Addendum to #29: Engelbart says a mouse should have more than one button

Turns out that I can hear most of the audio on the tape, so we’ll try to get that up soon. On the tape I asked Douglas Engelbart, inventor of the mouse, whether he liked a one-button mouse or a multi-button mouse. He replied that his first mouse had three buttons and the only reason it didn’t have more is that he couldn’t fit anymore on with the button technology of the day.

Oh, and I’m sorry for misspelling his name.

Comments

  1. Nope. A mouse need not have more than one button cause it makes the applications harder to use, and encourages developers to build complex user interfaces. The beauty of single button mouses is that it encourages to write user interfaces where all of the interface elements are on the screen (i.e. Macish), instead of having to discover it with right-clicks (i.e. Windowsish).

    Office 2006 is going the way back to the single button mouse, I wonder why…

  2. Nope. A mouse need not have more than one button cause it makes the applications harder to use, and encourages developers to build complex user interfaces. The beauty of single button mouses is that it encourages to write user interfaces where all of the interface elements are on the screen (i.e. Macish), instead of having to discover it with right-clicks (i.e. Windowsish).

    Office 2006 is going the way back to the single button mouse, I wonder why…

  3. Ahh, I’d want the kitchen sink on my mouse, one button? Downright Evil. I want functional, taskable, programmable buttons at my reach. That’s not excusing the deathly-poor user-interface of Windows. But it can also be argued that simple input devices like mice and keyboards have done much to slow down HCI. Doug therefore has done as much to slow down progress as he has to move it forward, before you cry bloody murder, talking in grand theory here.

    The mouse is still a rotten interface, but being that eye-tracking interfaces, artificial realities, three-dimensional trackers and Virtual-Reality interfaces slash Motion Capture devices, real-world mainstream IR/Capacitive/Force Platform/Resistive/SAW touch-screens, 3D haptic digitisers, gesture recognizers slash data-gloves or HMD-gear, Speech and the Pen/Digitisers aren’t yet perfected, and are but Wired mag lucid techie-drugged dreams, it will have to suffice.

    And Doug’s Chord Keyboards were hecko innovative (ie. things like Infogrip’s BAT Keyboard). How come no one ever talks about Chord Keyboards anymore? Eh? Phsaw the mouse. And you can “blame” for Engelbart introducing a whole new field of RSI injuries, aka carpal tunnel syndrome. My tennis elbow and “mouse arm”, ouch, gee thanks Doug, not. ;) Trackballs do help, joysticks too, but then those have their own set of problems. And then the footmouse, no hands mouse…another thing no one talks about.

    Ahhh, every step forward, two steps back…story of life.

  4. Ahh, I’d want the kitchen sink on my mouse, one button? Downright Evil. I want functional, taskable, programmable buttons at my reach. That’s not excusing the deathly-poor user-interface of Windows. But it can also be argued that simple input devices like mice and keyboards have done much to slow down HCI. Doug therefore has done as much to slow down progress as he has to move it forward, before you cry bloody murder, talking in grand theory here.

    The mouse is still a rotten interface, but being that eye-tracking interfaces, artificial realities, three-dimensional trackers and Virtual-Reality interfaces slash Motion Capture devices, real-world mainstream IR/Capacitive/Force Platform/Resistive/SAW touch-screens, 3D haptic digitisers, gesture recognizers slash data-gloves or HMD-gear, Speech and the Pen/Digitisers aren’t yet perfected, and are but Wired mag lucid techie-drugged dreams, it will have to suffice.

    And Doug’s Chord Keyboards were hecko innovative (ie. things like Infogrip’s BAT Keyboard). How come no one ever talks about Chord Keyboards anymore? Eh? Phsaw the mouse. And you can “blame” for Engelbart introducing a whole new field of RSI injuries, aka carpal tunnel syndrome. My tennis elbow and “mouse arm”, ouch, gee thanks Doug, not. ;) Trackballs do help, joysticks too, but then those have their own set of problems. And then the footmouse, no hands mouse…another thing no one talks about.

    Ahhh, every step forward, two steps back…story of life.

  5. It’s not that people have trouble with CLICKING, it’s that the OS only does things in terms of both buttons. You need to make an UI that works as one button (oen way), with the extra buttons as easy access or customized, meaning not exclusive. So I agree with anon, but yet want my mouse outfitted like an airplane cockpit. It’s not the mouse’s fault, it’s the UI’s.

