Magic Mouse, Meet BetterTouchTool

Apple Magic Mouse

I’ve already talked about how BetterTouchTool is a must have for any Macbook user. But I never went on to discuss how BTT integrates with a Magic Mouse (since I don’t have one). This always intrigued me.

Since we are doing some iOS development at work, HQ sent us a Mac Mini with a Magic Mouse. Naturally, I volunteered to setup the Mac for my team with good software (BetterTouchTool, Caffeine, Sublime, etc.) and the like so that it would run beautifully.

The effect of marrying Magic Mouse to BTT is just as breathtaking as Magic Trackpad + BTT.  You get the ease of a mouse and no more tired fingers when you’re using Photoshop, Visio or anything involving a lot of clicking and dragging. iMacs, Thunderbolt displays and other widescreen monitors have an exceptional amount of screen real estate, which make using a trackpad really tiresome. It’s even a bit tiresome with a mouse. Thus, by using gestures on a Magic Mouse, you still benefit significantly.

For those of you who haven’t read the aforementioned post about BTT, let me just say that I’m not talking about the default gestures that Apple gives you with Mac OS X. I’m talking about custom gestures with 1, 2, 3 and 4 fingers on the Magic Mouse–though limited 4 finger usage.

Using gestures on a Magic Mouse in contrast with the trackpad on a MacBook does take some getting used to. Notably, the Magic Mouse has less surface area than a trackpad. But since you can get both a mouse and gestures, I’d get a Magic Mouse and skip the extra Magic Trackpad any day. I guess that’s kind of a no brainer though. However, now I can say I’ve experienced the ease of making multi-touch gestures on a Magic Mouse. If you haven’t, you’re missing out.

Mini-App of the Day: BetterTouchTool

BetterTouchTool IconIf you don’t know what BetterTouchTool is, you should read this post. If you have a Mac, you should really read this post. If you have a PC, you should still read this post. It will be worth your time to see what you are missing out on either way. It will also answer why you’d ever want to buy a Magic Trackpad if you are a Mac user and you’re saying to yourself, “Isn’t a mouse better in all regards?” For those of you who know what BetterTouchTool is and currently use it…just glory in your preeminence. ;)

BetterTouchTool is a big reason why I have loved my switch to a Mac for the last 2 years. I’ve always been a PC user. I have nothing against PC’s in general. I had some bad luck with a Dell laptop once, but I’ve seen plenty of Macs crash and burn too (some of you are probably sitting there saying, “You should have bought an HP” or “…a Lenovo.”). Though, those Asus Ultrabooks are looking pretty slick if you want the PC version of a MacBook Air.

BetterTouchTool is a utility designed to give you more control of gestures on your trackpad.  Apple did us a huge favor by making trackpads a lot bigger and by integrating the button into the pad. Genious. Apple also did us a great favor by eliminating (and returning to their old standard I might add) the second button because now if you want those menus, you just tap with two fingers. Also genious. (I realize this is up for debate depending on preference and habit, but if you are going to just argue more is better, I won’t humor you. I will entertain that two buttons–one on the left, one on the right–is just as good.)

So what does this mean? Well, Apple included a few gestures in Leopard, then a few more in Snow Leopard, then a few more in Lion. Maybe they’ll finally have a sufficient amount in Mountain Lion, though I doubt it. BetterTouchTool (BTT) makes up the lack thereof. You can go ahead and turn off most of the default gestures Apple gives you and re-program them how you want. That’s what I did. BTT allows you to add almost as many gestures as you can think of and assign them any number of preconfigured actions or a shortcut key. So now, instead of having to move your cursor everywhere or even reach to your keyboard for a shortcut, you can just use your trackpad.

For example, if you want to open and close tabs in your Internet browser, or go back and forward in your navigation history, you can do that with a gesture. You don’t need to click the button with your cursor or press Ctrl/Cmd + T or Ctrl/Cmd + [. Just program those shortcuts into gestures. This goes for any program.

Since it’s kind of hard to demo this with screenshots because you would need to verify I’m not using the keyboard, I went ahead and made a simple screencast video.

The following video gives you a short idea of how to actually “program” these gestures.

One limitation to gestures is that you inevitably run out of easy to remember and easily executed gestures. There are a lot of different gestures available, but some of them are hard to execute so chances are you will just resort back to keyboard shortcuts or cursor clicking. That said, I would encourage you to not give up after the first couple attempts to use some of the gestures. Putting all five fingers on the track pad and clicking is a little awkward the first time (just like the first time you played Halo and had to get used to the strange joystick combination or the first time you drove stick shift or rode a bike). Naturally, your muscles will adapt and you will react on muscle memory as soon as your mind thinks “Finder” or “New Tab.”

For your convenience and demo-ing. I’ve included a download of my current BetterTouchTool configuration below. I admit there is a lot of room for expansion into other apps I don’t use regularly; however, the basic and most powerful functionality that I need is there and I use it everyday. I highly encourage you to check this out and spend some time customizing it to your needs. It will highly improve your Mac experience.

Download BetterTouchTool.
Download BTT Functionality Demo Video or view on YouTube.
Download BTT Preferences Demo Video or view on YouTube.
Download My BTT Configuration File (you’ll want to remove the .txt extension before importing).