The current generation Magic Mouse is divisive. Critics complain that it’s uncomfortable and oversimplified while proponents appreciate its minimalist design. And it’s a pretty peripheral no doubt, which meshes perfectly with the Mac aesthetic. But its limitations and ergonomics make it hard for me to love. That’s why I’ve been using a gaming mouse to get work done on my desktop Mac for years.
A top-notch gaming mouse will improve the life of almost any computer use, but they’re especially valuable for creative professionals. They’re built to provide superior performance in games where minute control of your cursor position is the difference between winning and losing, and the hardware and ergonomics required to support that kind of input translate perfectly to making precise selections in Photoshop. Sure, they look like weaponized hockey pucks and you’re unlikely to find one that goes with your Mac aesthetically, but the increased control will probably make up for it.
1. So Many Buttons
On most gaming mice, you’ll find at least two additional thumb buttons. While these buttons default to “forward” and “back” functions, they can generally be assigned to any function. These buttons are amazing: once you’ve used the forward and back thumb buttons to navigate through Safari or Finder windows, going back to clicking the UI element like an animal is impossible.If you love assignable buttons, you’ve got tons of options. While most gaming mice have at least two buttons, mice made for MMOs have even more, with a grid or circle of nine or more buttons mounted into the mouse. These buttons are more precise than gesture commands, and they’re harder to trigger accidentially. They’re more flexible than system-provided gestures, too: you can map they keys to literally any combination of key presses, with some software even allowing for complex routines or “macros” to be tied to a button.
Mapping commands like this can be especially valuable for creative apps like Photoshop. These apps can have advanced functions tied to obscure key commands and buried in menus, and if one of them is vital to your work (Save for Web, perhaps?) it’s a pain to trigger. You can avoid hard-to-remember and difficult-to-press keyboard shortcuts by binding that keyboard shortcut to a mouse key instead.
You can also map general purpose keys, like modifiers or modifier combos, to mice buttons. For example, you might map “Option” and “Command” to thumb buttons, allowing you to trigger keyboard shortcuts without pretzeling your fingers. For example, assign a key to “Option” and use it to duplicate-drag things around Finder and Photoshop with ease. All this and more can be accomplished with the bundled software included with most gaming mice, but third party utilities like SteerMouse or BetterTouchTool offer even greater power.
2. Less Hand Cramping
Gaming mice – and professional Logitech mice – are designed to be used for extended periods without break while still maintaining dexterity and functionality. And the same optimizations that help gamers aim in the heat of battle will help you better manage your workload. As such, they’re typically sculpted to the hand of the user, providing a more comfortable grip. This is especially useful for people with large hands who might not be suited to the one-size-fits-all mice that are typically available. You might even find that a well-shaped mouse will reduce your likelihood of developing a repetitive strain injury.
3. Better Materials
If you’ve been using a standard-issue Windows mouse with your Mac, you’ll find massively improved build quality in gaming mice. And if you’re the type of person that likes Apple products, higher build quality is probably fairly important to you. It’s no surprise that this raises the price of the mice, but higher cost means that better materials can be used. Higher grades of plastic are more comfortable to the touch and wear less over time. You’ll also find higher-quality internals, like more responsive sensors that track on more surfaces more reliably. This means mice last longer and operate more reliably with more time passing between replacements. It also means a better experience using the mouse, with more accurate sensors and better scroll wheels included in the bargain.
4. Significantly Adjustability
Adjustable features, like adjustable DPI and weight, are a huge benefit. Adjustable DPI lets you dial in a level of responsiveness that’s natural and comfortable for you, making your mouse easier to use. The easier your mouse is to use, the more you can get done and the less you’ll need to fight your input device. And considering how limited the Mac’s built-in pointer control tools are, adjustable DPI is a huge boon to users. A better DPI can even help reduce injury, reducing the strain that comes with making the same physical movement over and over. Some mice also offer adjustable weight, with metal weights that can be added or removed from the mouse’s base to suit your preference.
5. Greater Productivity
Once you have everything set up the way you want it, a gaming mouse can dramatically speed up your workflow. It’s like the difference between using the “Edit” menu to copy and paste and using keyboard shortcuts for the same operation. Binding frequently-used functions to your mouse means you don’t need to switch back to the keyboard or dive into menus as frequently. With the proper setup, you’ll be able to speed through common tasks and get more done.
Of course, its not a perfect world. There are some downsides to using gaming mice. They’re often garish, with brightly-colored lights and edgy designs reminiscent of a pre-teens idea of what looks tough. They’re not that cheap, either. Expect to spend between $50 and $100 USD for a decent gaming mouse. But once you try working with one, you won’t want to go back.
Image credit: G502 PROTEUS CORE Tunable Gaming Mouse