  6. It’s not that people have trouble with CLICKING, it’s that the OS only does things in terms of both buttons. You need to make an UI that works as one button (oen way), with the extra buttons as easy access or customized, meaning not exclusive. So I agree with anon, but yet want my mouse outfitted like an airplane cockpit. It’s not the mouse’s fault, it’s the UI’s.

  7. One is awful, two is kind of okay, but two with wheel and the wheel clickable works best.

    More buttons, especially on the side, don’t work. Probably because the mouse has to be hold tighter to get it where you want – you can push harder if you do not have to worry about side buttons.

    (Especially awful: That press me to click one buttong mouse.)

  8. One is awful, two is kind of okay, but two with wheel and the wheel clickable works best.

    More buttons, especially on the side, don’t work. Probably because the mouse has to be hold tighter to get it where you want – you can push harder if you do not have to worry about side buttons.

    (Especially awful: That press me to click one buttong mouse.)

  9. Actually, I used to support scientists (like, multiple Ph.D’s, groundbreaking research, etc) who hated multibutton mice, because then, to get the proper normal click, they had to change their clicking habits by 4mm.

    That’s right…*four* millimeters. So, I’d get them programmable mice with programmable scroll wheels, and make every button, no matter how you pushed it, do the same thing. A one – button mouse with 5 buttons. So yeah, there are people with issues with mice.

    Other than that, holy shit Scoble, what is it with you and your mouse jihad? I mean, you’re obsessed with this. It’s A MOUSE. Do you cry when people don’t like the ones you do, because it seems to make you quite upset.

    some of us won’t use mice at all, as they take up too much space, are hideously inefficient, and too dependent on things like pads, or the materials of your desk. (Even the opticals. If your desk reflects the proper way, you can’t use an optical). Trackballs are more efficient on space and motion, and don’t require a death grip on it to use, so there’s fewer RSI issues than with a mouse. I’m glad Engelbart likes mice, but he still doesn’t have the only right answer for input devices, regardless of who he does or does not agree with.

  10. Actually, I used to support scientists (like, multiple Ph.D’s, groundbreaking research, etc) who hated multibutton mice, because then, to get the proper normal click, they had to change their clicking habits by 4mm.

    That’s right…*four* millimeters. So, I’d get them programmable mice with programmable scroll wheels, and make every button, no matter how you pushed it, do the same thing. A one – button mouse with 5 buttons. So yeah, there are people with issues with mice.

    Other than that, holy shit Scoble, what is it with you and your mouse jihad? I mean, you’re obsessed with this. It’s A MOUSE. Do you cry when people don’t like the ones you do, because it seems to make you quite upset.

    some of us won’t use mice at all, as they take up too much space, are hideously inefficient, and too dependent on things like pads, or the materials of your desk. (Even the opticals. If your desk reflects the proper way, you can’t use an optical). Trackballs are more efficient on space and motion, and don’t require a death grip on it to use, so there’s fewer RSI issues than with a mouse. I’m glad Engelbart likes mice, but he still doesn’t have the only right answer for input devices, regardless of who he does or does not agree with.

  11. [...] Looks like Doug Engelbart agrees with me over the mouse button issue. There’s also some interesting discussion in the comments over on Scoble’s blog that got me thinking a bit more about this. I would agree that the reason we need many mouse buttons is a deficient user interface. The proliferation of mouse buttons is a reflection of the inability of the UI to adapt to our demands. [...]

  12. Does a mouse need one button or multiple buttons?

    What do you think?  Does a mouse need one button or does it need multiple buttons?  According to Douglas Engelbart , inventor of the mouse, the first mouse he developed had three buttons, but would have had more if he could have fitted …

  13. Two buttons and scroll wheel are absolutely essential to my productivity on Windows and Mac. In the programs I use that involve all those mouse functions, there absolutely is NO WAY to build this stuff into the UI and keep my productivity and efficiency high.

    Sorry, but Mac users do not have legs to stand on. I use right-clicking in plenty of Mac applications and if you have a single-button mouse, they give you a keyboard shortcut for the right-click functions. How is that any better than having multiple mouse buttons?

  14. Two buttons and scroll wheel are absolutely essential to my productivity on Windows and Mac. In the programs I use that involve all those mouse functions, there absolutely is NO WAY to build this stuff into the UI and keep my productivity and efficiency high.

    Sorry, but Mac users do not have legs to stand on. I use right-clicking in plenty of Mac applications and if you have a single-button mouse, they give you a keyboard shortcut for the right-click functions. How is that any better than having multiple mouse buttons?

