This article first appeared in HWM Oct 2011.
At first glance, it’s a little hard not to look at Microsoft’s Touch Mouse, and think of Apple’s Mighty Mouse; a device that held a lot of promise, but in very un-Apple fashion, turned out badly implemented and above all, mediocre. After spending a couple of days with the Touch Mouse however, we’ve come to think of it as a rather refreshing way to interact with Windows 7.
Designed with multi-touch interactivity in mind, the Touch Mouse can work with either one, two or three fingers, as well as your thumb, as approximately half of the device’s upper surface is touch-sensitive, denoted by a series of tiny raised dots and crosses. Visually, this isn’t the most spectacular of mice around, but if it works well, who really cares how it looks?
A single finger and thumb let you manage documents; vertical scrolling and panning can be done by moving one finger in the appropriate direction, while brushing your thumb back and forth lets you go forwards or backwards. Dedicated back and forward buttons on conventional mice have inconsistent implementation, but Microsoft’s execution is miles ahead in terms of usability and ease.
Two fingers let you manage windows; swiping two fingers left or right activates the snap-to feature in Windows 7 in the appropriate direction, while swiping your two fingers up and down serves to maximise, restore or minimize the window in question.
Last but not least, three fingers manage the desktop, where moving three fingers up or down either bring out the task switcher to switch from one active window to another, or shows the desktop.
In actual use, Microsoft’s pretty much covered most common use cases where multi-finger gestures come in handy, with the exception of pinching to zoom. Nevertheless, the Touch Mouse is a delight to hold in the hand, and is reasonably snappy in terms of response, which is where Microsoft will then point to the use of BlueTrack technology that lets the mouse work on most surfaces except for clear glass or mirrors.
The mouse communicates with your PC via a USB dongle, which can be stored in the body of the Touch Mouse when on-the-move. Power is provided by a pair of AA batteries. Big props to Microsoft for an exceedingly simple installation procedure too, as once connected, Windows 7 will automatically go online and download the correct IntelliPoint software for the Touch Mouse to work. From then on, the mouse was ready to go in mere minutes.
Interestingly, the Touch Mouse was designed to only show its full touch-gesture capabilities when used in a Windows 7 environment, which is acceptable enough given that if you're one of the few still insisting on Vista and XP, you don’t deserve to use the Touch Mouse. And at an asking price of just S$99, which isn’t at all exorbitant for a mouse like this, that’s certainly money well spent.