The first shock a few weeks ago was Intel Inside. The second, which came this week? Two-button mice. The new Mighty Mouse from Apple trims...

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The first shock a few weeks ago was Intel Inside. The second, which came this week? Two-button mice.

The new Mighty Mouse from Apple trims another vestige of the past, with Apple adding a second button to a mouse — a first for the company since the Macintosh’s 1984 introduction (www.apple.com/mightymouse, $49).

The pointing device doesn’t merely stick that unexpected second button on top but rather features Apple’s expected twist on the ordinary. Mighty Mouse — I can’t get Andy Kaufman out of my head as I write this — hides the second button and several other features through a design that’s almost identical to its lesser-featured predecessor.

The single upper shell of the mouse is now touch sensitive: The left and right buttons require just a finger to be placed on the left or right side when pushing down to click. There’s no fancy torque required. The left and right actions can be reversed in Mac OS X 10.3.9 or later for those who mouse left or prefer the reverse action on the right.

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The scroll wheel is a small nubbin on the middle of the upper side of the mouse near its top (the clicking end). The wheel offers 360 degrees of scroll, allowing panning through large windows and menu selections, among other tasks.

Finally, they added the squeeze. Push in lightly on both sides of the mouse, and trigger a specific action, like Exposé window hiding, showing the Dashboard (in Tiger) or launching a specific application. What would Mr. Whipple say?

Mighty Mouse is available now. Some features work with Mac OS X 10.3.9 through 10.4.1 and 10.4.2 or later, but the mouse’s general features function under Windows XP and 2000, and all OS X releases. Apple didn’t mention any planned update to its wireless Bluetooth mouse, but it’s reasonable to expect parity in the future for that model.

Despite the squeeze, the touch sensitivity and the nubbin, I keep coming back to the two buttons. It defies two decades of bloody-mindedness.

Apple introduced the Mac in 1984 with a single-button mouse as part of its effort to make a product that required no training. Windows, by contrast, has always preferred two buttons.

The conceptual difference was in contextual menus, popup lists that appear when you right-click under Windows on an item or Control-click on a Mac. (Or use a multiple-button mouse with Mac OS X.)

The contextual menu shows options appropriate to what you’ve selected, like eject for a removable disk or copy for a file.

Apple compromised and adopted contextual menus back in System 8. It even added a Control for terminal emulation and context menus. But it resisted an extra button.

Because of Apple’s long fight against logic and preference, peripheral makers have offered multiple-button mice and trackballs that sometimes required — some still do — driver software to work on a Mac.

Kensington, for instance, has been releasing piles of mice (along with other peripherals) for decades (www.kensington.com).

They’ve had time to work out what users like and don’t, and it’s not immediately clear whether Mighty Mouse’s out-of-nowhere features outweigh market experience.

Mice, keyboards, trackballs and game controllers that lack Mac drivers can also be alternatives to Apple and other makers.

Alessandro Levi Montalcini’s USB Overdrive has been the tool of choice since 1999 for those trying to use a wider array of equipment (www.usboverdrive.com, shareware, $20).

The software allows all of the many switches, levers, buttons and wheels to be mapped to specific game actions or movements on a Mac. A version from May adds Tiger support.

Mighty Mouse’s features aren’t entirely appealing to me because of my current mouse, an odd but well-made contraption with a similarly bizarre name: the E-Quill-AirO2bic from Designer Appliances (www.aerobicmouse.com,$99). I switched to this mouse to solve years of intermittent hand, wrist and arm soreness.

The EQA, let’s call it, has a channel into which your hand slides. In the right-handed version, the heel of the palm rests against a curved platform.

The first few days of using it were almost excruciating. I contacted the company to return the mouse and received a lengthy reply from its founder.

He noted that the mouse takes at least two weeks to settle into, and promised to return my money later if I didn’t get used to it. (I didn’t hide my identity as a member of the press, however.)

Sure enough, another few days of use, and it became a second skin.

While Mighty Mouse won’t replace my mighty-odd mouse, it’s clear that to figure out whether it works for you, you have to try it. Like the iPod, there’s nothing else quite like it.

Glenn Fleishman writes the Practical Mac column for Personal Technology and about technology in general for The Seattle Times and other publications. Send questions to gfleishman@seattletimes.com. More columns at www.seattletimes.com/columnists