  15. The only thing I don’t like about single button mice is the lack of a scroll. Other than that, what is everybody’s left hand doing that it can’t navigate the keyboard to press modifier keys? I’m a Graphic/Web Designer by profession and other than the previously mentioned lack of scroll, have never had any contention with the single click mouse. I currently use the Mighty Mouse, and love it’s compromise of 3-button functionality with single button design aesthetics. But, more than three buttons? Sounds more like a fetish than a design improvement to me.

  16. The only thing I don’t like about single button mice is the lack of a scroll. Other than that, what is everybody’s left hand doing that it can’t navigate the keyboard to press modifier keys? I’m a Graphic/Web Designer by profession and other than the previously mentioned lack of scroll, have never had any contention with the single click mouse. I currently use the Mighty Mouse, and love it’s compromise of 3-button functionality with single button design aesthetics. But, more than three buttons? Sounds more like a fetish than a design improvement to me.

  17. I love my Logitech MX1000. I’ve worked with graphics for years, and its not nessasary to have 2 buttons to use photoshop, so i can see why some may not have a need for more than one button. But i also like to play FPS games, and in those cases, i tend to use every button on my mouse, even mapping my side scroll wheel for leaning side to side, and mapping reloads, weapon switch, grenades, flashlight and many other functions, right on my mouse which helps free up my other hand for handling the other controls.
    The way i see it, most people have more than one finger, why not put it to use.

  18. I love my Logitech MX1000. I’ve worked with graphics for years, and its not nessasary to have 2 buttons to use photoshop, so i can see why some may not have a need for more than one button. But i also like to play FPS games, and in those cases, i tend to use every button on my mouse, even mapping my side scroll wheel for leaning side to side, and mapping reloads, weapon switch, grenades, flashlight and many other functions, right on my mouse which helps free up my other hand for handling the other controls.
    The way i see it, most people have more than one finger, why not put it to use.

  19. Chris McElligott wrote: “How many users have trouble with multi buttons mice? I don’t know of any people who find themselves asking which button to click.”

    Well, Chris, you clearly haven’t done much tech support lately! There are a surprisingly large number of people, not users, but real honest to goodness people, who have real problems figuring out which button to push.

    I supported my company’s web app, and a surprising number of people got confused about not only which button to push, but whether nor not to double click. (That’s a whole different conversation…)

    Still, don’t underestimate how unsophisticated most people are in their computer interactions. I’m not suggesting to hamstring expert users with newbie needs, just that we need to be aware that not everyone is comfortable with multiple buttons.

  20. Chris McElligott wrote: “How many users have trouble with multi buttons mice? I don’t know of any people who find themselves asking which button to click.”

    Well, Chris, you clearly haven’t done much tech support lately! There are a surprisingly large number of people, not users, but real honest to goodness people, who have real problems figuring out which button to push.

    I supported my company’s web app, and a surprising number of people got confused about not only which button to push, but whether nor not to double click. (That’s a whole different conversation…)

    Still, don’t underestimate how unsophisticated most people are in their computer interactions. I’m not suggesting to hamstring expert users with newbie needs, just that we need to be aware that not everyone is comfortable with multiple buttons.

  21. >>Sorry, but Mac users do not have legs to stand on. I use right-clicking in plenty of Mac applications and if you have a single-button mouse, they give you a keyboard shortcut for the right-click functions. How is that any better than having multiple mouse buttons?

    There is another way to get 2-button function out of one. Time domain. There is click, double-click and click & hold maybe 1/10 second for a context menu. It works, is very easy, carefully tweaked timewise not to interfere it can be instantaneous enough. I use it all the time. Even with two buttons and scroll wheel I would make the rightmost button a sticky click and not a right click and save the lefthand for the click/double-click/click&hold fake right click.

    >>The only thing I don’t like about single button mice is the lack of a scroll. Other than that, what is everybody’s left hand doing that it can’t navigate the keyboard to press modifier keys? I’m a Graphic/Web Designer by profession

    Actually a scroll wheel isn’t part of the discussion, since it isn’t strictly a button. Having said that I would prefer mine on the right hand SIDE of the mouse. Why put it on the top? As to the rest of your comment, aha, graphic artists leave amatuer keyboard/mouse users in the dust, eh, having long ago learned to have the left hand on the keyboard and the right on a drawing tablet, using both simultaneously. Got your copy of Photoshop keyboard shortcuts do you?

    Finally as to multi-button mice. There have been several in the past. I’m pretty sure I’ve got a 15-button packed away from a Windows machine and I think the company made 25 and 60 ones too. There have also been several weird spreadsheet oriented multi-function mice in the past. All you button fetishists out there – start combing through Ebay before it is too late.

