OSX (and Windows) mouse acceleration.

One of the first things I do when setting up a new Windows installation is to go into the control panel and disable enhanced pointer precision. Funny how a feature that makes mouse pointer motion less deterministic was labeled as “enhancing precision”.

As much as I dislike mouse acceleration in Windows, the acceleration algorithm used in Windows is wonderful in comparison to the tarpit algorithm in OSX. Unfortunately for me, the Apple UX guys did not want to confuse me with multiple controls in the mouse preferences panel.

The decision by whoever at Apple to force-feed mouse acceleration to their users is bizarre. Many professionals spend much of their time using applications on Macs with primarily mouse based user interfaces. The ability to quickly move the mouse pointer across screen _and_ precisely hit a target is key to productive use of the system. The OSX acceleration algorithm makes it easy to get the pointer from one side of the screen to the other, but it ends up taking much longer to actually hit a a target that is not on the edge of the screen. You can find arguments about this online, mostly concerning competitive gaming, but the effect of mouse acceleration on productivity is just as real as the effect on competitive gaming. It is easy for anyone to non-subjectively prove this, just try playing a minesweeper clone on OSX.

After some digging I did eventually figure out how to disable mouse acceleration on OSX. The following shell script will do the trick, though you do need to logout/login for it to take effect, and you need to avoid going into mouse preferences or the changes will be lost.

#!/bin/sh
defaults write .GlobalPreferences com.apple.mouse.scaling -1

Many other complainers about OSX mouse acceleration are not looking to turn acceleration off, but instead want a Windows-like acceleration curve. The fix I found will not help with that. But maybe they should try playing some minesweeper on Windows with acceleration on and off before they spend too much energy trying to mimic Windows mouse acceleration on OSX.

Leave a Reply