Mac Lab Report

Two-Fingered Trackpad Scrolling Could Give Apple an Excuse to Build a Two-Button Mouse

- 2005.02.03

Apple has introduced a trackpad with functionality you didn't even know you needed - two-finger automatic scrolling.

According to a quietly released press notice Monday, Apple has engineered this new functionality into its new PowerBook trackpads. I can just see expert trackpad users whipping around a larger virtual screen to work; maneuvering over large image files, scrolling in Web pages, all becoming faster and faster and more comfortable than the scroll wheel on a two-button mouse.

Speaking of mice...

those of you who are long term readers of this column might want to put your drinks down

...this trackpad has more functionality than Apple's one-button mouse, and, frankly, if I were using the new two-finger trackpad, when I switched to a mouse I'd miss the two-fingered scroll function.


Now, friends, I've said that that when you're mousing, you're not typing, so what does it matter if you have to control-click to get a contextual menu?

I've said that properly designed software shouldn't require fifteen buttons on a mouse.

I've said that students I've met have been amazed to discover that the second button on a mouse actually does something - having always had it, they've never used it. (Not all of them, just some of them.)

My faithful readers have written me back and extolled the virtue of two-button mice; told me they thought I was insane for not advocating for a two-button mouse; pointed me to myriad articles - so many of them that it now goes without saying that Apple's one-button mouse is just about the only remaining design flaw in their otherwise excellent design.

Now - drum roll please - the only remaining public advocate of the one-button Mac mouse is about to become history.

If Apple builds two-finger scrolling capability into a new mouse design - clicking two buttons at once instead of using a thunky, clunky, bump-bump-bump wheel (sorry, Kensington) to enable the same feature in their mice as they have in the trackpad - why, they would have an excuse to switch to two buttons! They'd be doing so in the guise of removing the need for a scroll wheel!

What more could an engineer ask for? They wouldn't be surrendering their design principles; they'd be using them to promote a better, simpler, more functional mouse with fewer moving parts than anything else on the market.

So do it now, Apple, before I come to my senses and change my mind!

Create a Two Button Apple Branded Mouse with two-button scroll functionality built in. This may be your only chance to ever justify a two button mouse! So do it now! Now! Quick like a bunny, before someone actually reads this article!

I sort of feel like I've betrayed an old friend.

Ah, old one-button mouse, the world barely knew ye.

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is a longtime Mac user. He was using digital sensors on Apple II computers in the 1980's and has networked computers in his classroom since before the internet existed. In 2006 he was selected at the California Computer Using Educator's teacher of the year. His students have used NASA space probes and regularly participate in piloting new materials for NASA. He is the author of two books and numerous articles and scientific papers. He currently teaches astronomy and physics in California, where he lives with his twin sons, Jony and Ben.< And there's still a Mac G3 in his classroom which finds occasional use.

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