  22. >>Sorry, but Mac users do not have legs to stand on. I use right-clicking in plenty of Mac applications and if you have a single-button mouse, they give you a keyboard shortcut for the right-click functions. How is that any better than having multiple mouse buttons?

    There is another way to get 2-button function out of one. Time domain. There is click, double-click and click & hold maybe 1/10 second for a context menu. It works, is very easy, carefully tweaked timewise not to interfere it can be instantaneous enough. I use it all the time. Even with two buttons and scroll wheel I would make the rightmost button a sticky click and not a right click and save the lefthand for the click/double-click/click&hold fake right click.

    >>The only thing I don’t like about single button mice is the lack of a scroll. Other than that, what is everybody’s left hand doing that it can’t navigate the keyboard to press modifier keys? I’m a Graphic/Web Designer by profession

    Actually a scroll wheel isn’t part of the discussion, since it isn’t strictly a button. Having said that I would prefer mine on the right hand SIDE of the mouse. Why put it on the top? As to the rest of your comment, aha, graphic artists leave amatuer keyboard/mouse users in the dust, eh, having long ago learned to have the left hand on the keyboard and the right on a drawing tablet, using both simultaneously. Got your copy of Photoshop keyboard shortcuts do you?

    Finally as to multi-button mice. There have been several in the past. I’m pretty sure I’ve got a 15-button packed away from a Windows machine and I think the company made 25 and 60 ones too. There have also been several weird spreadsheet oriented multi-function mice in the past. All you button fetishists out there – start combing through Ebay before it is too late.

  23. Why waste 4 perfectly good fingers? I use a 5-button mouse, and I love it. The two on the side I only use when browsing, but I use them a LOT. I just shudder at the thought of moving my wrist up to the back/forward buttons in the corner of the screen. Hehe.

  24. Why waste 4 perfectly good fingers? I use a 5-button mouse, and I love it. The two on the side I only use when browsing, but I use them a LOT. I just shudder at the thought of moving my wrist up to the back/forward buttons in the corner of the screen. Hehe.

  25. >>There is another way to get 2-button function out of one. Time domain. There is click, double-click and click & hold maybe 1/10 second for a context menu. It works, is very easy, carefully tweaked timewise not to interfere it can be instantaneous enough.

    I used to love being able to get contextual menus this way but it doesn’t seem to work in OS X, unless I’ve missed something (very possible!) in the preferences. Does anyone know if there’s a way I can get this function back?

    Thanks!

  26. >>There is another way to get 2-button function out of one. Time domain. There is click, double-click and click & hold maybe 1/10 second for a context menu. It works, is very easy, carefully tweaked timewise not to interfere it can be instantaneous enough.

    I used to love being able to get contextual menus this way but it doesn’t seem to work in OS X, unless I’ve missed something (very possible!) in the preferences. Does anyone know if there’s a way I can get this function back?

    Thanks!

  27. What other answer did you expect? When Engelbart invented the mouse In 1963, only specialists and engineers had access to computers. Some, in fact, truly were “rocket scientists.”

    I prefer a three button mouse with a scroll wheel, but not everyone needs or even wants more than one button. Unfortunately, most of the technology industry has completely lost sight of this.

    Take cars for example. Manual transmission vehicles can get better gas mileage and give the driver precise control over shifting gears. More control. Better, right? So why doesn’t the automobile industry stop making automatic transmission vehicles? Is everyone who drives an automatic incapable of learning to drive stick? No. Many don’t care about extra control or optimal performance. They just want to get from point A to point B. Personally, I learned to drive on an automatic, but now prefer to drive stick. Many people never make the switch and would be upset if they had to.

    Computers shouldn’t be so complex that you need two buttons to perform basic tasks like working with files and folders, surfing the web and reading email. This is a design standard that Apple helps enforce by shipping with a one button mouse. Developers can ignore UI guidelines but you can’t ignore the millions of Macs that have shipped with a single button mouse. This results in applications that are more intuitive and easier to use for…

    - Young children
    - People with disabilities
    - The elderly
    - People who just want to surf the web and read their email

    However, If your a hot-key-contextual-menu-junky like I am, you’re free to plug in a 7-button-scroll-wheel-mouse and go crazy, but it’s NOT A REQUIREMENT.

  28. What other answer did you expect? When Engelbart invented the mouse In 1963, only specialists and engineers had access to computers. Some, in fact, truly were “rocket scientists.”

    I prefer a three button mouse with a scroll wheel, but not everyone needs or even wants more than one button. Unfortunately, most of the technology industry has completely lost sight of this.

