One of the most sought-after gadgets this year was Microsoft’s IntelliMouse Explorer. Touted by Microsoft as the “Revolutionary New Mouse,” the Intellimouse uses an optical “IntelliEye” sensor instead of a rubber ball to scan 1,500 times per second beneath the mouse’s surface.

So is the Intellimouse Explorer just one more pointless office gizmo, or can it make your time on the PC easier? Here’s the lowdown on what it offers, and here’s what people who have used the IntelliMouse Explorer for a few months have to say about it.

Mouse features
While the design of the Intellimouse, which lists $74.99, is consistent with what you already have on your desk, its features go far beyond the left and right click buttons. It also includes a scroll wheel on top and two thumb buttons that sit on its left side. The two extra buttons are set to move the user forward and back from Web pages, but they can be programmed to perform other functions, like cutting and pasting.

It’s also an eye-pleaser: The silver-and-gray design includes rubberized sides and a red light at its tail.

The most unique feature of the new mouse is its optical sensor, which is used in place of a roller ball. This allows the user to move the mouse over almost any surface and maintain its accuracy on the screen.

User stories
Several users say they’ve been pleased with their IntelliMouse Explorers. Matt Olsen, the head technician at Louisville-based Elite Computer Solutions, said he’s been more than pleased with his IntelliMouse since buying it three weeks ago.

“I love it,” Olsen said. “I do a lot of gaming and graphic design. Before, the ball would stick a lot, and I’d have to open it up and clean it to get all the gunk out. This is great; it never sticks.”

Olsen said the IntelliMouse is also much more precise than a regular mouse. “If there are ever any problems, it’s usually the mouse,” Olsen said. “With the new IntelliMouse, it’s you. The mouse is flawless, in my opinion.”

Olsen said that he uses the two “thumb” buttons to go forward and backward on Web pages, which he says is faster than using the toolbar on his browser.
The IntelliMouse Explorer comes with Intellipoint software. On PCs, the new mouse works under Windows 95, Windows 98, and Windows NT Workstation 4.0 Service Pack 3 (or later). You’ll need 30 MB of available space on your hard disk as well as a CD-ROM drive.The mouse connects to either a round mouse port or a USB port.On Macintosh, it will work with the OS 8.51 or newer operating systems, and on iMac with iMac update 1.1. You’ll also need 15 MB of available space on your hard disk and a USB port. You can download the “Intellipoint for Macintosh” software by going to the Microsoft Mice home page and clicking on “System requirements.”
Another user, Chris Friesen, of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, offers some of the same compliments: no ball to clean, crisp action, and a comfortable shape. The wheel between the regular right- and left-click button is also easy on his fingers.

The thumb buttons on the side are located above where his thumb comes to rest so using them requires a deliberate movement. “You don’t press them by accident when you lift the mouse to move it,” he said.

But Friesen also said he has seen several problems: one click, for example, is often seen as a double click; sometimes when dragging items the application sees the button as being let up and then pressed again. The right side of the mouse is also slanted, making it difficult to pick up a mouse and reposition it when reaching the edge of a mousepad. (Friesen said he solved this problem by putting fabric tape on either side to increase the grip.)

Friesen, who has had his IntelliMouse Explorer for two months, said there is also a problem with MSCV++6. “When you roll the wheel to scroll in a code editing window, pushing the button in and moving the mouse to scroll no longer works,” he said. “If you go to another window and scroll and then come back to the original one, it works again.”

However, Friesen said the IntelliMouse’s shortcomings are more than compensated for by its maintenance-free, smooth operation.

Though he hasn’t had much feedback from customers, Phillip Park, a sales specialist with Office Depot in Louisville, KY, said that the ease of cleaning is one reason customers have been buying the IntelliMouse Explorer. The model below the Intellimouse Explorer—the Intellimouse with IntelliEye, which lists for less—also sells well, but lacks the sleek design and the extra buttons featured on the side of the more-expensive model.
Are you using the new Intellimouse Explorer? Do you like it better than the mouse you used before? Tell us about it by posting a comment below.