The best mouse

One of my most recent acquisitions is the Kensington ADB Turbo Mouse (version 3.0). Here is the best picture I found on Google Images (taken from this Japanese page):

turbomouse

As you can see, despite the name, it’s actually a trackball. Probably the picture shows a slightly later model, as my Turbo Mouse displays an older Kensington logo and the words “Turbo Mouse” are missing. I first saw a similar one when I used to collaborate with a graphic designer / photographer friend of mine. He was using it and was very satisfied with it. Then time passed by and I forgot about it. When my passion for vintage Macs reemerged vigourously, this beautiful object made by Kensington returned in my radar. My friend Tony in California was selling a couple of them for a very reasonable price, and I got one.

After a couple of hours using it, I was already in love. It’s possibly the best mouse I’ve used in my 20+ year experience with Macs. It fits perfectly under the palm of my hand, the big ball allows for very precise mouse pointer movements, and of course it works out of the box. A nice advantage is that you really don’t need much space on the desktop. Like every trackball, the logic is the opposite of that of any other mouse: you move the ball, not the whole mouse. So, no need of room to move the mouse around, no need of a mouse pad either. Here’s another picture to have an idea of its size:

Kensington Turbo Mouse

I’ve used it successfully with my main PowerBook G4, by way of the blessed Griffin’s iMate ADB to USB adapter, and it worked without the need of a driver, although it was not possible to configure the right button. Per default the right button showed an interesting behaviour: if I single-clicked on a file or folder with the right button, I could drag the file or folder wherever I wanted without having to keep the button pressed (as it would happen using the left button). To drop the item, I had to press the right button again. In some cases it proved to be quite handy.

Kensington has developed a driver for its trackballs to be used under Mac OS X. The software is called MouseWorks and can be easily found on Kensington’s website. The problem is that MouseWorks doesn’t support the old model of Turbo Mouse I have. From the driver’s Read Me file (emphasis mine):

This version of MouseWorks for Mac OS X supports all Kensington USB and ADB mice and trackballs except:

  • one-button mice
  • the older, 2-button Turbo Mouse models (versions 1.0–4.0)
  • ValuMouse (any model)
  • Orbit 3D

It may be possible to use older Kensington ADB devices on the USB port on newer Macs.  Although this setup is not supported by Kensington (we do not support 3rd party adapters), many customers have had positive success with the help of an ADB-to-USB adapter such as the iMate from Griffin.  Note that the iMate has its own set of drivers which can be downloaded from http://www.griffintechnology.com

Anyway, after a week of use with my main machine, I was considering giving the not-quite Mighty Mouse up and using the Kensington Turbo Mouse permanently, but the downside is that it takes away one of the two USB ports on the PowerBook, and I need them both (and no, I can’t use a USB hub because of the placement of the PowerBook and the jungle of cables already on my desktop) — so I’ll have to keep using my current configuration (Apple Wireless Keyboard and Wireless Mighty Mouse). But I could hook it up to my PowerMac G4 Cube…

The bottom line: if you stumble upon one of these devices (on eBay or similar second-hand markets), get it and try it out. Perhaps, if you never used a trackball before, it’ll take a bit to get accustomed to it, but chances are you’ll never turn back. Unless, of course, you also need a scrolling wheel. In that case my suggestion is to look for more modern trackballs.

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