    Take cars for example. Manual transmission vehicles can get better gas mileage and give the driver precise control over shifting gears. More control. Better, right? So why doesn’t the automobile industry stop making automatic transmission vehicles? Is everyone who drives an automatic incapable of learning to drive stick? No. Many don’t care about extra control or optimal performance. They just want to get from point A to point B. Personally, I learned to drive on an automatic, but now prefer to drive stick. Many people never make the switch and would be upset if they had to.

    Computers shouldn’t be so complex that you need two buttons to perform basic tasks like working with files and folders, surfing the web and reading email. This is a design standard that Apple helps enforce by shipping with a one button mouse. Developers can ignore UI guidelines but you can’t ignore the millions of Macs that have shipped with a single button mouse. This results in applications that are more intuitive and easier to use for…

    - Young children
    - People with disabilities
    - The elderly
    - People who just want to surf the web and read their email

    However, If your a hot-key-contextual-menu-junky like I am, you’re free to plug in a 7-button-scroll-wheel-mouse and go crazy, but it’s NOT A REQUIREMENT.

  29. Sigh. Scobie, you’re trolling for hits. But, what the heck. The universe is quiet today, so I’ll feed the troll… :^)

    The argument about the superiority of one-button versus two-or-more-button mouse is a wonderful case of not seeing the forest through the trees. In short, it’s not about how many buttons you have, it’s how you use them.

    I’m a long time Mac user who has had this argument on numerous occasions. The one-button mouse is clearly superior–on a Macintosh. Why? Because Macintosh was designed around a one-button mouse. The best example of this? The menu bar.

    The menu bar is perfect for a one button mouse. It’s a convenient way to get at all the options of programs. Because it’s tied to the top of the screen, it’s easy to get to. For those of you Fitt’s Law fanatics, you’ve essentially removed the Y-coordinate from the equation. Because the commands in the menus don’t move around (or they’re not supposed to), you can take advantage of motor-memory–essentially, you remember the gesture rather than the command.

    I noticed this way back in the old days of Macintosh. Someone once developed an INIT/Extension (remember those?) which made the mouse wrap around: Go off the left side of the screen, the mouse appears on the right. Go off the bottom, it’s at the top. Go off the left, the mouse is at the right. Go off the top, the mouse is at the bottom. Unfortunately.

    Yup. I found myself missing the menu bar time and time and time again. I finally got rid of the INIT/Extension, because it was just too annoying.

    The other example was a “tear-off menu” INIT that came with Radius displays (boy, I am an old man!) Essentially, you could take any pull-down menu from the menu bar and put it anywhere on the screen. This was supposed to be very handy–this way you didn’t have to go all the way up to the top of the screen–you could just press a button. Supposedly very handy with those “giant” 20″ black and white screens.

    What I immediately discovered was that I never used it. I remembered it right after I had chosen the command from the menu bar. Why? Because I didn’t have to stop and think about the command (eg, “Sigh. Let me go to the Colors menu and choose ‘Blue’”), so it never occurred to me to use the tear-off menu I had so conveniently placed on the screen until after I had actually done the task (“Oh hey! I could have just clicked on the torn-off menu! Well, maybe next time…”)

    The one-button mouse works because the Macintosh Interface works.

    Now let’s look at the same story with Windows.

    At the risk of offending the Windows partisans in the audience and because I’m a Mac guy, so it’s expected, I’m giving my own personal view of the history of Windows. Yes, I used Windows 1.0, 2.0, and 3.0. I didn’t use Windows 95 as much and I’ve pretty much ignored the rest, but I occasionally use XP.

    Windows, when it first came out, wanted to be Macintosh. Microsoft grabbed all the pieces of a Macintosh, though, and stuck them together in a way that was decidedly not Macintosh by ignoring the most important part of the one-button interface: The Menu Bar. Microsoft mistakenly said that the most important part of the Macintosh Interface was the Window–and, thus, Windows was born.

    Everything in Windows is in a window. Heck, as I understand it, everything in Windows is a window. Buttons, menus, controls–all windows. Unfortunately, this includes the menu bar. But because the Window was all-important, the menu bar became this little tiny thing stuck at the top of a window. Just compare the size of the Macintosh menu bar with the size of a menu bar in Windows and you’ll see what I mean.

    Watch Windows users. One of the first things they do is make the application window take up the whole screen. Why? Because it makes it easier to hit the menu bar. You throw the mouse at the top of the screen and then come down to the menu you’re trying to hit. Still a nuisance, but less of one than trying to hit the menu bar floating somewhere in the middle of the screen.

