Editor's note: This story has been updated to clarify information about using the product with Windows XP.
Pigs must be flying, because Apple has finally released a mouse with more than one button. Called the Mighty Mouse, the $49 USB device includes four buttons and a multidirectional Scroll Ball. It works with both Macs and PCs--though you lose some features when connected to the latter--and it's no more comfortable to use than older, one-button Apple mice.
The Mighty Mouse bears Apple's trademark minimalist look. The touch-sensitive left and right buttons reside unmarked under the white plastic, so it takes a few minutes to get used to pressing down on them. All that protrudes on the top of the mouse is the tiny white multidirectional Scroll Ball, which doubles as a third mouse button.
You activate the fourth mouse button by simultaneously clicking the two buttons on either side of the mouse. These side buttons don't press in too deeply (you squeeze them more than push them in), and I found that I had to use a little more pressure than my hand would have preferred, particularly in repetitive situations. All in all, the Mighty Mouse's ergonomics didn't impress me.
When I attached the Mighty Mouse to my Windows XP system, it lost some of its super powers. The Scroll Ball functioned only as a standard vertical scroll wheel would. Though my Windows XP PC recognized the Mighty Mouse without requiring any additional drivers (Apple doesn't include PC drivers with the device), I couldn't see any way to program the third and fourth buttons in the Mouse Control Panel; the user manual says only that the Mighty Mouse uses the standard mouse driver included in the Windows 2000 and Windows XP operating systems. This means that Windows assigns panning functionality to the mouse's third button and turns the fourth button into a back button.
Better on a Mac
On a Mac, you get all the frills, though you have to be running Mac OS 10.4.2 or higher to gain full control of the four buttons and 360-degree scrolling. Once I installed the driver, I could easily program the four buttons to open applications and documents or to launch Apple-specific features such as Dashboard, Expose, and Spotlight, using the Keyboard and Mouse preferences in OS X.
The Scroll Ball, which let me scroll vertically and horizontally in Microsoft Office apps, might be the Mighty Mouse's best feature. In media applications like IPhoto and IMovie, you can quickly pan and drag through your images, in any direction.
But the 360-degree scroll worked less fluidly when I tried it with Adobe Photoshop, a non-Apple app--a disappointment for people who work with a lot of images.
The verdict: There's no reason for PC users to drop $50 on what amounts to a standard (albeit beautiful) two-button optical mouse. Likewise, Mac users who already have a third-party four-button mouse have no reason to switch unless they live in Apple apps and would benefit from the 360-degree scrolling capability.
Apple Mighty Mouse
Fashionable four-button mouse with 360-degree scroll ball isn't very comfy and defaults to standard fare on the PC.