time, I don’t bother with a mouse. I love Apple’s multitouch trackpad.
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While Apple is mostly known for its very expensive phones and PC machines like the new Mac Pro 2019, they also make crafty little machines like this, a very strange but effective mouse. And yes you read that right, the mouse does not have any buttons, but is actually completely controlled by gestures, which gives it the benefits of a trackpad. This mouse is far from perfect, but it’s the most reasonable bluetooth mouse I’ve seen so far, and if you’re willing to jump through some hoops, it’s probably the best bluetooth mouse for the Mac. First off, it’s not a “travel size” mouse. It’s a tad smaller than I would like, but it’s closer to full size than what’s out there.
Before Apple released the Magic Trackpad, I reached out to Apple’s business sales group to ask if anyone made such a device. I bought one as soon is it was released, but sadly using the Magic Trackpad doesn’t quite work as nicely as the built-in trackpad on a laptop. I suspect the core issue is the placement of the trackpad on the side of the keyboard, and the fact that unlike a laptop, the trackpad isn’t at a fixed location relative to a keyboard. I assume others feel the same way or else you’d see more Magic Trackpads in the wild. I’d be curious to hear from anyone, especially developers, who’ve gone all-in with a Magic Trackpad as their only pointing device.
The 11″ Air is a great machine on the go, but when I’m in an office, I generally like to have the machine attached to an external display, treating it like a desktop. Since mice provide higher precision pointing, it’s not probably more common to see people working with a laptop and a mouse without an external display.
A few years back, I searched for the “best” bluetooth mouse for the Mac, and I couldn’t find one. I’m not alone. The Wirecutter currently offers this suggestion:
Unfortunately there still aren’t any great Bluetooth mice ….
So I settled on a Logitech Wireless Mouse M510.
It’s a fine mouse. It has the familiar shape lots of Logitech mice have had for a decade. Prior to this mouse, I’d been using a wired Logitech mouse that was almost indistinguishable from this model. The downside of course is the USB receiver that will consume 1/2 of your laptop’s USB ports (or in the case of the new MacBook, the ONLY port with the help of a dongle).
Living with the loss of the port is not a huge deal, but it’s annoying. The issue I ran across that drove me back into the bluetooth hunt was that I started using a thunderbolt dock so I could easily plug laptops into my desktop setup in my home office.
This makes it super easy to plug your Mac laptop into a display, speakers, mouse, keyboard, ethernet, external drives, etc., etc., etc. The downside is all of that traffic is coming in over one port, and I’ve found that the data coming from the Logitech receiver stutters when it’s in contention with all the other inputs. The mouse works, but every minute or so it might experience an ice cream headache and freeze.
To get around this, I dug up one of my old wired Logitech mice, which uses up one of the few USB ports on the thunderbolt dock.
So, back to the bluetooth hunt. As the Wirecutter points out, pretty much all bluetooth mice are awful. Keyboards are easy. There’s a good travel keyboard, a clackety keyboard, an ergo keyboard, but all the mice are generally unreasonably tiny and kinda crappy.
Of course Apple has a solution for this- their very own Magic Mouse.
The big win of the Magic Mouse is that it’s made by Apple, so you know it will work really well with your Mac, and it has support for gestures, which is fairly novel. I love Apple multitouch trackpads because of how easy it is to right-click with two fingers, zoom in and out, switch spaces, etc. The Magic Mouse promises this kind of rich interaction, but it really falls short.
The best you’ll get out of this is scrolling up/down/right/left, and smart zoom. Of course it supports more gestures than that, but they’re all awkward compared to a trackpad. Also, the mouse is incredibly low profile, so you end up gripping it with your thumb and either a pinky or ring finger, leaving two or three fingers hovering over the surface to pull off gestures. It’s painful. It’s bad enough for most people that add-ons exist to make the mouse less painful to hold.
Beyond the ergonomics, the Magic Mouse just doesn’t feel very good, which stinks because its pretty expensive. Logitech and others not only sculpt the mouse to a more hand-friendly shape, but they also incorporate softer plastics and rubber panels to make the device feel more comfortable and secure in the hand. Gripping the magic mouse feels like gripping the disc of a pizza slicer with two fingers.
While it supports right-clicking, Apple has gone out of it’s way to make it confusing for people to figure out how to perform right clicks with their “buttonless” design. The entire computer industry copies Apple’s laptop design. No one goes out of their way to copy Apple’s mouse designs.
If the Apple mouse actually works for you, I’m seriously envious. The one thing I miss the most using a vanilla mouse is the smart zoom gesture. Smart zooming in Safari and other applications is great, and it works flawlessly on the multitouch trackpad and the Magic Trackpad. It’s also one of the gestures that’s pretty easy to pull off on the Magic Mouse, and it’s the only thing that made me seriously consider switching to one full time.
But the cramp-inducing Magic Mouse isn’t worth living with simply for the zooming.
Bluetooth Wireless Mouse For Mac
While the Wirecuter is correct that’s there’s no really “best” bluetooth mouse that can be recommended without reservation, there’s now a reasonable option: The Microsoft Sculpt Comfort Mouse:
This mouse is far from perfect, but it’s the most reasonable bluetooth mouse I’ve seen so far, and if you’re willing to jump through some hoops, it’s probably the best bluetooth mouse for the Mac.
First off, it’s not a “travel size” mouse. It’s a tad smaller than I would like, but it’s closer to full size than what’s out there. (Microsoft makes a somewhat nicer sized “ergo” version of this mouse which for some reason uses a USB receiver rather than bluetooth).