    Microsoft tried various solutions. Toolbars/Buttonbars were better, because they were bigger than the menu bar. Of course, trying to stick “everything” into a toolbar was tough, so Microsoft came up with interfaces for you to specify what was in the toolbar. I can’t imagine how many man-hours were wasted trying to come up with something so that people wouldn’t have to use the menu bar but would still be Mac-like.

    Finally, with Windows 95, Microsoft stopped trying to be Macintosh. They figured out that they have this second button and they could use that to create a contextual menu. Suddenly, users could be freed from having to either use this horrendously designed menu bar or have 17 rows of toolbar buttons. Just “right-click” on the item and a menu would appear, giving the user a list of options that would “make sense” for that item. Select a word, right-click, and there’s Cut, Copy, and Paste. No need to click on the scissor icon. No need to get to the Edit menu. No need to memorize Alt-X. Brilliant!

    So the real argument is not about whether a one-button mouse is better than a two-or-more-button mouse. The real argument is about whether a static menu bar at the top of the screen is better than a dynamic menu bar based upon the current context. This is a much trickier debate because it depends on lots of factors and, as a Mac guy, I tend to be a tad biased. So I’ll leave that debate for another day.

    So there’s the answer. As I said above, it’s not about the number of buttons. It’s about how you use them.

    By the way, as I said, I’m a Mac user. I currently have a three-button mouse with a track-ball attached to my computer (no, it’s not a Mighty Mouse, it’s a 4D Optical Web Cruiser from IOGear). At home, I have a one button Apple Pro mouse (the original, not the white one). I’ve discovered that I don’t miss the extra buttons when I’m home, but I use the extra buttons at work. In other words, it just doesn’t matter.

  30. Sigh. Scobie, you’re trolling for hits. But, what the heck. The universe is quiet today, so I’ll feed the troll… :^)

    The argument about the superiority of one-button versus two-or-more-button mouse is a wonderful case of not seeing the forest through the trees. In short, it’s not about how many buttons you have, it’s how you use them.

    I’m a long time Mac user who has had this argument on numerous occasions. The one-button mouse is clearly superior–on a Macintosh. Why? Because Macintosh was designed around a one-button mouse. The best example of this? The menu bar.

    The menu bar is perfect for a one button mouse. It’s a convenient way to get at all the options of programs. Because it’s tied to the top of the screen, it’s easy to get to. For those of you Fitt’s Law fanatics, you’ve essentially removed the Y-coordinate from the equation. Because the commands in the menus don’t move around (or they’re not supposed to), you can take advantage of motor-memory–essentially, you remember the gesture rather than the command.

    I noticed this way back in the old days of Macintosh. Someone once developed an INIT/Extension (remember those?) which made the mouse wrap around: Go off the left side of the screen, the mouse appears on the right. Go off the bottom, it’s at the top. Go off the left, the mouse is at the right. Go off the top, the mouse is at the bottom. Unfortunately.

    Yup. I found myself missing the menu bar time and time and time again. I finally got rid of the INIT/Extension, because it was just too annoying.

    The other example was a “tear-off menu” INIT that came with Radius displays (boy, I am an old man!) Essentially, you could take any pull-down menu from the menu bar and put it anywhere on the screen. This was supposed to be very handy–this way you didn’t have to go all the way up to the top of the screen–you could just press a button. Supposedly very handy with those “giant” 20″ black and white screens.

    What I immediately discovered was that I never used it. I remembered it right after I had chosen the command from the menu bar. Why? Because I didn’t have to stop and think about the command (eg, “Sigh. Let me go to the Colors menu and choose ‘Blue’”), so it never occurred to me to use the tear-off menu I had so conveniently placed on the screen until after I had actually done the task (“Oh hey! I could have just clicked on the torn-off menu! Well, maybe next time…”)

    The one-button mouse works because the Macintosh Interface works.

    Now let’s look at the same story with Windows.

    At the risk of offending the Windows partisans in the audience and because I’m a Mac guy, so it’s expected, I’m giving my own personal view of the history of Windows. Yes, I used Windows 1.0, 2.0, and 3.0. I didn’t use Windows 95 as much and I’ve pretty much ignored the rest, but I occasionally use XP.

    Windows, when it first came out, wanted to be Macintosh. Microsoft grabbed all the pieces of a Macintosh, though, and stuck them together in a way that was decidedly not Macintosh by ignoring the most important part of the one-button interface: The Menu Bar. Microsoft mistakenly said that the most important part of the Macintosh Interface was the Window–and, thus, Windows was born.

