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Five months ago, WarMouse announced the WarMouse Meta to the international press, an appearance that did not pass unremarked. Techzine was the first website to get a prototype of the mouse and so you’ll be the first to get an exclusive hands-on review of this mouse! For the dutch readers amongst you: you can find a Dutch version of this hands-on review here.

History

Last November, the OpenOffice.org mouse made it to all the technology sites. The mouse was conspicuous because of its enormous amount of buttons and it was received with mixed reactions. In the meantime, WarMouse, the manufacturer of the mouse, removed the Openoffice.org name. Both WarMouse and Sun agreed that it would be better if the mouse would go its own way, which gave WarMouse the space to prove that its mouse was capable of being more than just a little word processing helper. And thus was born the WarMouse Meta, a mouse with one important philosophy: you can program almost everything and you can do it exactly how you want.

Features

The most famous feature of the mouse is of course its plentiful amount of buttons. No fewer than 18 buttons decorate the mouse. First of all, there are the default left and right mouse buttons, each of which are surrounded by another seven buttons, (A1-A7 and B1-B7). Besides those 16 buttons, there is also the click that is hidden behind the joystick, (T1), and the button you can find next to the joystick, (T2). The joystick can be used in different ways, so we will take a quick look at them. The joystick can be used as a normal analog joystick, as four different buttons, (assigned to the north, east, south, and west directions) or as eight different buttons. Finally, you can choose to assign four more functions to the diagonal directions that are activated by pressing another mouse button while you select a joystick direction at the same time. This is called the Altstick mode.

The software has also some important functions and works on a base of software profiles that are configured for use with other programs. WarMouse has the ambition to have hundreds of profiles at launch, and by the end of the year expects the Meta to directly support one thousand (!) games and programs out-of-the-box. The Windows software is open source and although we were not able to test it on other operating systems, the software will also be available for Linux and Mac OS X.

Looks and design

The WarMouse that you can see in the photos is a prototype of the mouse that is hand-assembled. This means that there will be some differences between what you are seeing now and what will be for sale at the end. First of all, the color of the buttons. In this version of the mouse, some buttons are blue, but in the production version of the mouse they will be dark grey. The mouse doesn’t look really sexy, but it has to be said that Warmouse succeeded well in fitting 18 buttons on one mouse. Perhaps in the future they can think about a design with a bit more charm.

The final version of the mouse is a little bit lower, which will increase the comfort of using it. Contrary to what people have been thinking, this mouse is not as uncomfortable as it looks. The missing space to put your thumb is replaced by the joystick, where there is support to let your thumb rest. Making the mouse a little bit lower was a good choice as well, in my opinion, since I think it’s a little too high at this version. There is no space to let your fingers rest, but you don t miss that much because you use the mouse with three fingers.

Yes, that’s right, you use the mouse with three fingers. Your pointing finger is responsible for the left mouse button and the buttons A1 through A7, your middle finger is responsible for scroll wheel and B1 through B6, and your ring finger is responsible for the right mouse button and B7. You have to get used to it, but using the mouse with only two fingers is slower and would be ergonomically irresponsible. Furthermore, the joystick and mouse top are still to receive a rubber coating and some of the buttons are a little uneven. These are things that will be done once the mouse goes into production.

Software

When you launch on the market a mouse with 18 buttons, you had better make sure your setup software works well. And that is exactly the case. Meta Modeware has two modes: Basic and Advanced. Basic is for people who have only a little experience with this kind of program, but those who wants to do more things with the mouse will not need to use it because the most important features of the mouse are hidden in the Advanced mode.

This is the place where the user can give all the functions he wants to the different mouse buttons, update existing profiles, and create new profiles. Of course there is also the ability to record macros using mouse clicks and keyboard clicks and things like mouse dpi are set for each profile there. The software recognizes which application is active and automatically switches to the correct mouse mode; that is necessary with 1,000 modes. The basic rule is that everything is done by the software and to manage the profiles you have to leave the mouse software open. However, if the software is not running, the mouse will still keep the adjustments made at the last profile and by clicking a combination of buttons you can switch between different modes on the mouse.

An example of the ‘Display Mode Map’-function. Yellow are altstick-functions, the purple buttons are ‘keypress’-buttons. If you keep pressing them, they will continue to execute their assignment, just like the Enter-key.

Above all, there is an optimal use of the buttons. You can program a function for each button’s single and double click, which almost doubles the amount of possibilities. But isn’t this a weak point because nobody is able to memorize 30 mouse functions per program, especially for a lot of programs. WarMouse thought about this as well, since with their Display Mode Map command you can open the corresponding button map for the program to very easily see which function belongs to which button.

My own experience

I used the mouse for more than two weeks and despite my initial skepticism towards it, it wasn’t bad at all. But you need to have the desire to figure it out.

The mouse has a somewhat difficult learning process because it is capable of doing things no other mouse did before. It is important to figure out which functions are the most useful for you. No one will use all the functions of this mouse for every software application. Besides the fact that this would be impossible to memorize, the mouse is also designed to simply click on things like a normal mouse. However, if you take time to look at the button maps for the default modes, you will find easy functions that you will go to use almost automatically. What I mostly appreciated about this mouse was the joystick. Browsing with that stick is really great, and after a while you completely forget why someone ever decided to put scroll wheels on mice in the first place.

Personally, I think the mouse has a future, though it won’t be easy. First of all, people have to put their scepticism about this mouse aside. Yes, when it comes to looks, the mouse can’t compete with a Logitech, a Mionix or a Razer and its ergonomics appear to be lacking. However, looks are a matter of taste and I can confirm that the mouse actually feels pretty good. If you put some effort into it, you will get used to the controls very quickly. You should not forget that WarMouse has given the concept of the mouse a whole new meaning here – especially with the joystick – and its customizability is a really nice addition to the classic input device. The many buttons seem to be overkill, but thanks to the mouse’s flexibility, everyone can decide for himself how much he uses them. Also, the software is good and if Warmouse can put together 1,000 modes, that’s really great. In short, the mouse requires some getting used to, but at the end of the day, it’s worth it.

Thanks to Femke S. for translating this article for us!