Set aside some time if you plan to switch to Microsoft’s Touch Mouse. While you’ll need to adjust to the way it works, it is well worth the effort. Don’t install it and hope for the best if you’ve a deadline to meet.
Touch is the technology of the moment. Apple’s iPad, other tablets and smartphones all replace traditional interfaces with touch-based gestures. It makes them easier to use on the run, but touching a screen isn’t the same as working a mouse.
Although desktops and laptops already offer touch screens, Microsoft Windows still works best with a mouse.
Microsoft’s Touch Mouse adds some of the advantages of touch screens to everyday Windows 7 PCs. That is not a huge step forward, but it does improve day-to-day computer use.
Simple to install and start
There’s a microscopic USB wireless dongle in the Touch Mouse box. This plugs directly into a laptop USB port. Microsoft thoughtfully includes an extension cable for when the distance between the USB on a floor-standing PC and the mouse is too far for good wireless contact. I found this worked fine on my system, but I did better still by using the USB port built-in to my monitor’s stand.
There was no software rigmarole, nothing to load, nothing to configure, just a wait of a minute while the driver installed. You can fool around with settings later if you want.
Smarter than your average mouse
Microsoft’s Touch Mouse is slightly smaller than a conventional desktop mouse. Instead of the scroll wheel and buttons, the front half of the top is a large touchable surface.
You can use it just like an ordinary mouse to move a cursor around the screen. You move a single finger up and down the touch area to scroll a page up and down screen. Likewise a left to right movement will pan the screen left to right. A flick moves the screen all the way in the indicated direction. These gestures quickly become as natural as everyday mousing.
Dodgy thumb gestures
I had more trouble adjusting to the thumb gestures and those using two or three fingers. An hour after starting I was still struggling with some gestures and even now they don’t feel natural – maybe that will change.
The mouse is sensitive enough to work exactly as expected, it doesn’t misinterpret minor fidgets as intentional gestures. The setting is spot on and nicely responsive.
It takes time to get used to Microsoft’s Touch Mouse, I’m still not there, but it has displaced the Windows Mouse 5000 as my rodent of choice.
Microsoft’s list price for the Touch Mouse is NZ$109, but I’ve seen it advertised for almost half that price and mainstream stores sell it for around NZ$75.
One last thing, the Touch Mouse is the nicest looking mouse I’ve seen in a long time and that includes the fancy designer mice that were fashionable a few years back.