    Everything in Windows is in a window. Heck, as I understand it, everything in Windows is a window. Buttons, menus, controls–all windows. Unfortunately, this includes the menu bar. But because the Window was all-important, the menu bar became this little tiny thing stuck at the top of a window. Just compare the size of the Macintosh menu bar with the size of a menu bar in Windows and you’ll see what I mean.

    Watch Windows users. One of the first things they do is make the application window take up the whole screen. Why? Because it makes it easier to hit the menu bar. You throw the mouse at the top of the screen and then come down to the menu you’re trying to hit. Still a nuisance, but less of one than trying to hit the menu bar floating somewhere in the middle of the screen.

    Microsoft tried various solutions. Toolbars/Buttonbars were better, because they were bigger than the menu bar. Of course, trying to stick “everything” into a toolbar was tough, so Microsoft came up with interfaces for you to specify what was in the toolbar. I can’t imagine how many man-hours were wasted trying to come up with something so that people wouldn’t have to use the menu bar but would still be Mac-like.

    Finally, with Windows 95, Microsoft stopped trying to be Macintosh. They figured out that they have this second button and they could use that to create a contextual menu. Suddenly, users could be freed from having to either use this horrendously designed menu bar or have 17 rows of toolbar buttons. Just “right-click” on the item and a menu would appear, giving the user a list of options that would “make sense” for that item. Select a word, right-click, and there’s Cut, Copy, and Paste. No need to click on the scissor icon. No need to get to the Edit menu. No need to memorize Alt-X. Brilliant!

    So the real argument is not about whether a one-button mouse is better than a two-or-more-button mouse. The real argument is about whether a static menu bar at the top of the screen is better than a dynamic menu bar based upon the current context. This is a much trickier debate because it depends on lots of factors and, as a Mac guy, I tend to be a tad biased. So I’ll leave that debate for another day.

    So there’s the answer. As I said above, it’s not about the number of buttons. It’s about how you use them.

    By the way, as I said, I’m a Mac user. I currently have a three-button mouse with a track-ball attached to my computer (no, it’s not a Mighty Mouse, it’s a 4D Optical Web Cruiser from IOGear). At home, I have a one button Apple Pro mouse (the original, not the white one). I’ve discovered that I don’t miss the extra buttons when I’m home, but I use the extra buttons at work. In other words, it just doesn’t matter.

  31. For the average Windows or Mac user, a two button mouse with a scroll wheel is fine. The wheel need not be a button since its usage is rare and jarring. And the two side buttons are unnecessary and awkward to proess. The right button is easy to understand as a way to perform an action on the object underneath the cursor.

    I wouldn’t necessarily look to Englebart as the best person to weigh in on the subject considering the invention was decades ago.

    As a Mac user, I once paraded the one-button superiority but have come to my senses.

  32. For the average Windows or Mac user, a two button mouse with a scroll wheel is fine. The wheel need not be a button since its usage is rare and jarring. And the two side buttons are unnecessary and awkward to proess. The right button is easy to understand as a way to perform an action on the object underneath the cursor.

    I wouldn’t necessarily look to Englebart as the best person to weigh in on the subject considering the invention was decades ago.

    As a Mac user, I once paraded the one-button superiority but have come to my senses.

  33. anon,

    Whats best is to have information both discoverable on screen and available with right click context menus. There’s a reason why context menus became popular. And if you use programs regularly I’m sure you see why.

  34. anon,

    Whats best is to have information both discoverable on screen and available with right click context menus. There’s a reason why context menus became popular. And if you use programs regularly I’m sure you see why.

  35. Peter,

    People don’t maximize windows by default in order to easier access the menu bar, they maximize them because its more comfortable to have more space. In part its better for the menu bar, but not because its so hard to click on when not maximized, but because the application , and its functions, have your full attention when its maximized. It really isn’t so hard to click on an un-maximized menu bar. I hate people who quote Fitt’s Law.

    Toolbars and context menus are nice regardless of where the menu bar is placed. Being able to right click in word and select an alternate spelling, or being able to right click in explorer and select OLE actions, is always nice and useful for someone comfortable with the program.

  36. Peter,

    People don’t maximize windows by default in order to easier access the menu bar, they maximize them because its more comfortable to have more space. In part its better for the menu bar, but not because its so hard to click on when not maximized, but because the application , and its functions, have your full attention when its maximized. It really isn’t so hard to click on an un-maximized menu bar. I hate people who quote Fitt’s Law.