Like Logitech, the side of the mouse where you touch it is wrapped with grippy rubber, making it feel instantly secure. The scroll-wheel and the buttons feel a little cheap, and they don’t click with the same nice click or precision as Apple’s Magic Mouse or anything Logitech or Kensington offers, but the buttons are passable.
The scroll-wheel feels a little too small and a bit cheap, but it works fine, and it tilts left/right to scroll horizontally. I love scrolling on Apple’s trackpads, but I’ve yet to find a scroll-wheel I don’t prefer to the scrolling gesture on the Magic Mouse.
The tracking is magnificent on every surface I’ve tried, and I’ve yet to have any problems with the bluetooth signal.
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Out of the box, it’s probably the best generic bluetooth mouse you can get for the Mac, and at $40 (you can find it for almost $20 if you shop around), it’s priced in the same ballpark as a good RF wireless mouse and it’s almost half the price of the Magic Mouse.
There is one bit of weirdness though and that’s the goofy Windows button on the side:
The Windows button is both a button, and a gesture surface. Make no mistake, Microsoft’s gesture input does not work as well as the Magic Mouse, though the location of the surface on the side of the mouse does make it easier to swipe up and down while still gripping the mouse comfortably. What’s not clear is why putting additional physical buttons on the side of the mouse wouldn’t have been a better choice than swiping, which feels gimmicky.
Also, the mouse will rumble when you complete a swipe, which is another gimmick, though the feedback is appreciated because getting the swipe right is not intuitive. To swipe, you have to drag your thumb over the surface, but NOT press the button, which isn’t clear from the digram.
The big problem for OS X is that not only are the swipes not recognized, neither is pressing the Windows button recognized as pressing a mouse button at all. By default, here’s what happens when you press or swipe the button:
On Windows, the Windows key is recognized as a keypress which shows the Start Menu. On the Mac, it’s the Command modifier, so on its own it does nothing. Granted, mapping a large button that’s always under your thumb to Command is not a bad idea ergonomically. You could just leave it as-is and use it for Command clicking, or as a modifier key for pressing keyboard shortcuts.
The flaw in this plan is the mouse will stop tracking while you hold down this key. For example, say you wanted to use the Windows key to Command-click a bunch of links in Safari to open them in background tabs. You’d be able to click the first link or two, but the mouse will stop tracking and you won’t be able to move the pointer over other links.
While you could maybe get some use out of the Windows button as-is, the keys sent by swiping are pretty useless.
Even out of the box, I think the Sculpt Comfort Mouse is still probably the “best” bluetooth mouse you can get for the Mac as it will be a very decent, mostly comfortable pointing device that won’t eat a USB port. It’s not as comfortable as run-of-the mill Logitech mice, but its close enough.
If you’re willing to get your hands dirty though, you can put that Windows button to use and make this mouse even better.
First we need to address what keys/modifiers are being sent when you interact with the Windows button. I’m a big fan of USB Overdrive, and I’ve been using it with all my mice for years, but it won’t help you here. It can’t detect when the Windows key is pressed. We need to remap the input, and specifically from the mouse. To do this we need to use an application called Karabiner, which can remap your keyboard keys and mouse buttons.
Best Bluetooth Mac Mouse For Office Desktop
I’ve been using Karabiner for years (formerly KeyRemap4MacBook) to map my right Option key to act as an Enter key. I’ve been using Apple laptops for long enough that my mind is wired to expect an enter key roughly in that location.
Out of the box, Karabiner does not have any settings that will map the Windows key, but we can add a mapping to it’s XML configuration file:
These settings do four things:
- Prevent the button/swipes from ever sending the Control modifier. The mouse sends this with all swipes and it ends up making it harder to differentiate them.
- Convert pressing the Windows button from sending the Command modifier to sending a distinct mouse button click.
- Modify the swipe up gesture so it simulates clicking the Windows button with the Command modifier.
- Modify the swipe down gesture so it simulates clicking the Windows button with the Option modifier.
This is only half the story, however. With Karabiner, we can translate the input from the Windows button to something we could reasonably interpret, but it doesn’t actually do anything with these inputs.
You could use a bunch of tools to map these inputs to something useful. Sadly, USB Overdrive is not one of them, as it will still see the original, untranslated inputs from the mouse. I did some experiments with Keyboard Maestro, but I got the best results using an application called Better Touch Tool.
Using better touch tool, you can map these translated inputs into actions that are useful for OS X:
Mac Bluetooth Mouse
With these mappings, swiping down will trigger the “back” command, which is useful for web browsing and other apps. Similarly, swiping up will trigger a “forward” command. It’s certainly not as intuitive as the two physical buttons on my Logitech mouse, but it works well enough, and probably about as well as the gestures work in Windows.
Also, with Better Touch Tool, I was able to map pressing the windows button to Smart Zoom. So, I can get my favorite multitouch gesture without having to deal with the Magic Mouse.
In this example, I also have pressing the scroll-wheel mapped to Command-Click, because … I guess, why not. Pressing the scroll-wheel never feels right to me, but I guess we can make it do something.
I admit that all this extra configuration is a bit ridiculous. That said, if you go through the effort, the Windows button and the gestures work really well. It would be great if Microsoft provided a driver for the Mac, but hey, they’d like you to buy a Surface Pro 3.
Best Bluetooth Mac Mouse For Office Computers
If Logitech ever gets serious about bluetooth, I might change my mind, but for now, the Microsoft Sculpt Comfort Mouse is the best bluetooth mouse you can get for the Mac. The Windows key and gestures are a little wonky, but with some effort, they work fine with OS X.