Microsoft Intellimouse Explorer

by Joe Gillespie — Oct 1, 2000

If you are one of those people who hate having to open up their mouse and de-gunk the roller wheels and mouse ball, you will love an optical mouse. No moving parts to go wrong and works on just about any surface.

The two mice I have chosen for review could not be more different. Yes, they both work on a similar optical principle and all the benefits that that brings, but one is from Microsoft and one is from Apple and they differ significantly in philosophy.

mice Seen here side by side, the Microsoft mouse is considerably more bulky than the Apple.

Not so much a mouse, more like a large rat, the Microsoft Intellimouse Explorer is quite a handful. I don’t think I have ever seen a mouse so big and heavy, and its limpet-like profile makes it awkward to pick up, not that you need to do that very often and sliding it around on a large desk is not a problem.

The mouse cable ends in both PS/2 and USB plugs. As I still use NT, which doesn’t support USB, I had to use the round PS/2 plug, but if you use Windows 98 or 2000, you can use the USB option. The Intellimouse Explorer will also work on a USB equipped Mac if you download the driver software from Microsoft’s Web site.

The mouse has a large bright red ‘eye’ on its front edge. I found it very disconcerting that this light stayed on even after the computer was completely shut off but a call to Microsoft’s tech support assured me that this was normal with some types of motherboards which still supply power to the ports after shutdown.

The Intellimouse Explorer has the usual left and right buttons that you would expect on a PC mouse and a scroll wheel/button between them. On the left side are two more buttons that can be operated with your thumb - if you are right-handed. The Intellimouse software allows you to program the buttons for a number of tasks. I immediately disabled three of them so that they did nothing. I find scroll wheels slow and tedious and quite inappropriate to the kind of work that I do although I can see how someone who is constantly scrolling slowly down a page might find the facility useful.

The thumb buttons are in a position where it is almost impossible to NOT press one accidentally. If you have ever changed from a big car with two pedals to a small one with three, you will know what I mean.

Frankly, I couldn’t justify assigning the thumb buttons to any of the functions that the software offered - cut, copy, paste, double-click etc. but, again, I can accept that some people could find them useful. Microsoft’s plan seems to be to gradually move the functionality of a keyboard onto the mouse - but then, their keyboards have an ever increasing number of buttons too. I’m sure that if I woke up some morning with three extra fingers on each hand, I would be at a similar loss to know what to do with them - for a while.

In the meantime, I find the Microsoft Intellimouse Explorer just a bit too big and clumsy. As mice go, it’s expensive, but it is a high quality product and looks very impressive on the desk.

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