    Toolbars and context menus are nice regardless of where the menu bar is placed. Being able to right click in word and select an alternate spelling, or being able to right click in explorer and select OLE actions, is always nice and useful for someone comfortable with the program.

  37. “As a Mac user, I once paraded the one-button superiority but have come to my senses.”

    PWB,

    You prefer a multi button mouse. So do I. But a significant number of Mac users (and probably many unfortunate Windows users) don’t want or even need a second button. Nor should one be needed for basic operation of a computer.

    I know with several users that just don’t use shortcut keys and hate multi-button mice. One is a creative director who designs elaborate graphics in Photoshop and Illustrator with a single button mouse. They don’t use computers the same way we do, nor should they have to adapt because the people who make technology and software think differently than they do.

    By designing an OS that requires a multi-button mouse for even the most simple task and shipping one in the box, you’ve make this choice for them.

    You like choice, don’t you?

  38. “As a Mac user, I once paraded the one-button superiority but have come to my senses.”

    PWB,

    You prefer a multi button mouse. So do I. But a significant number of Mac users (and probably many unfortunate Windows users) don’t want or even need a second button. Nor should one be needed for basic operation of a computer.

    I know with several users that just don’t use shortcut keys and hate multi-button mice. One is a creative director who designs elaborate graphics in Photoshop and Illustrator with a single button mouse. They don’t use computers the same way we do, nor should they have to adapt because the people who make technology and software think differently than they do.

    By designing an OS that requires a multi-button mouse for even the most simple task and shipping one in the box, you’ve make this choice for them.

    You like choice, don’t you?

  39. I’ve done tech support and know first hand that many users are utterly clueless for the simple reason that they don’t want to make any effort if nobody forces them. These are the same people whose car’s clocks display the wrong time after a DST shift until someone else fixes it for them. It’s covered in the manual in the glove compartment and often can be figured out just by looking at the dash but that would require mental effort. Horror! Good UI design is important but I have nothing but contempt for those who expect the computer to be a magical mind reading machine.

    Interface design needs to find its happy medium. Most Windows software I’ve ever used can be completely operated with just a single mouse button, which is proper. It makes things easier for the novices and impaired. But a good app also offers shortcuts for those who understand the use of the additional button(s). The now typical two buttons and a scroll wheel is probably the most that should thrown at most users without overloading the brains of those willing to expend some effort in learning. Additional buttons should be supported for those who have the desire but will be ignored by the majority. I really thought I’d like more buttons but remembering to use any beyond the 2+scroll has proven more trouble than it’s worth. But that just me.

    I’ve always known I’d want more than one mouse button even before I was accustomed to GUIs. I remember the original Mac ad campaign that had a caption for the mouse which read, “One mouse button, so you can never press the wrong one.” From the very first reading I took that to mean, “We think you’re too friggin’ dumb to deal with more than one button.”

  40. I’ve done tech support and know first hand that many users are utterly clueless for the simple reason that they don’t want to make any effort if nobody forces them. These are the same people whose car’s clocks display the wrong time after a DST shift until someone else fixes it for them. It’s covered in the manual in the glove compartment and often can be figured out just by looking at the dash but that would require mental effort. Horror! Good UI design is important but I have nothing but contempt for those who expect the computer to be a magical mind reading machine.

    Interface design needs to find its happy medium. Most Windows software I’ve ever used can be completely operated with just a single mouse button, which is proper. It makes things easier for the novices and impaired. But a good app also offers shortcuts for those who understand the use of the additional button(s). The now typical two buttons and a scroll wheel is probably the most that should thrown at most users without overloading the brains of those willing to expend some effort in learning. Additional buttons should be supported for those who have the desire but will be ignored by the majority. I really thought I’d like more buttons but remembering to use any beyond the 2+scroll has proven more trouble than it’s worth. But that just me.

    I’ve always known I’d want more than one mouse button even before I was accustomed to GUIs. I remember the original Mac ad campaign that had a caption for the mouse which read, “One mouse button, so you can never press the wrong one.” From the very first reading I took that to mean, “We think you’re too friggin’ dumb to deal with more than one button.”

  41. ok so its not really a comment, its kind of a question

    i read all these atricles claiming you can make your mighty mouse have a cut copy and paste function

    how the heck do i do that?!

    if you have any ideas id be really appreciative

    thanks!

    *Missy

  42. ok so its not really a comment, its kind of a question

    i read all these atricles claiming you can make your mighty mouse have a cut copy and paste function

    how the heck do i do that?!

    if you have any ideas id be really appreciative

    thanks!

    *Missy